If someone asked me if I was comfortable using technology in teaching I can tell you exactly what my response would be…”No, honestly, I’m not really that tech savvy.”. In truth technology scares the pants off me. I grew up in the late eighties and early nineties where technology was just being introduced into the school systems. My graduating class in 1994 had one classroom with computers that ran very, very basic systems. I grew up on an entire different playing field than the students of today. Today’s students technological abilities are very intimidating to a middle aged woman like myself. The problem isn’t that I don’t want to learn more about technology, its that I have no idea where to start, who to ask, and how to keep from feeling judged. I certainly don’t feel like I am alone. I believe there are a large number of very qualified, superb teachers out there who feel just as I do. So what do we do? I looked into what it takes to get a person like me to use technology effectively and came across some very helpful insight.
First, Schools need to be on board. Most importantly, I’m talking high up personnel. Ideally this means administrators are using the technology they are asking their teachers to use (when appropriate) and there is enough funding to cover training and tech support systems. I believe every school should have a full time technology specialist. It is amazing to me how many classrooms I have observed having technical difficulties that can not be fixed because the tech person is unavailable. How is a teacher supposed to plan a lesson and teach that lesson when her equipment is breaking down? Which really gets down to one of the main worries with incorporating technology. In a busy teachers life, he/she does not have the time to deal with technology problems. I have witnessed how quickly classroom management falls apart as a smart board connection goes bad, or a video won’t play, or there is trouble logging into an app. The only solution to this seems to be to have a tech team at the ready. This should be a combination of a tech specialist, administrators and teachers. In other words not just one person who may or may not be available. Teachers need to know someone has their back.
Second, training. I’m not talking about coming in, middle of the year for a professional development day to learn some crazy new gadget I may or may not use. I am talking useful PIR days. Technology is best taught to a new teacher like me in just the right amount. Not too little, leading to fear and isolation, and not to much, leading to the feeling of being overwhelmed. I love the idea of being given new technology at the end of the school year so I can have the summer to explore how to best utilize it in my classroom. I also want my administrators to take into account what I might want to use in my classroom. Ask me if I think a piece of technology would be useful, ask other teachers, if there is a consensus then go ahead and plan a PIR day. If not, don’t waste my time. As for instructors to help teach me this new technology, my peers are best. Why? I don’t like feeling like I’m being evaluated or judged. I get this enough from standardized testing, parents, and administration. I also want my technology specialist to speak my language. If they start throwing out a bunch of tech terms I don’t understand, that isn’t helpful. I probably would nod my head and pretend I understood only to return to my classroom and attempt what they taught, hoping and praying I didn’t break anything. Also, don’t give me anything too challenging. Please make it user friendly, think of what today’s middle-school student might be able to figure out and that might be on par with my beginning abilities. Finally, in regards to training, please treat me with respect. I might be a great teacher who is going out on a limb to learn something new and I might be the teacher who wants to best reach her students. I probably am not lazy or stubborn, I just am stepping into new waters and that in itself intimidating.
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