If a teacher from just ten years ago time-travelled to a classroom today, he or she would be amazed at the changes that have reshaped classroom learning in such a short time. From interactive whiteboards to classroom response systems, to handheld devices and document cameras, classrooms are bursting with new and dynamic opportunities. But all those changes come at a price, and not just those that come out of your budget. Today, teachers are challenged to do more than keep up with the daily demands of educating. Keeping up with technology, and all the latest trends and tools, is a job in itself!
Let’s face it. Not every one on your staff is equally tech savvy. Some members of your team can master advanced tools in a heartbeat, others struggle with even basic technology demands. So how can you keep your staff—your entire staff—up-to-date on continually and rapidly evolving technology expectations? Here are five things we think are vital in keeping all your teachers and staff knowledgeable about, and open to, the opportunities that are out there.
Baby steps aren’t just for infants. When new technology presents itself, it’s sometimes best to put a toe in the water before jumping in. In an article on the website edutopia.com, Josh Work, a Middle School Administrator from Maryland says, “The school where I teach is currently within its post-BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) implementation age. We started with a small cohort of tech-savvy teachers to pilot a BYOD program with selected classes. Starting small was definitely beneficial, as we were able to troubleshoot issues and best prepare ourselves for the school-wide BYOD rollout. Front loading any work is always helpful in education, especially when developing resources for teachers who struggle with technology.”
Also, introducing complicated, multi-faceted tools slowly, one or two elements at a time, can not only ensure its successful integration into your curriculum or processes, but reduces stress or resistance from those who are nervous with new technologies.
2. Build a Tech Team
Those who are most tech-savvy on your team can lead the way for the rest. Creating a support team that is flexible and available to train others is essential for the success of any new tool. Your Tech Team can consist of teachers, administrators and support staff. By working together across multiple areas and grade levels, they will not only vet new tools, but master them, and spread that knowledge.
Part of a Tech Team’s responsibilities may include creating a Professional Development plan for the team, and then carrying it through.
Says Josh Work, “Aside from just having dedicated time for teachers to meet, create a homegrown professional learning community (PLC) that focuses on monitoring tech integration throughout the school. This PLC can be powerful and insightful while supporting those that need additional help.
3. Find Time
Even those tech experts on your team can’t learn a new tool overnight. When introducing new technology, make sure your timeline includes their education, as well as that of the entire team. It may take weeks, months or an entire year for a new tool to be fully incorporated. Don’t rush it. Build in time for experimenting. Give teachers the opportunity to play with the new system before they need to utilize it every day.
Says Emily Davis, a Teacher Ambassador Fellow of the U.S. Department of Education, as written in an article on fosi.org, “Utilizing technology well as an instructional tool involves scaffolding, and often a steep learning curve. Educators need time to develop their individual skills, apply these skills within their classrooms, and reflect on what works best. Instead of bombarding teachers with new tools and programs, take a step back and allow educators time for mastery.”
4. Learn From Your Students
It seems every school has at least a handful of students who know more about technology than your staff. Many of their students have been using computers practically since birth, and adapting to changing technology is a way of life for them. These students are a great resource for you! Ask them what technology they are using. Ask them what new trends are happening, and what’s around the corner. Then ask yourself: how can this be used in the classroom?
5. Include and Communicate
Some members of your team may feel new technology is being pushed on them. This is especially true from those members who struggle with new tools. They might not understand why a change is needed. The best way to overcome this? Be open. Ask what teachers or staff struggle with, and show them how new tools might help. Every new technology should have clearly established goals and objectives. Will the new technology help struggling learners, or support differentiated or personalized learning? Will it make parent communication easier, or classroom performance more transparent? The more you share your goals with those who will use the tools, and the benefits of using them, the faster your team will embrace them, and the more enthusiastic they will be to use them.
According to a blog post from the educational resource-provider Pearson, “Keeping up-to-date with technology requires you to jump in and explore new territory. Set aside a few moments at the end of the day to scroll through your Twitter feed, focus on a few tools instead of many, reflect on your student’s progress and what’s working best. Education technology can transform your teaching and learning, dive in—it’s worth it!”
At Single Path, we work with teachers and staff on finding, building and integrating effective technology tools. We work with teams that are tech-savvy, and those that need a little more handholding. Wherever your team stands on the technology curve, we can help you get in front of it.