5 Common 1:1 Teacher Mistakes

Putting Tech Before Content– New tech is exciting.  Students (and teachers) will be focused on the new devices.  It is easy to get sidetracked by the excitement. I spent so much time trying to front load all of the setup, sign up and procedure that I lost something essential to my class.  While they were fired up about technology, I had not gotten the students excited about history. Keep your focus on your content.  It is your content that defines your class and it is your content that will drive the way you use your device, not the other way around.

Too Much Too Fast– It is hard for students to get comfortable with a new piece of technology unless they have time.  Requiring too many new tech competencies to quickly upsets students.  They need time to build upon past skills and integrate them with new ones.  I buried my students in accounts and passwords.  I set up everything I thought I would be using for the year within the first week. It was too much for many students. Focus on fewer more important skills and Scaffold early assignments to build to more complex ones.  Think big picture.mistake

Lack of Tech Focus- There will be times where a new technology is AMAZING and perfect to generate more learning and deeper understanding. But there will be times where it is nothing more than a shiny distraction.  I am constantly asking myself “Why use this? What is the benefit? What is the loss?”  Choose your essential technology carefully. Choose things that support your lesson goals and allow productivity.You can’t do everything and be distracted by every new technology you learn.

 No Recovery TimeStudents have grasped a new skill and they need time to absorb it, apply it, and use it effectively.  When lessons go well and students succeeded I can be too quick to move on the next big idea.  I quickly learned that I needed to provide some recovery time for students to get proficient before I could focus on the next tech competency.  Stop, and allow them to understand before you present new technology. Beyond just taking it slow (see above) I learned that sometimes you have to take a break. Don’t over complicate this though.  Sometimes knowing the right time to proceed is as simple as asking.  Trust your students in this process.

Limiting Students to What the Teacher KnowsWhen given a choice students are going to choose tools that they are comfortable with and that allow them to express what they know. You may not have the slightest knowledge of them or how they work. It is impossible to be proficient at every web tool, app and program available. I have poured myself into learning as many as I can. There are many where I would consider myself an expert but that in no way means that they are the best resource for every student.  Don’t be afraid to let students use technology beyond your knowledge base and understanding.  Accept that you are student too. Learn.

See the previous article in the series here.

22 thoughts on “5 Common 1:1 Teacher Mistakes

  1. I think your last point is the scariest one for educators. I began using an iPad cart this September (with no formal training or prep work other than my own personal work) and was terrified that the first thing that might happen would be that students would immediately do something with the machines I couldn’t undo. My own comfort or lack thereof with the devices limited my integration with them. Since then, I have gained confidence with the devices, and set up classroom management procedures that account for them as well. Currently I am embarking on a PBL unit using the iPads and students are teaching me all the different ways they can use the technology to address the driving question of the project. It has been a huge success, and as you mention, has clearly put the learning in the students’ hands. Thank you for your informative posts, and for clearly articulating the struggles and successes real teachers face in these scenarios.


  2. Excellent list, I would add one more that can lead to less than acceptable results that is parallel to “Limiting Students to What the Teacher Knows,” Assuming that students “as digital natives” know how to use web resources in the context of the educational setting…plan on spending time modeling the requirements of the resource selected for activity assigned for effective use, e.g., US Census Bureau-great site, lots of information, but imposing to the novice and frustrating to find information unless you know how and what. Start them out in a box and over time give them the freedom to explore on their own.


  3. Shawn: Thanks so much for sharing these insights!

    Your last item is one that I have struggeld with for as long as I have been involved with ed tech. By temperament, I agree completely that kids shouldn’t be held back by their teacher’s knowledge. On the other hand, what we’re seeing in our district’s iPad initiative is that, while kids are fearless trying new things and very resourceful in many ways, they still need guidance on how to take advantage of how to take advantage of their iPad to support their learning. Just as some kids need scaffolding on basic study skills, so too do some need help, for example, setting up personal workflows using our LMS and Notability. If their classroom teacher doesn’t have some expertise, the kids can flounder.

    Looked at from another perspective, we expect science teachers to be experts in the use of the equipment they use in the lab and to be able to teach kids how to use that equipment. Many of us like to say that this or that technology is “just another tool”, so why is it OK that teachers get a pass on developing some level of expertise?

