3 Roadblocks in Teaching Technology to Educators

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Technological tools can be used in many ways to further student learning. The continued growth and innovations in educational technology are both exciting and challenging.

With the development of 21st-century technology, it is important to provide quality professional development (PD) for administrators and staff members in schools.  As there is an increasing amount of innovative technology being introduced, school boards must ensure that employees are not only familiar with the technology, but also become comfortable learning more about it independently.

In today’s classroom, the teachers really are life-long learners. This is not only a nice idea, it is a must! In many cases, staff are introduced to these tools during meetings or professional development sessions. In my experience, even when tools are introduced and explored, there follows a period where some staff engage in trying to use the new tools, while many do not.

What are some of the barriers in training staff members with new technology? What are causing the roadblocks in the pathway from introducing the technology to implementation? How can they be removed?

Lack of Context, Lack of Connection

According to Plair (2008), one of the reasons that teachers struggle with implementing technological tools is that they miss the connection between what they have learned in training sessions and how to use it in their own specific teaching areas (p. 71). She indicates that some educators still struggle with changing their prior understanding to see that technology is no longer something mainly explored in the computer lab or Communication Technology courses.

One solution is mentioned by Plair. “Helping teachers comfortably reach this stage calls for the professional development available through a knowledge broker.” (p.71)

This knowledge broker, within school boards or organizations, would possess a “…combination of pedagogical, content, and technological knowledge…” and could “…more effectively and efficiently scaffold instruction, match tools to content, and keep pace with innovations” (p.73). An expert such as this could help bridge the gap between the new tools and the classroom teacher through offering one-on-one support.

 Lack of Time

Educators are heavily involved with the everyday tasks of running classes, planning lessons, supervising, marking, communicating with parents and running extra-curricular activities. Because of the sheer number of tasks requiring the focus and attention of the teacher, adding any new knowledge, skills or technological training can overwhelm and discourage.

Not surprisingly, the results of a study completed by McRae, Phil, Varnhagen, Stanley, & Arkison, Bradley in 2011 found that “…competing demands on time are the most significant factor restricting a teacher’s ability to provide instruction. (McRae et al., 2012)

If teachers are already burdened with other responsibilities, their willingness and ability to connect with PD on modern technology is diminished.

What could be done to provide more time or assistance?

 Information Overload

Aside from the busyness of each instructional day, a major barrier for teachers in increasing their knowledge of technology is one of sheer volume. According to a study by Lawless and Pellegrino (2007), “Long term change through technology-infused pedagogy is…complicated by the ever-evolving nature of the technology itself.” (p.607)

As teachers become comfortable with one technology, other new and exciting tools emerge. This may cause increasing stress, leading to a break-down of innovative teaching and learning in the classroom. According to an article by Dr. Willis (2014), this stress negatively affects the brain’s ability to learn. What is true for our students under stress is true for us too!

 What else could be done?

It is safe to say that teachers who genuinely care about their students have a desire to improve their own practice to help them succeed. They will continue to learn and attend professional development seminars, often voluntarily.  Those who attend PD to gain new knowledge to aid their pedagogy and practice show notable satisfaction in learning and teaching technology (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007).

Much is seems to be written about the need to engage our students in 21st century learning. Could not more be done to support the frustrated, overwhelmed teacher?

Dr. Willis (2014) suggests that better learning and engagement takes place when positive motivation is present. That may be something to think about.

 

References

Willis, Judy (July 18, 2014). The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/neuroscience-behind-stress-and-learning-judy-willis

Lawless, K. A., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2007). Professional development in integrating technology into teaching and learning: Knowns, unknowns, and ways to pursue better questions and answers. Review of Educational Research, 77(4), 575-614. doi:10.3102/0034654307309921

McRae, Phil, Varnhagen, Stanley, & Arkison, Bradley (June 4, 2012). Teaching any time, any place or at any pace. ATA Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.teachers.ab.ca/Publications/ATA%20Magazine/Volume%2092/Number-4/Pages/Teaching-any-time.aspx

Plair, Sandra Kay. (2008). Revamping professional development. The Clearing House, 82(2), 70-74. Retrieved from   http://marianrosenberg.wiki.westga.edu/file/view/PlairSRevampingProfessional.pdf/372909202/PlairSRevampingProfessional.pdf

 

3 Ways to Support Technology in Education (without breaking the bank)

Students today have a lot on their plates, such as school, jobs, volunteer commitments, extracurricular activities, home responsibilities and of course, their social life.

According to Statistics Canada, 85% of Canadians have access to a home computer, 87% have access to home Internet, and 86% have cellular phones.

Good, right?

No.

Why?

