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Tammy Dunbar: The Gift of Time


by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

teachergeek‘Tis the season when everyone is looking for the perfect present. Wherever you turn, there are gift ideas for outdoors folks, gourmet cooks, book lovers, animal fans and, of course, tech people.

In our interconnected and fast-paced world, it’s easy to point, click and order something that can be delivered right to someone’s front door. But, if you listen to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, the best gift comes without ribbons, it comes without tags, it comes without packages, boxes or bags!

The best gift for anyone on your list is the gift of time.

Our students need time to think, to create, to question, to explore. Technology allows us to differentiate our instruction so that students can focus on their personal learning needs. One student may be creating a great presentation on PowerPoint using Office Mix while another is still searching for the just the right resources to copy into their OneNote. When we allow students the time to work at their own pace, we can more easily focus on those students who need a little more of our time. And when students are working on their own time, the classroom looks and sounds very different. We need to relax and allow our students to become comfortable with technology, work with it and share it with their classmates.

The casual technology-using teachers we train need time to feel proficient and confident in the new tech they’re learning. We must slow down and instruct them at their pace so they don’t feel frustrated and overwhelmed. The biggest complaint I hear about trainings is that things go far too fast. We need to check for understanding often, perhaps even showing one step and then walking around the room to make sure all are on the same page. And don’t forget to take the time to smile often or give an encouraging word so our fellow teachers know we are here to help them become proficient, no matter how long it takes.

Our family and friends need to know how much we appreciate their support of our enthusiasm for educational technology. The best gift to give them is your time, without smart phones or tablets or any kind of interconnectivity. Cook and eat delicious food together, challenge each other to exciting board games, tell stories that bring smiles and laughter to all.

Lastly, remember to give yourself a little time to rest, relax and recreate. We push ourselves and our tech to the limit most days of the school year. All too soon, we’ll all be back at it after Winter break.

Let the only tweets you hear be from actual birds outside your window. Let the only creature stirring be you, not a (computer) mouse. Let Face Time be actual face time.

It’s time to put down the technology for a moment and have a happy holiday season.

techinjectiontammy-swayOnce you’ve taken all those wonderful holiday pictures (and a break from tech), why not create a Sway of Holiday memories? The preview is now at open to everyone, so all you need to do is go to, sign in with your Microsoft account and start uploading pictures to share with the whole family. If you take video, upload it to YouTube and make the video “public” so you can access it in Sway!

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 will be presenting at ISTE 2015, CUE 2015 and CTA Good Teaching North 2015.  Tammy has presented for CTA Good Teaching North (2014), Cap CUE (2014), all three California Subject Matters Project Conferences, Capitol Area Science Education Leaders, and several San Joaquin County Office of Education events as well as others. 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. She is on the MUSD Superintendent’s Technology Committee as the district embarks on their “Going Digital 2015” project.

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