Why It’s Important to Build Teachers' Confidence in Technology and How to Do It
News flash: Technology is a major part of education, and it's here to stay. Just as your cell phone has an app for nearly every aspect of your personal life, so too has technology become an everyday part of life in the classroom. And that makes sense. To prepare students for a tech-based world, they need to build their tech skills in the classroom.
This means, of course, that classroom teachers are on the front lines of teaching tech to their students. In addition to pedagogy, psychology and an in-depth knowledge of their subject matter, instructors now need to add a layer of digital savvy to their skillset. For early-adopter types, this may not feel like a big deal. But for everyone else, keeping up with the ever-changing tech scene can feel like yet another item added to an already over-long professional to-do list.
Instructors Should Be Confident Using Technology
It's not enough just to know about the latest educational apps or to bring iPads into the classroom once a semester to edit a report. Teachers need to be fully comfortable with the tools they use. We all know that even a kindergartener can sniff out fear or uncertainty in adults, so it's difficult to fake competence with tech. But when instructors really dive in and feel good about what they're doing, students are more receptive and engaged in the learning process.
That's not to say that perfection is the goal. Everyone is going to experience glitches and bumps in the road when bringing new devices or programs into the classroom. But when teachers feel confident overall about what they're doing, that attitude will shine through to students as they work together to troubleshoot problems and treat new technology as the useful tool that it is—and not as a robot overlord to be feared.
First Things First: Professional Development
Any time new technology is introduced into a school, training is required. This can feel time-consuming—and it often is—but it's a critical investment if you expect to get the most out of a new device or program.
While some teachers will be ready to hit the ground running after learning the basics, many will need additional practice. Consider adding professional development options aimed at providing time and space to get comfortable with new technology. These could be drop-in sessions to troubleshoot with the IT staff, coffee klatches where teachers practice a new skill in small groups, or additional training sessions that slow down the "information dump" and allow more time to get familiar with a new system. A mix of formal and informal learning spread out over time will provide long-term support for teachers’ confidence with new technology.
4 Tips for Increasing Teachers’ Confidence Using Tech in the Classroom
Even if your school isn't planning to introduce any new tech this year, you can still lay the groundwork to boost teachers’ confidence and skill with the programs you already have in place. Try these tips for making tech less scary and more serviceable:
1. Encourage Experimentation
It can take several tries before you find the perfect app or social media platform for your personality and your subject area. Teachers should feel free to test out all sorts of new programs and ideas to see what works — and they shouldn't feel bad about tossing out things they don't like. Experimentation is empowering!
2. Get Back to Basics
Make your mantra that good teaching comes first, technology second. Which means any tech you introduce into the classroom must be in service of your learning goals, not just technology for its own sake. This will keep you feeling more like a master and less like a slave to your devices.
3. Collaborate and Query
Sharing ideas about what works is the best way to foster success and drum up enthusiasm about classroom technology. Create a time and place for teachers to share their favorite tech ideas with their colleagues, and allow for a Q and A so everyone can get a deep understanding before trying a new idea out for themselves.
4. Curate Killer Ideas
It's also a good idea to look beyond your own school walls for great ideas about technology. Use your LMS to start an online repository for good ideas you find on blogs or social media. By making these easily available to everyone, you'll always have a place to go for inspiration.
At its heart, instilling confidence in your staff is all about your school culture. When you create a space where collaboration and experimentation are the norm, you allow instructors to figure out what works best for them—a key ingredient in feeling comfortable with any new technology initiative.
How do you build teachers’ confidence with technology? Tell us on Twitter @Schoology