I started my teaching career in 2002. Our world and the digital landscape have changed dramatically since then. Navigating this new landscape can be challenging for teachers who want to engage students with the latest technology, but also protect themselves from some of the pitfalls that this always-connected world brings with it. Here are four digital safeguards you can easily get started on this week that could help your teaching life.
1. Create a free “school-only” Google account
“But my school provides me with an email address, why would I do that?”
That’s a great question. Why should we even bother doing this? Once upon a time, this was a non-issue. Now, the idea of opening a browser window on a projector in class is not unheard of. Have you ever visited a website and been confronted with an advertisement related to something you searched for last weekend? Tracking is based on what your account has searched for, and I know for sure that I would rather have an advertisement for a sale on Kindle books pop up than one for an engagement ring, or mousetraps, or airfare to Tahiti, or something else. YouTube likes to do the same thing, and once again, it is related to your Google history. Similarly, a suggested video about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is more appropriate than a TMZ article about Caitlyn Jenner.
Something as simple as having a school-only Google account can help ensure that all of your suggested content is related to your professional life.
Set it up here and stay logged in on your school computer and any “school-only” tablet or computers you may have. If you must use social media for school, it is a great idea to create new “school-only” accounts for those networks as well.
2. Have dedicated “school-only” devices
Kindle Fire Tablets are dirt cheap these days. It’s not an iPad, but if you need a tablet, it is definitely worth checking out. Laptop computers are highly affordable as well. You can find a Chromebook or Windows 10 laptop for under $200. I don’t recommend doing so, but if you must bring personal computer equipment to school, be sure that it is dedicated for school-use-only. This once again ties in with what was mentioned above. You don’t need Trivia Pop or Candy Crush notifications popping up during a lesson. If you must transfer files from home to school, be certain you have a school-only flash drive to use.
An added benefit is that these purchases can legitimately be written off as business expenses if you itemize taxes.
If you must use your own devices for school, be sure you have devices that are dedicated for school use.
3. Seek professional help
If I were beginning now, I would stay in contact with a mentor from the first day I signed my contract through the end of the first school year. Ask a boatload of questions.
Years ago, I wrote about seven Questions That Will Save Your Career. This is a good place to start, but it’s important to remember that each situation is unique and requires unique solutions. This is why a real-life high-quality mentor is far superior to reading self-help books or looking online for answers. But, looking for self-help books and online answers is better than sitting back and doing nothing.
Reach out to one or two high-quality teachers who might help you in a mentoring capacity, and continue reaching out to them over the course of the school year
4. Join a professional organization
Whether your state has unions or not, all states have teacher organizations. Join one. Many teacher organizations have regular meetings and some even have state-wide conferences. Some provide travel and insurance discounts, and most provide the vital liability insurance. Even if you don’t go to meetings or conferences or use the car rental discount or whatever, at least be sure you get liability insurance.
Join a professional organization and be certain you are covered by liability insurance. This is something many teachers don’t think about until after they need it.