    As I indicated at the outset, I am conflicted about this, and ultimately I think I come down squarely in the middle. Yes, teachers need to be experts in the technology they expect their students to be able to use in support of their learning, but that doesn’t mean they have to be expert in *everything*. I try very hard when talking with teachers to make these points: (1) You *do* have to learn some new things and it *will* take time, there is no way around that, (2) you’re not alone–we will help you in any way we can, and (3) it’s perfectly OK to be choosy about what you pursue, because it is preferable (IMHO) to develop deeper understanding of a few things than superficial knowledge of many.


    1. I agree with you that teachers need to get a deeper knowledge of tech. That will be a challenge over time since technology moves faster than most of us can keep up with. I also agree that we can’t believe in the myth of the “digital native”. Without a mastery of the resources we will be letting kids down.

      I wrote the last item not to say that it is acceptable for teachers to only somewhat understand tools, apps and programs that they will use. My intention was to encourage teachers who have an expertise and are comfortable with technology not to allow the limits of their expertise to be a limit for their students. If a student can explain what they want to do and the teacher can see that the avenue that they are pursuing demonstrates learning and accomplishes the objective of the lesson, we shouldn’t stand in their way.

      Most students will need us to guide them. Some will have a unique vision beyond our guidance and we should aspire to foster it.

      Thanks for reading and for your feeedback. I appreciate your comments.


      1. Really interesting post and comments. I would expand on the last point, but from a slightly different perspective. I think many history teachers (my background – UK not US but we are united by more than that which divides us – see https://www.hoddereducation.co.uk/Subjects/History/History-Subject-Community/Hodder-History-Blog/December-2013/Technology-and-the-textbook) believe they should be more technically capable and should use tech more in their teaching but they often find that the resources available to them do not deliver the kind of hard edged rigorous thinking they can get when not using tech. So it’s not just a question of how to use tech but how to use it to at least match or ideally improve on the thinking they get students to do when not using tech. I agree students should not be restrained by the lack of technological knowledge or experience of the teacher. But the teacher has a much more important knowledge to offer, specifically his/her mindset as a historian. Technology can engage students (although it is certainly not a panacea). But neither tech nor any other resource will guarantee that they will think critically or rigorously. It’s not that they cannot, it’s more that they do not do this by default and need the teacher’s guidance and reminders to do so. If you watch the students in the first 5 minutes of this clip http://www.schoolsworld.tv/node/1231 , you will see they accept what is put in front of them without questioning because they were asked ‘what do you think of these sites?’. If they had been asked whether they trusted these sites my guess is that they would have been more guarded. Rigorous thinking needs to be taught, practised and learned, it does not just grow from nowhere. Similarly, students using some new tech, let’s say something like Morfo to ‘bring to life’ a portrait of Winston Churchill or George Washington, can be rigorous but equally might not be. The students will grapple with the software to get Washington to ‘speak’ but without the teacher guiding and urging and hopefully providing real documents how will the students give Washington meaningful words to say? Without evidential backup we are simply engaging in imagination not evidence based reconstruction. In a similar vein I used Assassin’s Creed when it first came out not to see what the Middle East looked like in the 1190s but to ask students whether the game was good history the way the promotional materials claimed it was. So even a teacher with no technical knowledge has something priceless to bring – disciplined thinking. And in an increasingly tech driven world it is a valuable lesson to remember that the thinking is the valuable element here even if the technology enhances it.

        Finally, thanks for all the posts here – saved me a lot of pain by learning from your reflections so I thought I would hazard some thoughts in return.


      2. Ben I agree with much of what you say. We cant just let students see resources and assume that they will be able to make sense of them. Having technology removes limits and allows students to access more resources. The next natural step, one that is essential in our world today, is to be able to identify good sources, biased sources and perspectives within them. Allowing students to bring sources into class that they find and they choose is only a problem if they lack the ability to discern. Student selected sources also benefit the classroom because they bring perspective, balance and interpretation into the class. I have spent a good portion of my time working on this particular issue. I intend to write more on the topic but an early article on how we can get them to discern and develop critcal and historical thinking is found here. https://gowhereyougrow.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/the-textbook-is-dead-long-live-the-textbook-what-11-is-doing-to-traditional-classroom-resources/

        Thanks for your comments Ben, they have me thinking. The whole point of blogging is the discussion and evaluation that they generate. It’s great to hear from readers.


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