Beldin, a middle school math teacher, explains why she loves educational technology and why educators should incorporate it into their classrooms after the pandemic.
Allie Beldin’s love of educational technology began long before teachers made the necessary move to online learning. For Beldin, a sixth grade math teacher at Stallings Island Middle School in Georgia, educational technology has been a resource throughout her career for supporting struggling students and making classes more fun.
Now she posts tips for other educators on her blog, Saved by the Beldin, in the hope of helping others create engaging lessons virtually or in the classroom. Beldin credits her involvement with ed tech — and her eagerness to share it — to her college mentor, Jennifer Armstrong, who encouraged Beldin to apply to conferences and taught her that having something to share is valid, whether you’ve been teaching for one year or ten.
We reached out to Beldin, one of our 2021 K–12 IT influencers, to discuss her love of educational technology and how teachers can put it to good use in any learning environment.
EDTECH: Why should teachers integrate educational technology into their classes and lesson?
BELDIN: I truly believe that educational technology gives teachers the ability to be in multiple places at once. It is very challenging to consistently differentiate all of the ability levels in schools. With educational technology, you can support struggling students while also extending learning, whether that be technology grouping and being present with a struggling group, or vice versa. It gives you more flexibility in your classroom with what you can do and teach.
EDTECH: What inspired you to take the educational technology tools you found helpful and start sharing them with other teachers?
BELDIN: I really think most technology tools are meaningful because we’re relating to a new age of student. They’re more innovative. They enjoy technology, and with innovation we want students to become more comfortable using those products. In the future, they might use Google or Microsoft or other similar technologies, so incorporating that in class really helps their skills.
I like helping other teachers because you can really increase your impact. If you give them a resource, then really you’re helping all of these kids around the world, without actually getting to meet them. My passion truly is children and helping them learn because some of my family members really struggled in school, and I just wish there were more resources out there that were freely given to them.
EDTECH: Do you have any particular success stories you want to share?
BELDIN: One of the teachers at my school, she’s an art instructor, and so she doesn’t normally use technology. So, when I started pushing out some professional development for our school, she got really excited. She said, “I’ve never thought about putting art with Google Classroom, but I really think I could make it work.” She’s made a Google site now, and she keeps portfolios of student artwork so they can share examples for years to come. It’s amazing what she’s done. She’s been teaching for, I think, over 15 years now. It doesn’t matter how young you are or how long you’ve been teaching, you can still try new things, and it can work. It’s worked very well for her class this year.
EDTECH: You mentioned PD. What specifically have you been able to do for your coworkers?
BELDIN: I’ve helped them find free resources, or I’ll do walkthroughs that are really quick with no fluff. Teachers are stretched for time; they don’t want to sit through two hours of PD. They want to know where to click and how they can use it. So, I’ve really focused on making quick instructional videos, and then working with them if someone needs a one-on-one to look at new resources.
EDTECH: Last year, educators were thrown into using ed tech. With students are returning to the classroom, how can teachers continue to integrate technology into lessons and drive engagement?
BELDIN: One thing I’m wary about is I really don’t want teachers to come in and use ed tech tools as a digital worksheet. I have seen that very frequently, where teachers just put the kids on the computer, put the headphones on and they sit there. We don’t want that at our school. We want students to get excited and be engaged and communicate with others around them.
So, the two major things are: Is it increasing collaboration? And are they engaged and excited about learning? If it’s not doing that, it’s normally a digital worksheet or something to check off a box to make them complete work. In returning to the classroom, educators have to make sure it’s a purposeful and meaningful support or extension to learning.
I really hope that next year we do become more innovative now that we’ve developed practices. We were kind of forced to learn them, but with this year being so terrible, I hope teachers can take away some of the positive that we had this year so that we can help kids in different ways.