Because there are still 15% of households who do not have a cell phone or a computer or an Internet connection and out of that 15%, 42% are from low-income families.

These might be your students next year; they might currently be your students, and they might not tell you about the challenges they face.

We, as educators, can’t fix Canada’s internet access problems (the CRTC is handling that).

What can educators do to help bridge the technological divide in your school and classroom?

A Tech Swap

Similar to a ski swap, communities are invited to participate in a technology sale where participants drop off gently used technology meeting a specific standard (e.g. Under five years old) and can sell it on consignment it for a reduced price or choose to donate the item. A Tech Swap provides students with smaller budgets to access modern technology for a fraction of the original price. The key point here is that the tech cannot be obsolete and has to be able to run the latest operating systems to support the applications used. An online event or a community posting that provides the details of the swap is a good way to ensure people know what schools and students need.

Crowdfunding or Cause Funding

A crowdfunding initiative using GoFundMe or Booster could be helpful for an educator looking to support their classroom technology by setting a goal and requesting donations. Social media can be leveraged to help get the message out about the funding, why the need, and who is initiating the campaign. It is important to outline the funds are being raised to support technology inclusion in the classroom. Bonus points if you can get your local news publications and businesses to help promote it.

Booster allows users to create and sell t-shirts for donations. Students can be involved in the entire campaign process where they are responsible for concept development and design of the t-shirts.

In the U.S. there is a site called DonorsChoose.org, which is used by educators to set up projects for their classrooms to receive financial support. DonorsChoose.org enables individuals to donate to the programs of their choice in any denomination, which enables contributing to a local community cause very simple.

Invest in the Students

In a report conducted by Media Insights, Canadian educators identified “lack of technical support and maintaining software and hardware” as being the number one concern when using technology in their classrooms (Johnson, 2016). As part of the commitment to technology in education, it could be both constructive and inclusive to provide students the opportunity to form a “Tech Support” club, where teams of students can create a group and provide IT support to faculty and staff during scheduled extracurricular programming. Using the student talent pool is a win-win for both participants and school staff. Placing some ownership on the students to contribute to the technology support requirements can help alleviate some of the frustrations surrounding the integration of technology into the curriculum.

I would love to hear how your schools have overcome financial barriers to creating inclusiveness in your classrooms when it comes to technology-supported learning.

Please share in the comments below.


References

Dobby, C. (2016). CRTC rules high-speed Internet a basic service, sets targets. The Globe and Mail.

Dwelling characteristics and household equipment, by province (Canada). (2015). Statcan.gc.ca.

Johnson, M. (2016). Connected to Learn: Teachers’ Experiences with Networked Technologies in the Classroom | MediaSmarts. Mediasmarts.ca.

The Daily — Canadian Internet Use Survey, 2012. (2013). Statcan.gc.ca.

Students Are Falling Behind

Standardized tests lead to test skills being taught ahead of the 21st century skills our students really need

by: Mike Wade

Problems with standardized tests

Whether it’s EQOA in Ontario or the SAT’s in the USA, almost all education systems have some sort of standardized tests. These tests can be the basis for school funding and are used as the measuring stick upon which schools and teachers are evaluated and ranked. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on the school and the teachers to score high on these standardized tests. Teachers will invariably teach to the test. There are reasons school boards have gravitated toward standardized tests. They’re (relatively) cheap, easily administered, and they carry the promise of some kind of “objective” measure.

21st Century skills

As there are only so many hours in a teaching day other areas like 21st-century skills get less attention especially when a school is in test mode. Since 21st-century skills can be difficult to measure and may not be included on standardized tests, they are not emphasized in schools.  This creates a conflict for students’ futures, especially in regards to their capacity as workers in a rapidly changing economy (Cowan, 2008). Skills that students will need to succeed in 2016 and beyond include problem-solving, creativity, analytic thinking and communication skills.  These types of skills have a long history of being ignored in schools because they are not measurable or are difficult to measure and are then marginalized or discarded from the curriculum (Eisner, 1994).

Possible Solutions

To be successful on a standardized test teachers need to cover a vast scope of material within a limited amount of time.  As a result, many teachers feel they can cover more material when they are in front of the class lecturing to every student, rather than using technology (Butzin, 2004). One possible technological solution is an adaptive learning program that would adjust to each child taking a test, selecting easier or more difficult items for the child based on the responses given. Such a system would capture data to demonstrate how schools are delivering core functional skills including reading comprehension, writing and numeracy, while also producing individual data about how students are learning.

