Not everybody takes to technology like the proverbial duck to water – and to be honest, that’s pretty understandable, especially for the generation born before the 80s.
But as we move into an increasingly digital everyday environment, we are reaching the stage where teachers of all backgrounds and specialties need to interact with educational tech.
This can be a daunting experience, for both teaching staff and the administration, helping them achieve technical literacy. Which is why it’s so important to find solutions that work for everybody. The aim should not be to force a basic level of competency, but provide the support necessary for all members of staff to enjoy the tech resources at their disposal, and the many benefits it can offer their classrooms.
— Kimberly Howard (@HowardEdTech) August 24, 2019
Why do some teachers struggle with technology?
Active listening is one of the first steps to effectively solving problems, particularly ones that require complex communication.
For this reason, it is essential to begin any implementation or tech improvement process by investigating why certain staff struggle with the tech you want them to adopt. Let’s look at some of the common reasons that cause digital reticence:
Are there even benefits to classroom tech?
The shift towards digital tools in education is as much ideological as practical. Educators who have not been much exposed to technology are more likely to understand why using digital tools is harmful, than engage with the less publicly investigated benefits. Why would you know the subtle positives of EdTech when all you see are images of kids obsessed with screens?
Winning hearts and minds must, therefore, be a significant pillar of your adoption strategy. Staff members need to be convinced that the technology you intend to introduce is the best thing for their students, not simply an efficiency or cost-cutting exercise.
— Kami (@usekamiapp) September 23, 2019
Another day another piece of software to learn…
Teachers are amazing at what they do. They take young minds and shape them into fully rounded human beings with interests and passions that will change our world. It’s an absorbing job that requires commitment and total concentration – so it’s understandable that they object to anything that gets in the way of devoting time to their students.
Whether it’s constant tech issues as a result of growing pains, feeling rushed into a software they don’t understand or simply adding another time-consuming process into lesson time. Educators need space to adapt to new digital methods. On top of this, teachers need technology that is directly helpful to their lessons or planning infrastructure. Having systems forced upon them that they feel make their lessons worse or are simply pointless will never get their support or adoption.
Regular technical problems and outages disrupt lessons
No one enjoys technical issues, they are frustrating beyond belief and they waste everybody’s time. Sometimes they are unavoidable, but regular disruptions to crucial elements of lessons would wear thin anyone’s commitment to a digital initiative.
Following data scandals and hacks at some of the supposedly most secure companies in the world, it’s only rational to feel cautious around student data privacy. For many, this logically translates into reducing online activity as much as possible to eliminate any risk. For others, even those who understand the importance of digital education, it can be scary and overwhelming to take on the responsibility for student’s online safety – especially if it’s something they don’t fully understand.
Great news! 🎉 Kami has been accepted under the EU-US Data Privacy Shield.
We are proudly committed to making Kami a safe environment for your classroom. 🍎
— Kami (@usekamiapp) September 20, 2019
Lack of support
Fully functioning IT requires investment in infrastructure and support to train staff and respond to issues. Busy teachers do not have the capacity to teach themselves how to use new tech, let alone troubleshoot it on a regular basis. The lack of solid support systems is both frustrating and naturally leads to animosity towards school-wide digital endeavors.
These are some of the common reasons why some (or maybe all) of your teaching staff are resistant to taking up more tech. However, alongside an understanding of these general issues, make sure you find time to discover the specific reasons behind your own team’s reticence. Conduct interviews, workshops or feedback processes. Work hard to find out exactly what it is that makes digital transformation so hard for the individual teachers in your school. Because without listening to the problem, you are very unlikely to find a solution.
6 tips to help tech-challenged teachers
Once you have a good understanding of why your staff may be struggling with technology, you can start to introduce some initiatives to help them.
1.Work from a place of empathy and positivity – not judgment
It can be so easy to write off tech resistant staff as dinosaurs – too uncreative or stubborn to accept that the digital age should involve them.
