Integrating Technology in the Classroom: 7 Tips for Teachers
When most educators were children, integrating technology in the classroom was a special privilege. Your class had a weekly appointment with the computer lab where you would clack away on a behemoth Commodore or Apple playing Oregon Trail. The most modern technology they saw in elementary school was the dusty filmstrip projector that was hauled out on rainy days to show Schoolhouse Rock. Even during their high school and college years, the internet was new or limited in its capacity, so papers were written with the use of physical texts in the library found through a card catalog.
Today, technology is not a "special privilege", but an everyday expectation that is carried around in our pockets and backpacks. This rapid rise of technology acquisition can be a massive shift for educators who may be tied to more traditional methods of teaching. Changing one's mindset is never easy, but can be especially difficult for educators who rely on little to no technology in their classrooms. This creates a chasm between students who expect a high-tech learning experience and their teachers who are reluctant to put these new technologies into practice. Here, we'll explore 7 tips that can help get teachers using technology in the classroom, not simply because it is popular, but because of the sound educational value it promotes.
1. Build Awareness
Teachers integrating technology in the classroom is not a new concept, but the tools used are consistently evolving. For teachers who are not using the latest gadget in their classrooms, it may simply be the fact that they didn't know what it was, or that the district had different tools instead. Building awareness of what your district's capabilities are is an important first step to decreasing technology resistance.
2. Involve Teachers in the Decision Making Process
More often than not, teachers are handed mandates and new directives with little or no say in the process. For a highly-trained and well-educated teacher, this can be frustrating, because it feels like their expertise and training are not valued. However, if you include educators in the decision-making process, it shows that you value their voice. Invite teachers to pilot a new device in their classroom before it is purchased, or ask staff what tools and tech training they would like to see in their classrooms. Staff involvement in the decision making process is a critical "buy-in" step.
3. Streamline the Teaching Experience
One of the hardest selling points about introducing new technology to teachers is that it feels like they are once again re-inventing the wheel. For teachers who have already spent a great deal of time creating and refining their processes, new technologies can be seen as a massive and exhausting hurdle. Before presenting a new tech piece, data analysis tool, or learning management system (LMS), streamline the teaching experience by putting some starter templates in place. This gives every teacher an equal start and eliminates a portion of the stress that comes with adopting new technology.
4. Utilize Accessible, User-Friendly Software
Not all tech tools are created equal--some are great in theory, but lousy in classroom practice. If the software or tech tool is not user-friendly, it will gather (virtual) dust as your staff abandons it. This is where listening to your staff and involving them in the decision making process is critical, since your teachers will let you know what works and what doesn't in the piloting process.
5. Create and Promote Shared Resources
This idea can also be linked with creating starter templates and resources for teachers to use when they begin using a new tech tool. By using a LMS, you can have your staff share the work they've done using the new technology with their colleagues. Collaboration is a great way to find out what your colleagues down the hall are doing without having to create something new from scratch.
6. Provide Quality Professional Development Opportunities
To get teachers to integrate technology in the classroom, they need time to learn, understand, and develop lessons that utilize new technologies. Quality professional development is necessary to thoroughly introduce the new technology, allow time for teachers to navigate the software, and ask clarifying questions to the trainer. Professional development for new technology also can't be a one-and-done process. Offer refresher courses throughout the year for teachers to re-visit the software and refine their classroom processes as their comfortability with the program grows.
7. Leverage an Instructional Coaching Model
Technology coaches can play an invaluable role within a district. As questions or needs pop up, a technology coach can quickly assist teachers who may need extra help. They are also a great resource for educators who want to add more tech tools into their classroom teaching, but aren't sure where to start. A great tech coach can help those teachers get a new program or tool off the ground while supporting the teacher through the process.
We've come a long way from using dot matrix printers and overhead projectors in education. By focusing on sound pedagogical practices, we now have the ability to incorporate technology that prepares students for the ever-changing digital landscape. Following a few key tips is essential to getting your staff on board with new tech trends, tools, and software.
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