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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

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Rebecca's picture
Rebecca
Communications Specialist

Don't give up. Press on, continue to learn, be willing to try new things. Definitely great reminders of the kind of attitude educators need who want to integrate technology with their teaching but still struggle to figure it out. And no matter how big the struggle, it's important for classroom tech to keep evolving to stay relevant to students' learning preferences and expectations. I recently wrote a blog post about how important the evolution of classroom technology is. http://vingapp.com/ving-edtech-blog/classroom-technology-still-evolving-...

PrincipalCross's picture
PrincipalCross
Principal at Legacy Academy iSchool

One of the success stories that I have had regarding technology professional development lately is a more individual approach. I found that working with teachers throughout the year specifically to address their needs has been very beneficial. I have seen better results that from the traditional whole group approach used by most PD groups.

http://mrcross.org

Laura Conley's picture
Laura Conley
Take Action PD Facilitating Flipped-PD from Clarksville Arkansas

I think you are both on the right track with PD. The needs of individual teachers have to be a focus for successful PD. We have been creating a flipped-pd model for about 2 years that seems to have a lot in common with what you both describe. Asking teachers ahead of time, small groups with common goals, limiting the tech introduced, taking into account the different levels of tech usage of teachers in each group, allowing time to practice and of course follow up. It's a process, but one well worth the effort I feel. Some of our tried and true digital tools we started with are located at flipped-pd.com.

PrincipalCross's picture
PrincipalCross
Principal at Legacy Academy iSchool

Learning new things...such a huge component for educators. I think they are often not sure about where to start or what to learn. (I believe our very own education system is to blame for that, but that is another story all together) In my opinion you need so just learn, and learn whatever you can that might inspire your class. What students need most is inspiration.

http://mrcross.org

Kay Butler's picture
Kay Butler
HS Mathematics and MS/HS Pre-Engineering teacher, from South Louisiana

After being immersed in multiple weeks of various technology-rich training sessions (five weeks during the summer of 2004), I came up with a tip that kept me sane then and has served me well since. It has also been good for supporting and encouraging "low-tech" teachers who transferred into our high-tech school during the past 10 years:

"Learn what you need to know to complete required tasks first - ask your colleagues for assistance during the learning curve.. Pay attention to what you see so that you are at least aware of what's possible.. Then, when you see an opportunity to use something you've seen, ask someone to show you."

We pair up newly hired teachers with teachers who are familiar with our school's technology to provide them with a "buddy" who can help them with required tasks. Most of our teachers collaborate with one another regularly throughout the year, sharing new things we learn with one another and asking each other for help or ideas. Brainstorming sessions are so productive! :) We participate in conferences, conventions, workshops, and webinars, and then provide turn around training for those who were interested but unable to attend. (Sort of like small learning communities, but the are not forced on us from above . . . we focus on what interests us or what's related to our academic fields - the kind of learning we try to instill in our students!)

Our tech teacher (computer science, web-mastering, etc) puts out "Tech Bytes" and "Tech Bytes Lite" to provide us with tips and information about new apps or ways of using technology in and out of the classroom. We are not shy about asking our students for assistance, either! They appreciate our respect for their knowledge and ability to help us!

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

Kay, I like your quote. After all, we have to give ourselves permission to be learners too.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia
Facilitator 2014

Great article. One tip that I've learnt from being an advocate for technology in the classroom is this one: don't try to overreach. While you might be a whiz on technology, the person you are showing something to probably isn't, so keep it very basic. Allow them time to practice and repeat, before you show them more. Bite-sized chunks of technology goodness!

UP's picture

I have a doctorate in Engineering and can claim to be a bit tech savvy. I also have kids in elementary school and have some taste for the workload that educators already face. Looking at all the education technology trends, I think it is too much to expect teachers to keep up to date with all that AND to focus on teaching. I can't help drawing parallels with the dot com era when the big companies panicked trying to play catch up to all the e-commerce buzz and completely lost focus of their core businesses. What would make more sense in schools would be to have a technology liaison or two who can connect the needs of the classrooms to what is happening in the fast evolving world of ed-tech, and maybe identify a few technolgies that will last a year or two at least and have the schools put them to good use. I will also add that it is very easy to get blinded by all the tech glitter. The "edpreneurs" and the VCs, while being experts in their fields, appear to have little feel for the real problems facing educators and usually develop products with overkill. To hear even a luminary such as Mr. Salman Khan talk, you would think that all educators are also IT specialists, database experts and some. Needless to say, my sympathies are with the teachers. Hang in there!

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