Integrating technology can be scary.
Technology is constantly changing. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance. Especially when the computer, iPad, app, robot, chromebook, website (you see where I am going with this) is not working like it should. It is easy to become frustrated. But through it all, Johnna Futral knows that integrating technology is worth the risk. I have worked with Johnna over the past three years and she has become one of my closest allies in the world of digital learning. I know that if there is something new that I would like to take for a test drive I can approach Johnna and she will be eager to give it a shot. Not only is she open to my suggestions, she's an advocate for the benefits of digital learning. I wanted to share her teaching pedagogy that includes using technology to enhance her instruction so that other educators may see that the rewards are worth the risks that you take when you step out of your comfort zone. Here's a piece of my interview with another one of Moore County's finest:
Question: How long have you been a teacher in Moore County Schools?
Answer: This is my eighteenth years teaching. All in Moore County Schools. I’ve taught second grade for seven years, Kindergarten for seven years and two years in fourth grade. I also worked as an assistant for two years.
Q: How would you describe your teaching style?
A: My teaching philosophy has always been that high expectations lead to high achievers. I like a lot of movement in the classroom. I like to change things on a whim. I’d like to say that I’m organized enough that I’m effective but if something isn’t working I like to change it on the fly. I’d say I’m a little bit of a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of teacher. It depends on what the kids need. What I think when I’m planning may be different than what happens when I’m actually teaching. I also like a lot of creative in the classroom. I like to integrate arts and science because the kids enjoy it and I bring that passion so then the kids get excited.
Q: You often integrate technology in your lessons. How does technology enhance your instruction?
A: For one thing, when the kids are using technology they are a lot more engaged compared to when they’re talking to their classmates. I think it has a lot to do with the world we’re living in. It enhances teaching when you bring in something they're familiar with. 21st century learners must be fluent with technology to be able to function as an adult. Showing students those skills of creating, collaboration, and publishing prepares them for what’s to come in their future. They still need to be able to talk through their thinking as well. That way we don’t take out the personal connection part.
Q: What are some of your favorite lessons that included technology?
A: I especially enjoyed the solar oven engineering lesson where our students created a plan, then made and tested, as well as improved a way of using the energy from the sun to make s’mores. I also enjoyed the Lego robotics lessons where our students created and programed robots that supplemented math lessons in measurement and comparing numbers. You can see the kids enjoy these lessons and you know the content will stick with them because of how much they enjoy it. Even though some of those lessons are harder to prepare for, it turns out being some of the best lessons. Once we got out there to see that something they created was successful when the sun had melted our chocolate...they’ll remember that forever..
Q: What would you say to a teacher who may be reluctant to use technology with their students?
A: I would say to utilize your resources. If your Digital Integration Facilitator is offering to give you help, you should take advantage of that resource because if you’re not comfortable with technology, your DIF is so you’ll be able to step outside of your comfort zone and then you’ll grow as a teacher. You are more likely to try something new when you’re working with a DIF. Until I see it, I don’t understand how it works. The only way you’re growing to grow as an educator is to step outside of the box of comfort. No one is going to grow until they take risks. Just like we tell our students. I often find that if I do take a risk and fail it’s a good lesson for my students as well. You teach them perseverance and not to give up with some things are hard.
Q: Does your principal affect your motivation or desire to use technology?
A: No. I think he’s very tech savy. It’s something that I do on my own because I think it’s beneficial.
Q: You’re an inspiration to many people, including myself, what inspires you?
A: From the time I was a small child I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was inspired at a young age by my kindergarten teacher. I don’t know exactly what it was but she was a huge inspiration for me. I even did an internship where I went back into her classroom and worked with her. My children also inspire me. My colleagues inspire me. I get inspired by other educators. I think that my daughter inspires me and that I inspire her as well as my students. They’re so much love in a school building that is enough in itself to be inspiring. I like to have fun. I don’t like to do things like in the olden days. I like to be creative and I think teaching allows me to do that.
Q: What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
A: I think my favorite part is the kids and how much they love you. It’s like having a classroom full of your own children that you mold and shape. Even though you send them home at the end of everyday you still think about them. Why else would you be a teacher? It’s about the kids. I like to see them excited about things. Like today, when they were building their robots today that’s something they were excited about.
This is Mrs. Futral's first year at Cameron Elementary School and they are beyond lucky to have such an amazing teacher. If I had kids, I would love for them to have her as their teacher. She is a phenomenal educator and I absolutely love collaborating with her.