There are so many things to consider when introducing technology into the classroom. But one of the most important should be the people who are going to be leading from the front, and using the technology day-to-day: teachers.
Without their buy-in, your technology vision will fall flat on its face. It doesn’t matter if your student base is (as is expected of their generation) totally tech savvy – if your teaching staff can’t use it effectively you’ve wasted your time and money. But it’s easier said than done. Just how do you encourage and motivate teachers to use technology? Here are 5 things you should be considering when teching up your teachers.
Frequent and goals-focused training is vital to any teacher’s success, and when it comes to technology, it’s even more important. In a fast-paced and ever-changing industry like edtech, it’s crucial to keep everyone abreast of what’s out there and how they can use it to enhance their teaching processes.
While functional training is pretty important – there’s no use giving a teacher an iPad to use if they can’t even switch it on – pedagogical-based training should be your number one priority. “Emphasise good teaching, not good technology” – don’t just encourage teachers to use technology as a substitute for more “traditional” tools. Help them develop and adapt their teaching style to really get the most out of the tech you give them. This can all be achieved through effective training.
You need to ensure that the training you’re delivering speaks to the specific needs and skill levels of your teaching staff. Too often classroom technology training is very broad-brush and covers the concept as a whole rather than giving contextual examples. Consult with your teachers and draw up a plan for the type of training that will be most beneficial to them.
Most importantly, you need to stop your teachers seeing tech as an obstacle to learning. You may find some resistance when trying to introduce technology into the classroom – particularly from more experienced, “traditional” teachers – who will see it more as a hindrance than a help. Give them reasons why you’ve invested in tech and what you’re trying to help them achieve.
For newly qualified teachers in particular, being able to collaborate with and learn from other more experienced teachers is vital – not only to their professional development, but also often to their well-being. Show your teachers the opportunities to collaborate that tech provides – not just with colleagues, but with students too.
The collaborative tools that come with introducing technology into the classroom and their potential to enhance teaching and learning are varied and wide-reaching. This could be Office 365, Skype, or something as simple as using email more effectively. As mentioned above though, at the heart of launching a successful technology strategy is helping people see the value behind what you’re asking them to do – help them see the outcome, rather than getting bogged down in the process.
Every teacher loves a new idea – a new way to tackle a tricky subject, an interesting activity to help inspire and engage their students. Technology presents so many new ways to share and communicate information, and showing them ways to achieve their goals using tech could light the spark of inspiration.
But – and I’m going to keep banging on about this because I think it’s important – don’t just show them all the bells and whistles and distract them with shiny things. Just because an augmented reality app looks cool and they might go home and tell their partner about it doesn’t mean they’ll be using it in the classroom the next day. Get them thinking about the educational outcomes of using innovative technology – will this app help them achieve something that they might previously not have been able to?
It’s a good idea to carefully compile (and encourage teachers to create their own) list of resources to help them expand their knowledge and find practical examples of how to integrate new tools into their teaching style.
Make sure they’re supported
For many of your teachers, they may have been thrust into this new world of technology and everything seems a bit too bright and scary. You should ensure that you have a support system in place to help them get on with their job without technology failing them. If a teacher gets frustrated because a device isn’t working as expected, chances are they want to use it again.
First of all (and probably most importantly), you need to make sure your infrastructure supports the technology you’re using. Whether it’s a classroom full of tablets or an interactive whiteboard, you need to make sure that your back-office supports this and isn’t going to start creating obstacles.
Secondly, you need good solid technical support. This should be a two-way process – “train” your teachers to become better users by helping and showing them how to raise problems and how to get them solved quickly. This will ensure a smooth relationship between teaching and support staff and ultimately avoid interruptions to teaching and learning.
Appraise and develop
Don’t just taking the stabilisers off the bike and leave them wobbling along the road on their own. To ensure the best success when motivating your teachers to use technology, you need to be regularly checking in with them about their progress. Obviously teachers are subject to frequent observations and evaluations, but make absolutely sure a portion of this or even a separate process is dedicated to how they’re using technology.
What are they worried about? What do they feel they could be doing better? Is there any technology they’re just avoiding using altogether? Why? If you find a common issue, arrange more CPD and training in that area. And encourage them – you’re trying to help them. You’re not trying to force technology on them, you’re trying to help them become better teachers for the digital age.
The important thing to remember here is it’s a marathon not a sprint. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Walk before you can run. And other clichés. Introducing technology to your teachers should be a careful, cooperative and collaborative process that brings them on the journey with you. Plan, train, implement, assess, adjust and repeat, and you’ll have a school full for tech-savvy teachers who – most importantly – are delivering a great learning experience.