Not only is this sort of approach incredibly alienating (and therefore likely to solidify opinions rather than change them) it’s also not true. Often, the teachers who are hesitant to adopt new educational technology are incredible educators. Frequently veterans or leaders in their academic field and role models within their institutions, they do not need to be told how to teach.
Furthermore, there is no getting away from the fact that modern education is now a high-stakes environment. Test scores and AP exams determine funding, professional reputation and even job security. Experimenting with new tools may be exciting, but it also carries some genuine risks for your staff, with increasingly severe consequences for failure. This is unsurprisingly pretty scary for most people.
Remember these underlying pressures when presenting or helping staff with technology. Where possible, eliminate their fears by giving some sort of protection or support as they transition to a more digital classroom. But most importantly, come at your discussions with an empathetic and open mind – these staff are invaluable to the school, treat them with respect.
— Kami (@usekamiapp) September 24, 2019
2. Show the positive effects of technology
It’s not hard to convince people of the damaging effects of technology on children. We have all seen the emotionally charged headlines in the media, warning against the impact of screen time in developing minds. It is your job to show your educators the full story.
Tech in the classroom can increase creativity, collaboration, give equal footing to those with special educational needs and save teachers precious time, to name just a few benefits. Explain these possibilities to your staff and where possible, give them examples. Get them excited about the potential that technology has when used in a safe, structured classroom environment. These discussions often resonate most when the examples and aims are made directly relevant to the school, subject or specific objectives of the staff you are talking to. Use your knowledge of their personal goals and teaching styles to explain how tech could help them and their students.
3. Create an edtech support team
Having the correct support on hand is vital for your staff to succeed with new tech. Investing in full-time technology support or specialist team is a great way to ensure that there is always someone available to help with any issues and provide detailed training sessions. However, if this isn’t a possibility, creating a tech team from existing staff and administrators who can answer questions and lead implementation is a good alternative.
Find a system that will work well for your school environment, and crucially make sure that your staff are on board and that the arrangement will suit them.
4. Specialize you EdTech PD
As with all good teaching, you need to meet each learner where they are. Splitting your EdTech PD sessions into theme-specific or level-specific sessions can really help to improve use and competency over the undoubtedly great variety of needs and skillsets you have. Offering beginner to advanced levels of training ensures that you don’t frustrate those at either end of the ability spectrum. I.e., your not painfully slow or totally overwhelming.
Similarly, subject specialist PD makes the training more relevant to those attending and therefore more engaging. For example, math teachers will benefit more from learning how to incorporate equations, rather than how to use dictionary tools.
— Lani Gauntlett (@lgauntlettTT) September 12, 2019
5. Give everybody time to learn
Planning, planning and more planning should define your adoption process – but make sure this planning incorporates the timelines and desires of educators.
Holding training days in the middle of the year or distributing new hardware or software in August will only cause chaos and panic. May and June are often the best months to introduce new concepts as the year starts to wind down and life becomes less frantic.
If you are rolling out new devices, consider releasing them just before summer. That way staff can use the vacation to play with it and get comfortable with the new functionality at their own pace, away from the intimidation of performing under a watchful eye.
6. Make sure you’re using the right tech
Finally, when choosing the applications, devices or software for your teachers use – pick things that will work for them! What does this mean? Well, the exact answer will depend on the specific needs of your faculty, school or district. But overall make sure you do a good amount of investigation into which tool will support staff and enhance their teaching processes, rather than clutter them.
In line with this, make sure you are choosing hardware and software that is intuitive and easy to use. Given what we have been discussing in this article, don’t make anyone’s job harder by selecting tools that are unnecessarily complex or require a good amount of technical background knowledge. Choose products that have almost no bugs, include “drag and drop” features and a very low learning curve. If educators are intimidated by complicated options or have to deal with a device that’s prone to crashing, they are not going to use it.
Want to learn more about EdTech and how you can introduce it to your school district? Join us on the Kami blog where we discuss everything from classroom apps to digital citizenship – check it out today!