All My Teachers Have Tech, But No One Uses It!

2/28/2012 4:13:00 AM
I absolutely hate hearing someone say, “We have technology equipment, but my teachers don’t use it!” It drives me down Crazy Street! There is absolutely no way that scenario should have been played in that way. Note that I didn’t say played to an ending like that. If teachers have tech and aren’t using it, the problem isn’t in the tech, and it’s not with the teachers, it’s with the engine that should be cheerleading and driving the use. And it may have all been avoided at the very start.

I’m no Will Rogers, but I haven’t met a teacher, today, who I couldn’t get to see the importance of trying tech with kids, and then trying to teach with it. Believe me, I’m no miracle worker, but I am a teacher. All the things you use for teaching kids, apply to teaching teachers—patience, persistence, repetition, praise, practice, humor, compassion, understanding, and more. It’s flowing, so forget any order to that. I think it is safe to say that just as all students can learn, and learn well, all teachers can learn how to teach appropriately with technology.

I never buy that teachers are afraid to use tech. I do buy that they see others using it, or see the tech specialist using it, and think that they could never do those things. In other words, their fear is in not doing it well enough. The fear of failing at anything is like a badge most teachers wear. Getting them to remove that with technology could be as simple as having the school’s tech gurus share and show that they aren’t superhuman. Sharing a mistake during a presentation, or just saying that you can’t be perfect teaching with tech, but trying it might help make for exciting and engaging teaching goes a long way to ease tensions.

And if you’re a tech instructional specialist, who claims never to make a mistake, feign one during a presentation. Yes, make a mistake on purpose. I’ll bet, the crowd buzz will be, “I feel better, because even he/she makes mistakes.” Taking an ego hit for the team is a good thing, and it also plays well when working with individual staff for follow-ups.

I’ve said this before, but it needs to be repeated, like most everything, figuring out ways to get educators interested enough to try things is an ongoing creative endeavor. I used to do 5-minute lunch sessions in my computer lab to share a quick tech thing to try in class. I tossed out the no food or drink rule. Teachers walked in and walked out, so my 5-minute how to was sort of a conveyor belt presentation of the same lesson. I discovered teachers would stay to hear the repeated lesson. Most times, I tried to have a small give-away—thumb drive or something. It was amazing how many follow-up requests I received for more tech ideas, and how the ideas traveled to classrooms of team members, who hadn’t attended my 5-minute sessions.

Those lunch lessons were so successful; I began doing them before and after school. It helped to develop a team, where their wasn’t one, and that team became the school’s technology learning network, with many of those members forming the school tech committee. It’s so much easier getting things to happen when the followers become the leaders. There are so many ways to avoid a negative place with instructional tech, but being creative is certainly part of the solution.

The answer for getting staff to use technology with kids and for teaching isn’t written on a list labeled—10 Things To Do. The solution is multifaceted, and quite possibly there at the beginning. The best staff of teachers using technology can happen when teachers are part of the tech acquiring process. Include them from very start to classroom hook-ups—and afterward. Teachers will feel pride of ownership that way, rather than thinking something was thrown at them. District administrators that have success with teachers using technology do something well, they start with their curriculum to choose the technology that best fits. Doing the reverse of that is trouble, and keeps tech on shelves collecting dust. It also leads to instructional technology specialist’s with hands up in the air, which is what puts us all back on Crazy-Street. Avoid getting there from the beginning by erasing it from your initial tech map.

So, when I hear that teachers, who have technology devices aren’t using them, I know that a bit of a correction is necessary to get that ship on course. If a situation like that is left without an adjustment, teaching with tech will certainly run aground. The answer won’t fall out of the sky, and it certainly won’t be handed to you in a bag at an edtech conference. If you’re in charge of enlightening teachers in the glorious ways of tech teaching, you can’t just hand them equipment, walk away, and expect it to happen—or plead to the heavens. I know that it takes more than a post to get on track, but rekindling a spark doesn’t take much work. The answer has to do with people, and teachers make programs work.

Ken Royal is a teacher/education and education technology blogger/reporter, video interviewer, podcaster, education event news commentator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience. His teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, and Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. Read more of Ken’s work at Royal Reports http://www.royalreports.com.
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