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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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5 Tips to Help Teachers Who Struggle with Technology

Josh Work

Middle School Teacher, Maryland

"I'm not very tech savvy" is the response I usually hear from teachers that struggle with technology. Whether it's attaching a document to an email or creating a PowerPoint, some teachers really have a difficult time navigating the digital world. As schools around the globe begin to embed the use of technology in their learning environments, these teachers can be left feeling frustrated and marginalized by the new tools they are required to use but do not understand.

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.

If you plan on introducing a new technology or are embarking on the mighty task of becoming a wireless BYOD school, here are five tips to help your teachers still struggling with technology.

1. Build a Tech Team

Integrating technology can be very stressful for educators that aren't familiar with it. Having a support team that's flexible and available to struggling teachers is crucial for any tech rollout. Our tech team consisted of teachers, support staff and administrators. This group was able work together across multiple content areas and grade levels to support successful tech integration. We focused primarily on mind mapping ideas and helping teachers slowly introduce technology into their classes.

2. Scaffold Effective Professional Development (PD)

One big mistake when introducing technology is either too much or too little professional development. Teachers that struggle with technology might feel overwhelmed if you introduce too much too soon. On the flip side, if you don't provide enough PD, teachers may feel isolated. Going back to tip #1, have your tech team develop a feasible plan for effective PD using input from staff members.

Credit: Clker

PD also needs to be focused on being of value to teachers facing the hurdle of technology. How often do these teachers say, "Why would I try this when I've been doing just fine without it all these years?" If you are planning PD for the whole year, poll your teachers and ask what tech-related areas they would like to focus on. Select only one or two of these areas and make a concerted effort to help those teachers who are struggling.

3. Make Time

While I'm talking about PD, all educators know that extra time for PD is scarce throughout the day. I've had amazing administrators that carved out dedicated time for tech PD. Allowing teachers to meet and collaborate with each other is part of building a successful environment to support student learning, especially regarding the use of technology.

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.

4. Make It Relevant!

Some teachers feel technology is being pushed on them, especially those who struggle with it. They might start using technology just for the sake of using it. This has shown to be an ineffective method for both tech-savvy and tech-challenged teachers. There is a big difference between using technology to teach and the successful integration of technology into lesson plans. This goes back to having a meaningful plan to incorporate technology into the yearly PD plan.

Create a school-wide culture of tech integration and an openness to take risks. Some lessons will not go as planned -- and that's great! Reflect and learn from these challenges. Be willing to press on and continue to learn. After all, don't we expect the same from our students?

5. Encourage Them

Even with the best PD and resources available, some teachers will still struggle. Support them! I've worked with great veteran teachers that just wanted me to stop by every few days and discuss their tech ideas. Once they have mastered one technology, present them with another to consider. Encourage them and celebrate their willingness to try new things. Focus on the learning (by teachers) and share their successes.

Are there any tips that you have for helping teachers in your school who struggle with technology? If you're a teacher still trying to master technology, how have others helped you? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Comments (19)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Grenard Madrigal's picture
Grenard Madrigal
Web Developer for BirdBrain Science

I've found that in any job that I've ever been in, I'm part of the tech support team - whether I volunteered for it or I was just the guy that people asked. (I'm sure it was partly because of my age and mostly because I was the web designer.) I always felt it was not only important to help out, but for those less-savvy to know that I was around and enjoyed helping them with tech things. Learning to swim can be scary, but if you know you have a life preserver, you become a lot more courageous diving into that pool. Secondly, I think it's important to select tech that's INTUITIVELY DESIGNED. By that I mean, if your tech guy's confused and needs to be trained on how to use the software, it's going to be really tough for those who aren't so tech-savvy and maybe there are better options out there. It's really important, for education tech companies especially, to create user-friendly interfaces and provide easy to find support for their users. This is definitely something that we're constantly working on, getting feedback for, and improving upon for the www.birdbrainscience.com project.

Isabella MacQuarrie's picture
Isabella MacQuarrie
Itinerant Learning Support, ELL, Educational Tech suppport

With SO MUCH available, where do you start?? It can be overwhelming for teachers who are less than "tech savvy". It can be overwhelming for those of us who embrace technology. In an attempt to address this issue, I recently conducted a workshop with teachers in our district entitled "Blooms In the 21st Century". By approaching the tech integration into the "Blooms" framework, I hoped to shift the focus away from the technology, and back to "what do we want our students to accomplish". Once that is established, then we can start to looks at some of the "tech tools" that we can incorporate into that task. Here is a link to the Learni.st site I created to support the workshop. My hope was that be creating the site, I could introduce the concept, but give teachers a place they could return to to examine more closely some of the resources we covered in the course of the workshop. I will continue to add to the site if anyone has any recommendations, I'd love some feedback!
http://learni.st/users/127212/boards/74592-applying-blooms-to-the-21st-c...

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Facilitator 2014
Staff

Wow, Isabella, your presentation is an amazing resource! It must've taken an incredible amount of work to put it together.

