Helping teachers get up to speed with technology is always a challenge, some teachers have a difficult time navigating basic computer skills. As schools around the globe begin to adopt the use of digital technology in their learning environments, these same teachers can be left feeling inept and marginalized by the implementation of new tech tools in their schools. Teachers need ongoing Professional Development provided by their schools to ease them into a comfort zone and get them turned on to technology and all it has to offer student learning! Here are several ideas that can help foster PD.
1. Encourage RISK Taking!
Technology is changing so fast and teachers are expected to keep up with all of the different transformations that are happening in all aspects of education, not just the tech piece. Often this push for using integrating technology into day-to-day lessons with no prior training is a surefire set up for failure. There is a big difference between using technology to teach and the successful integration of technology into lesson plans. Administrators are responsible for creating a school-wide plan as to establishing a culture of tech integration and an atmosphere of openness for teachers to feel comfortable in taking risks and making mistakes. Some lessons will not go as planned -- and that's to be expected! Teachers need time to reflect and learn from these challenges with one another. Encouragement to forge ahead and continue to learn is paramount, wouldn’t we expect the same from our students?
2. Work Together
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. Develop tech teams consisting of teachers, support staff, and administrators. Make getting help easy and convenient by partnering up those with the advanced skills with those that are intimidated. This group should set aside time weekly to be able to work together across multiple content areas and grade levels to support successful tech integration.
2. Scaffold Implementation
Don’t try introducing technology with either too much or too little professional development. Teachers that struggle with technology might feel overwhelmed if they are bombarded with everything at once, introduce tech slowly and methodically, don’t deliver too much too soon. Provide mentors for individuals or small groups. Most importantly, give teachers time to play, experiment, and implement recently learned tech right away. Going back to tip #2, have your tech team develop a feasible plan for effective PD using input from individuals.
3. Keep it REAL
PD also needs to be focused on being of value to teachers facing the hurdle of integrating technology. You may hear teachers say, "Why would I try this when I've been doing just fine without it all these years?" You should be planning PD for the whole year, ask teachers what tech-related areas they would like to focus on first. Select only one or two of these areas to begin and make a concerted effort to help those teachers who are struggling. Breaking into many smaller ability groups with a mentor can actually speed things up.
4. Make the Time Doable
We all know educators extra time for PD is scarce throughout the day; consider carving out dedicated time for teaching tech. Allowing ample time teachers to meet and collaborate with each other is essential for building a flourishing environment to support student learning, especially regarding the use of technology. In addition to having dedicated time for teachers to meet, create a professional learning community (PLC) that focuses on overseeing and troubleshooting tech integration throughout the school. This PLC can be powerful and insightful while supporting those that need additional help, making classroom visits is essential to success.
5. 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?
6. Instill Confidence and Encouragement
Even with the best PD and resources available, some teachers will still struggle, acknowledging baby steps will help keep them motivated. Once they have mastered one technology, present them with another topic to conquer. Encourage risk taking and celebrate their successes, remember to review and reinforce. Focus on the learning and then provide guidance in implementing these skills in the classroom.
*Of course, expect hurdles and understand that most of this are new terrain for many teachers. Keep segments short and give ample time for hands-on practice sessions. Suggest sub-groups within the technical support group and have those with the expertise help the novices with implementation within the classrooms. Eventually, recruit those who have mastered a particular skill set and have them teach other less advanced colleagues.