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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Technology Integration Begins at Home

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

A lot of times, I find myself working just as hard, or harder, to inspire folks as I do to inform them. While I am consistently helping all the teachers I work with to increase their purposeful use of technology in the classroom, I find that too often I am encouraging veteran teachers to come over the threshold and begin using it.

A significant challenge -- which seems sort of counterintuitive -- is the fact that these are folks who already know how to teach their curriculum. And to compound the issue, students, parents, and administrators have told them for years that they are pretty good at delivering it. And then I show up to encourage them to teach in significantly new and different ways.

Building on Expertise

Refusing to lose the great assets veteran teachers can bring to the effective use of technology, I would never suggest that they simply toss away those years of experience and start fresh. Rather, I advocate for blending current technology with their years of classroom experience, strong control of content, and thousands of interactions with kids and parents. Combined, technology and experience create an improved ability to support even more kids in becoming even more successful. (Watch this Edutopia video in which a veteran teacher takes on technology.) So here's the question: Where is the best place to begin convincing teachers who don't use technology about the power of these tools?

At home -- that's my answer. You see, I think many educators are more apt to carry technology use over from their personal lives into their professional ones than to take it on as a new part of their job. A teacher who uses a digital camera to share images of a home remodel as email attachments with her grown children has begun to understand the power of digital communication in a personal way. A teacher who uses online resources to plan a trip has begun to understand the power of the Web in answering any question one is curious enough about to ask. Once they experience the power and ease of current digital photography or Web-based research in their personal lives, the stage is set for helping them bring technology into their classroom teaching.

Making Technology a Reality

In my experience, there is one best practice for supporting teachers in integrating technology into their personal lives. A colleague in Alaska put it in action there, and I was reminded of it recently. Here's how it goes:

In the spring, all staff that have signed continuing contracts for the next school year receive this announcement: "Staff Summer Technology Buy Plan! You may purchase any laptop or desktop computer, digital still or video camera, or other digital peripheral for up to $2,000. Bring the receipt to the business office and fill out the appropriate forms, and the school district will reimburse your cost up to $2,000. During the following school year, we will take the amount reimbursed out of your paycheck over the 26 biweekly pay periods in equal installments with no interest. For interested staff, we will hold after-school sessions to answer questions and to provide advice and training for any technology you are considering buying."

The results are striking in the few school districts where I have seen this happen. Teachers who were hesitant about buying new technology were willing to upgrade. Teachers who had never owned a computer saw this as a chance to jump in. And conversations in the faculty break room began to change:

"I found a great Web site with information about bed-and-breakfasts outside Edinburgh. They have pictures and everything, so we are having a blast plotting out our trip to Scotland this summer. There must be something like that for upstate New York, Sal. I'll show you the kind of stuff we're using if you'd like. I've bookmarked them on my laptop."

"Isn't there a way to make a digital camera stop giving people red eye? Has anyone figured it out on his or her camera? You have? Great! Now, show me how to do it before it drives me crazy!"

"You have to see the pictures I took at the picnic on Saturday. You have to see a couple of them at least. What email address do you want me to send them to?"

"Our daughter Alicia is getting married this summer. I want to do one of those slide shows with pictures from when she and Anton were little kids to today, but I'm having a hard time getting the music to keep on playing through the whole thing. Didn't you do one for your Christina last year? Could you take a look at what I'm doing wrong? I have it with me on my laptop."

And so discussions are created for using technology in classrooms:

"You know, the power to use attachments with email is incredible, but with our school's system, you can do it one better. How about making your handouts for that astronomy lesson you do available as documents that kids can download? Then, when a student needs another copy of something, or a parent wants to take another look at the rubric, they can just head to your Web site! It's really easy. In fact, if you're using attachments already, you'll get this right away. Let me show you how it's done. I'll use my laptop."

And on and on goes the learning. It starts at home, then is shared with colleagues, and -- with careful nurturing -- transitions into the classroom. So what do you think? Have you seen something like this happen in your school? How would you rate yourself as a tech-savvy educator? I look forward to hearing what you think!

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Tonya Borns's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that the more gadgets and tech toys I become familiar with at home make me more comfortable using technology in the classroom. It's the old concept of stepping out of your comfort zone. If you feel a sense of comfort with the technology you are more willing to take risks and try new things. It's definitely the wave of the future and, ready or not, we need to all hop on board the speeding train!

Ashley Reilly's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'am a first year 5th grade teacher, and I would love to see more technology in the classroom. I have nothing I have 4 computers, one which does not work, as well as a non working printer. I also currently have a ripped overhead, that I cannot use. There are so many things I would love to show my students and complete with them and I cannot. A few of the teachers in my school have smartboards or elmos, and I would love to have one. Although I wonder if I would know how to navigate it and utilize all the wonderful benefits of having one. I personally have my own laptop and I love it. I know my students would love to be able to go on the computer and do so many more things, majority of my students have a computer at home. However I do teach in a inner city school, and many of the student's have a rough homelife. So it would be nice for them to have this opportunity at school.
Ashley Reilly
5th Grade Teacher
Utica, NY