Another possible solution is performance assessments which can include project-based learning and portfolios. These approaches allow students to follow their own interests and cater into their strengths. Performance assessment focuses on demonstrations of learning, they are usually graded with a rubric, not a percentile. They address skills like presentation, communication, and teamwork that are common in the workplace but not part of most traditional schooling—or state-mandated testing.

Other resources

The myths of standardized testing

What schools could use instead of standardized testing

Alternatives to standardized tests

References

Butzin, S. (2002). Project CHILD (Changing How Instruction for Learning is Delivered): The perfect fit for multimedia elementary schools. Multimedia Schools, 9(6), 14.

Cowan, J. (2008). Strategies for planning technology-enhanced learning experiences. Clearing House, 82(2), 55-59.

Eisner, E. 1994. Cognition and curriculum reconsidered. New York: Teachers College Press.

Overcoming the Digital Divide

Strategies and tips for schools with limited technology available to students and teachers.

By: Andrew Jaglall

 

Getting students ready to learn and use essential technology skills needed for the 21st century requires collaboration between all parties involved in the education system including teachers, principals, and superintendents at a district level. We are often hearing about new and exciting technologies being used in some schools around the world, such as using Google Classroom or Office 365 to collaborate digitally across districts, while some schools are lucky if they have a functional computer lab in their school. Some of this digital divide is a result of institutional barriers in our education system. Addressing these needs requires a collaborative approach and a ‘champion’ who will recognize and advocate for technology in schools.  Some of the institutional barriers that hold back effective implementation of technology in schools include unsupportive leadership, school timetabling, and school planning.

Leadership

Some principals may be uninformed or unsupportive about technology usage in schools and its impact on student learning. With this issue, there may be resistance to spending money on technology in schools. They may view other aspects of school funding more important compared to investing money in technology.

School Timetabling

School timetabling often involves scheduling into blocks, where students are unlikely to be inside for more than an hour without having a break such as recess or lunch. Additionally, many classrooms have multiple teachers to cover all curriculum subject areas for one group of students, making it hard to have students immersed in technology for extended periods of time.

School Planning

A school without a plan for effective implementation of technology is unlikely to have successful, meaningful technology use in classrooms. School planning of technology use includes providing adequate opportunities for staff and students to overcome any resistance to new technology

Being cognizant of these potential barriers, there are different strategies that a teacher could use to increase funding/interest in technology for their school.

Advocate

Some people may simply be unaware of how much potential a new technology tool or program could have. Educate them! Show them new tools (if you have access on a personal device) and start talking about ideas of how it could be used to help or enhance student learning. Principals may be more willing to invest money in technology if they know they have a person who is willing to put time and energy using it in their classroom. If at all possible, share your opinions on school timetabling if you feel that it doesn’t provide the opportunity for exploring new technologies.

Look for funding opportunities

Some outside companies provide a technology grant for schools to use to purchase technology for their school or to complete a research project that incorporates technology. One particular grant that comes to mind is the Best Buy School Tech Grant, which offers schools up to $10000 to spend on technology projects. Looking for opportunities like this might make it easy to encourage technology use school-wide.

Find technology/professional development opportunities

Search for new professional development opportunities around technology and invite your colleagues! It could be a good way to learn about new technology yourself and encourage others to integrate it in the classroom as well. Look for unique opportunities, such as the Best Buy Geek Squad Academy, which will come in and work with 60-100 students for a 2-day technology camp, with topics including digital music, robotics, film and script, 3D printing, and digital citizenship. These opportunities are likely to ignite a curiosity and interest in technology across your school building.

Looking for new opportunities to receive and incorporate technology into our teaching practice will be a positive step towards teaching our students the 21st century skills that they will need in order to be successful in the workplace and help close the digital divide that may exist between schools.

References

Bingimlas, K.A. (2009). Barriers to the successful integration of ICT in teaching and learning environments: a review of the literature. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 2009, 5(3), 235-245

Butler, D. & Sellbom, M. (2002). Barriers to adopting technology for teaching and learning. Educause Quarterly.

Conley, L. (2010). Barriers to integrating technology.

Nicholson, D. (2015, September 10) Barriers to successful integration of educational technology.

How to Deal with Tight Purse Strings

by Reena Taeputbusiness-money-pink-coins-medium

My previous blog post about paperless classrooms did not address one underlying assumption. The move to paperless classrooms only occurs when educators have the technology available to do so.

Educational technology can only be present if there are funds available to purchase it in the first place. School budget limitations act as obstacles to the successful implementation of technology. What can schools do to circumvent this? Here are four factors to consider:

1. The Need for a Champion

Wise spending requires a leader to champion the cause (Stacey, 2013). This allows for careful planning based on the current situation in the school. Establishing leadership also helps to focus discussions around budget and contributes to change. A school administrator, for example, may be well suited for such a position since they are overseeing the teaching and learning in their building and would have a clear sense of where spending should occur.

