A study from Harris Interactive revealed that 89 percent of teachers think edtech improves student outcomes, but only 14 percent of teachers use digital curricula weekly. A major reason for this is teacher unfamiliarity and discomfort with technology. As a result, many teachers are forced into using technology they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable using.
Administrators should do all they can to help teachers overcome this. Here are four keys to supporting and engaging teachers.
1. Demonstrate technology’s benefits
Remove reluctance by showing teachers just how positively student performance is affected by proper integration of tech into lesson plans. Public schools are demonstrating their commitment to integration of technology with $3 billion being spent annually on digital content. This is undoubtedly due to the many studies that have revealed the positive effects of tech on education.
One report from the Milken Exchange revealed that, on average, students who engaged in computer-based instruction scored at the 64th percentile on standardized tests, compared to students without computer-aided instruction, who scored in the 50th percentile.
The study also found that students learn more in less time and develop more positive attitudes about learning when engaged in computer-based instruction. This lays the groundwork for a more fruitful relationship with education.
2. Offer continual PD opportunities
While many schools provide professional development for their teachers, and even workshops on technology, these sessions are not always offered with enough consistency. “I think the greatest obstacle teachers face is training and support” says Mike Karlin, an award-winning educator and Ph.D. candidate in instructional system technology.
PD is often presented as a short, one-time lecture or workshop. Teachers are then asked to integrate new technology tools on their own, and it’s not likely to go well. “We know from the research that PD workshops presented that way have little to no impact on teacher practices” Karlin says.
Administrators must provide personalized, continuous and contextualized professional development. “Share examples of how other teachers are using the technology, give teachers time to play with the technology, group teachers by ability levels, and have just-in-time support in the classroom” Karlin says.
When teachers are supported in trying new things—enough that they can “play”—you’ll know that you’ve moved past discomfort and toward mastery.
3. Tech gurus
Many schools currently dedicate a professional staff member to the technological well-being of the school or school system. Common job titles include education technology specialist, instructional technologist and media specialist. These faculty members focus on researching and implementing schoolwide tech that improves student performance.
They also hold training sessions on how to use tech in the classroom, among other edtech-related tasks.
4. Research and select technology that offer an easy learning curve
With the growth of the edtech industries, there are a variety of tools and programs to help integrate tech into the classroom. Technology should be flexible and molded to fit student needs.
For example, iOS and Android tablets are great for engaging students in interactive lessons, providing access to fun and informative games and apps, and even flipping a classroom. Google’s education tools offer a variety of K12 tech solutions for collaboration, organization and student engagement.
Administrators must also offer specialized programs and unwavering support to teachers as they bring technology into their classrooms.
By setting up functions and programs designed specifically to help teachers understand edtech, administrators are showing their faculty that they are not alone.
Sam Frenzel is a writer for Teach.com based in upstate New York. He covers topics including education policy, teacher welfare and classroom technology.