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Tammy Dunbar: Overcoming Digital Overload One Byte at a Time


by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

teachergeekDo you know what a yottabyte is?

No, it’s not a nip on the knee from a beloved Star Wars character. It’s a measurement of digital information. And one I never dreamed would ever be necessary. When we purchased our first home computer in 1987, we upgraded from 10 to 20 megabytes, because we were convinced that was all we’d ever need.

But now, the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast for 2014 has included the word yottabyte when discussing the amount of digital information in our connected world. Cisco reports that “IP traffic will reach an annual rate of 1.6 zettabytes by the end of 2018.” Zettabytes? Hang in there, I can explain. It takes 1,000,000 gigabytes to equal an Exabyte, 1,000 exabytes to equal a zettabyte, and 1,000 zettabytes to equal a yottabyte.

A yottabyte equals about 250 trillion DVDs of “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Technology is ubiquitous. You can’t walk into a grocery store or drive past another car without seeing someone looking at or talking into a digital device. According to the Cisco VNI, there will be 21 billion networked devices and connections globally by 2018 (up from 12 billion in 2013). In just a few short years, the number of networked devices will be three times the population of the world.

These overwhelming numbers along with the number of apps, programs and websites being created can overwhelm even the most tech-savvy teachers, make them feel as if they can’t teach technology. If teachers aren’t confident using new technology in their classrooms, they will not be able to help students become comfortable learning today’s technology and adapt it to tomorrow’s world.

But as I was empowered to believe at Teachers College of San Joaquin, where I earned my credential, teachers are professionals who must take control of their own life-long learning. We know how to craft effective lessons and authentic assessments. We need to learn how to incorporate technology to support and engage students in those lessons. As Barry Fishman at the University of Michigan observes, “The best uses of technology involve good teaching.”

How can we start?

  • First, take a moment to think of the most important thing you want to teach or accomplish in your classroom. Then try to think how technology can help. Remember, you don’t have to understand every aspect of the hardware, software or website; you just have to learn how to make it do what you need it to do.
  • Then, find one website, one application or one piece software that will help you accomplish that most important task and use it. Practice it, work with it, use it often.
  • Keep your sense of humor and inject your joy into your work. Students need to see that work can be fun as well as productive.
  • Have other grade-level teachers join in and share what you’ve learned and created with each other.

Once you’ve become proficient with one app or website, then you can add another to your teaching day. Technology integration does not happen overnight, but if we take one step at a time and work together, we will soon have many technologically supported lessons that will engage, inspire and educate our students.


techinjectionIntroduce new vocabulary with a simple PowerPoint! Each slide should have the new word, its definition and pictures/videos/animations that illustrate it. Add an entrance fade animation to the definition so that students see the word and the illustrations first and must discuss what they think the word actually means. You can even add a quiz at the end which features the question “Which word means …” followed by one of the definitions and the list of all the newly introduced words. Add a special emphasis animation (spin, grow, etc.) to the correct word, so that when a student raises a quiet hand and answers correctly, you can click to make that word pop!



tammy2Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., S.T.E.M. teaches 5th grade in Manteca Unified School District and Pre-Service Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin (Stockton, CA). She has presented at CTA Good Teaching Conferences (2014 & 2015), Cap CUE (2014), all three California Subject Matters Project Conferences, Capitol Area Science Education Leaders Conference, and several San Joaquin County Office of Education Conferences as well as many local district conferences, seminars and trainings. She won the 2010 eInstruction $75,000 Classroom Makeover Video Contest, wrote a successful Enhancing Education Through Technology grant for Manteca Unified School District in 2008, and was Teacher of the Year in MUSD in 2006.


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