2. Strategic Planning

The presence of a champion also paves the way for school teams to plan carefully how and where the money gets spent. Also, by working together, educators can assess the needs of a school site to determine what technology would best meet the needs of students. When planning how to spend technology funds, information from various vendors or sources should be collected. This action would enable school teams could make informed decisions on where money is spent by comparing prices. As a result, each dollar can be spent wisely.

3. Fundraising

In order to support the implementation of technology in schools, outside agencies can be sought to provide sponsorship or monetary grants. Non-profit organizations have the ability to impact great change in schools by offering to supply digital resources for classrooms (Zucker, 2009). Furthermore, this can be seen as a move to support future generations who need to have the necessary skills when they enter the workforce. So, there is a moral incentive for groups to help with funding educational technology.

4. Abandon the Dream of 1:1

Allowing each student to have their laptop or tablet provides students with direct access to technology (Liang et al., 2005). However, given the tight budgets that exist in public education, this is a fantasy that is not feasible. As such, educators need to find ways in which shared access is made possible. This way, students can collaborate by sharing devices. Therefore, a 1:1 ratio should not be considered a requirement for successful implementation. The focus is more on a quality education as opposed to the quantity of digital tools that are present (Saltmarsh, 2015).

Final Thoughts

The public school system could always use more money to support students. However, given the reality that budgets are not flexible, educators need to come up with different solutions or ways to optimize available funds and technology.

References

Liang, J.K., Liu, T.C., Wang, H.Y., Chang, B., Deng, Y.C., Yang, J.C., Chou, C.Y., Ko, H.W., Yang, S. and Chan, T.W. (2005), A few design perspectives on one-on-one digital classroom environment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21: 181–189. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2005.00126.x

Saltmarsh, J. (2015, February). School funding and educational technology: less Is more.

Stacey, P. (2013). Government support for open educational resources: Policy, funding, and strategies. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(2).

Spending wisely.” (2009, July). Technology & Learning, 12. Academic OneFile. Web.

Zucker, A. (2009, February). “The Role of Nonprofits in Educational Technology Innovation” . Journal of Science Education and Technology, 18(1), pp. 37-47. DOI: 10.1007/s10956-008-9129-z

Continue reading “How to Deal with Tight Purse Strings”

Our School Purchased the Technology – Now What?

Schools are making massive investments in technological devices but are teachers prepared for the integration? The first step of implementation is to create a comprehensive plan for professional development, or computers will sit in the classroom underused.

by Roxanne Hibberd

When bringing devices into the school, the focus of learning tends to shift to the tool instead of remaining on the instruction. Students have to understand how technology can support their learning. It is essential that teachers develop their skills on how to use the device to enhance the instructional program. When teachers are resistant to technology, it is usually due to lack of resources, time to learn and confidence with the new device. To encourage teachers to become technology proficient, principals must create an integration plan with a focused vision, engaging staff development, and a plan to monitor the change. So how can we prepare our teachers to integrate technology when they feel it will be an overwhelming process?

Clear Vision

Professional development must have a focus and a plan. How will the use of technology enhance instructional strategies? Technology will not transform instruction when the device is being used to complete the same pen and paper tasks. The successful integration of technology depends on the vision in the three core areas of curriculum, instruction, and professional learning. Professional development focuses on the sharing of foundational teaching strategies, which are enhanced by the use of technology. Schools must prepare for the integration and develop a carefully thought-out plan.

Motivation

It is essential that the leaders in the school model effective use of technology and participate in teacher training sessions. The commitment of the administrator to use technology daily will set a precedence of the importance of integration. Principals and lead teachers need to share tips and model the use that is supported by sound teaching. Reluctant teachers must understand how to use the tool and how it will improve instruction. The process of integration will take time, and active professional development provides teachers with opportunities to participate and practice using the tool.

Make it Easy

Teachers need to understand how the use of technology will support the instructional strategies they are already using. By putting the computers into the classrooms, it allows for easy accessibility, so it is not an isolated learning tool. Professional development is more powerful when it occurs alongside the students, rather than in a meeting. Peer mentors are a great resource and have more of an impact on learning when they can work in the classroom with the teacher.

Monitor Progress

Proficient use of technology in schools will not occur overnight. Change takes time and the plan created needs to align with a long-term process. There must be an emphasis on professional development, and skilled mentors need to be supporting teacher learning. The monitoring of the efficient use of technology and the continued professional development will support teachers as they become familiar with the tools and programs available.

Helpful Resources