Jessica's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I like what you said in your article how difficult it is to persuade veteran teachers to use technology. I am 25 years old and in my 4th year of teaching. I work at an older school where there are many teachers that have been there for a while. Our district is fortunate enough to have the means to provide some really great opportunities to enhance our classroom. The veteran teachers are skeptical, because it is unfamiliar, and because what they have been doing has worked. When certain aspects of education seem like a continuous cycle that comes back around every few years, I don't blame them for being hesitant. Maybe starting it at home could be the key! The workday certainly doesn't allow much time for learning how to use it, so the idea of learning at home first definitely makes sense. I just received a promethean board in my classroom (mounted) with my projector. I LOVE IT. The initial odds and ends of figuring things out took a little time, but the results are well worth it. Not only are the students well-engaged, but it saves so much paper and time in the long run. I think if the veteran teachers gave it a try, and saw the rewards, they would realize how easy it can be. The "not knowing what to expect" factor could be a large part of the problem.

Laura's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Technology use in a professional career has continued to increase. Every year it seems that something has been upgraded or invented. As a new teacher, I am comfortable with learning the ins and outs about technology and how I can use it in my instruction. My school holds workshops to help my coworkers and me become familiar with technology that is available to us. As I take notice of who participates in these workshops, the teachers who have one to four years experience attend. I agree with the author that veteran teachers are hesitant to use technology in their comfort zones. If veteran teachers are introduced to a technology tool and are able use it in their personal lives, then the more comfortable they will feel in using it during their instruction.

Laura Wilson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Technology use in a professional career has continued to increase. Every year it seems that something has been upgraded or invented. As a new teacher, I am comfortable with learning the ins and outs about technology and how I can use it in my instruction. My school holds workshops to help my coworkers and me become familiar with technology that is available to us. As I take notice of who participates in these workshops, the teachers who have one to four years experience attend. I agree with the author that veteran teachers are hesitant to use technology in their comfort zones. If veteran teachers are introduced to a technology tool and are able use it in their personal lives, then the more comfortable they will feel in using it during their instruction.

Laura Wilson
2nd grade teacher
Maryland

Erin M.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

A very similar thing is occurring at the junior high school where I teach. We recently received 3M Projectors, and the resistance to integrate the technology has been surprising. I was thrilled to experiment with the capabilities, and the kids were pros in no time; in fact, they taught me a few things about the machine. I believe the resistance is rooted in fear, more specifically, fear of change. The teachers stressed out by the 3M's are more seasoned/veterans who are used to doing things another way. Each teacher is also given a website with capabilities to upload grades (securely) and post messages/blog, and link documents. The same resistance is occurring with these websites, even with the excitement expressed by students and parents in the community. Teachers feel it provideds unnecessary extra work for them, when in fact it saves time. I talk positively about both until I am blue in the face, and the response I receive is, "You're young. You grew up with this stuff, so it comes easier to you." How do you ease this fear of change, when it is inevitable? Hopefully they will realize technology will eventually make their lives easier in the long run. Until then, I will continue to experiment with technology and encourage others to do the same.

Bridgette Wendt's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Are your students in the classroom all day or part of the day? If they are in your room all day, I would say try doing reading or math stations with the students and have the computers as a station. There are websites that you can use for either math flash cards or math games. For reading, you could have them learn how to look up authors or look up a place that was talked about in a story that was read. I did these kind of things for my 4th grade students. And for my students with MR, there is a Curious George program (something the school purchased and put on all the computers) that helps with letter recognition, rhyming, and recognizing sounds. My students with MR also go to nick jr.com that has a lot of educational games on it and babygamer.com is another good one. I am not sure if these would be helpful for your students, but I hope it helps.

Bridgette

Hailey W.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a 3rd year teacher. I have had some experience with technology in my classroom. I have worked with Activboards and used other devices as well. I feel that as a person, I am very tech savvy. As an educator, I do not feel as experienced with technology. Right now, because I have changed grade levels 3 times, I feel that technology is put on the back burner because I am focused on learning a new curriculum. I hate to say that, but in a lot of ways it is true. My goal for the future is to be able to integrate many different types of technology into my classroom. The way the world is going, these students will need to be able encorporate their experiences with technology in everyday life.

Lindsay Griffin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a fantastic idea for the school districts to motivate teachers to use technology! I wish our school district did the same. I am a second-year teacher and I am all for technology use in the classroom but my problem is that some things I would love to try I would have to buy myself as money is not available. We do have document cameras and those are definitely a blessing. Also, being new, I am not so sure how important technology use is to my school district. It seems to be a topic that is on the "to-do" list but definitely a top priority. I do know that we have an amazing individual that designs classroom websites for us when needed, but not all teachers opt to use these. I have found it makes my life much easier (like you described) because I can have students look at the assignment calendar and download assignments online.

Jennye's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

That is a neat idea to get teachers, especially veteran teachers, more comfortable with technology. I work with several teachers who are hesistant to work with new technologies. In our district I think more teachers would be motivated to use technology if it was more readily available and we were given more time to experiment with it. We participate in a lot of professional development that encourages using technology but I think many teachers would appreciate the opportunity to work with some of the technologies and see how others use the technology in their classroom.

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