May I make a request? Will you post about the presentation in the Technology Tools group in our community? It deserves it's own space, and I'd like to be able to point people to it.

Here is the link to the group:
http://www.edutopia.org/groups/technology-tools

Just use the Start a New Discussion link in the left sidebar.

Isabella MacQuarrie's picture
Isabella MacQuarrie
Itinerant Learning Support, ELL, Educational Tech suppport

Thanks for the feedback! Much appreciated. I'll post a link in the "tech tools" community, and please feel free to share as well. Lets spread the wealth! :)

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Echoing Keith's comments on not trying to overreach and keeping it simple when teaching tech. Also, I'd add to make sure to celebrate the wins. When I teach tech, I usually talk to the person and understand their pain points first (think design-thinking, the empathy stage) and THEN see if there's a tech solution that can help them out in their day-to-day. Once you've done that, they can instantly see the power of tech and you'll see them be not as afraid of tech and take more initiative overall.

Mary J Howard's picture
Mary J Howard
Instructional Coach at Bridgeport (TX) ISD

As an Instructional Coach my job is to offer support, cheer the victories and act as an extra set of hands in classrooms when called upon. We are a 1:1 district and know that having that extra help is the only way to make project-based learning something that happens instead of a wished-for idea to contemplate. We have a person on each campus who does just what I do. We are all housed in an easily accessible location -- frequently the library. Students can come to us for help, we are ready in an instant to leave to help in any class, and teachers can drop by while they are in the area for another purpose. We do training based on teacher request. This week, I have helped a teacher get a website ready to teach the historic settings of the book "The Watsons go to Birmingham", learned and shared how to print a multi-page poster of one object to be used as a gameboard,(not as easy as it sounds), troubleshot a few system errors on iPads and MacBooks, and iMacs and updated videos and images for our hall tv that shows student projects for parents to see as they come in the building.
Someone said they didn't think teachers could keep up to date with technology and teach. I somewhat agree. That's what my job is...to take the edge off, so teachers can focus on teaching. I was a classroom teacher for 31 years. It's fun for me to help them take their ideas (the Watson's project, for example) and provide the tech legwork needed to make that happen seamlessly in the classroom.

pollyalida's picture

Great tips! Thank you for this article. Along these lines, we've been running an flexible online learning program for teachers/librarians that gives them with a new topic every couple of weeks. They pick and choose from among the resources and explore the tools that are most relevant to them. We have folks who are hesitant and make progress in tiny steps, while others are enthusiastic from the start and just need the framework to explore and create. It's such a fun project, love seeing the outcomes! http://cooltoolsforschool.wordpress.com/

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England
Facilitator 2014

This article make some solid points. This article is helping me rethink how we are approaching tech PD in our area. One thing I am learning is that PD in education is rarely differentiated, especially when it comes to technology. We need to practice what we preach in education and meet our adult learners where they are and advance their skills accordingly. I am in the very early stages of developing a Technology Professional Development Plan for several school districts and these are the three parts I came up with based on my research. Comments and suggestions welcome!

1. Hardware and Software Knowledge: Small to medium professional development groups learning the hardware/software on a PD day, early release day, after school, and/or summer. This type of PD MUST be differentiated to meet the educators where they are and help them grow their skill levels. This can be done for a moderate amount of $$ and gets the most for the least. However, with technology becoming simpler to use and more user friendly than EVER before, this is not as cumbersome of a task really. For example, with iPads, less time can be spent on how to use one, and more time can be spent how to use it in a classroom setting to support the curriculum.

2. Technology Integration Coaches/Team: Individualized or small group technology professional development that takes place during the school day and in the classroom. This means the Technology Integration Coach is leading, supporting, or evaluating the use and integration of technology in the classroom. For example, a teacher may want to do a WebQuest research project on the Planets. Working with a technology coach during the planning stage, the teacher(s) will learn how to pull together resources to develop or find a WebQuest. Then the coach is in the classroom helping the teacher implement the WebQuest with students. Reflection support is provided after the lesson(s). This is the most expensive part of the technology PD plan.

3. Embedded Technology PD: This type of PD is done during staff meetings, PD days, early release days, and throughout the school year. Basically when schools do other types of PD work, technology is integrated into the work. For example, when my district recently did a multiage curriculum block it was during the planning stage that the staff learned how to create and use the Google Slides (powerpoint alternative) app. Instead of doing our collaborative virtual planning in the Google word processor like they have in the past, we started a planning document using the Google Slides. By doing this all staff had to learn how to work with the Slides app on Google. A few of the tech savvy staff members were available to help support the staff if they didn't know how to work with slides. As a result, all of the staff now has some experience working with Google Slides. We use Google Docs word processing app during staff meetings to help collaborate before, during, and after the Staff or Instructional Practice meetings. It is during these meetings that our staff learns how to do even more with Google Drive apps by just using it in our meetings. It is THIS third option of PD that is missing in most school districts. Embedding technology PD into our current work can be very effective but it needs to include thoughtful technology support where needed. This is the least expensive part of the technology PD plan.

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