How Do I Use This Thing? The Push for Technology in the Classroom is Increasing and Training for Educators is Staying the Same, by Jeremy Anderson

Creative Commons image by Flickr user Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Creative Commons image by Flickr user Virginia Guard Public Affairs

 

Cutting-edge technology is as perishable as a truckload of ripe bananas: it’s worth a fortune today, but if not used quickly, it becomes worthless” (Knoke 1996)

I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I stayed up until 3 am to preorder the newest iPhone. I have a strong fascination with what technology can add to our daily lives. One of the main reasons for this fascination comes from my experiences integrating technology into the classroom. Technology enabled me to bring pieces of the world to students in a small rural town in Pennsylvania. It has grown tremendously in the classroom, as education policies by both state and federal programs aim to get it in the hands of students. Many schools today invest enormous sums of money into both hardware and software purchases. However, these policies and purchases often ignore the importance of training teachers to use the technology effectively and how to “blend” it into their classrooms. If these policies continue making technology a priority and school districts are going to invest money into obtaining it, they should also be investing in finding ways to provide training programs to help teachers use it more successfully.

For a number of teachers that have significantly implemented technology into their lessons, many have found a largely positive effect. In a PBS Learning Media national survey that used 503-web based interviews with US pre-K-12 teachers, nearly three quarters of respondents stated that, “technology enables them to reinforce and expand on content (74%), to motivate students to learn (74%), and to respond to a variety of learning styles (73%)” (PBS 2013). However, this effect has not been universal. Some aspects of technology integration have proven to be obstacles. Examples of these obstacles were a lack of one-to-one access to devices and digital learning resources, such as software and human resources (Darling-Hammond et al. 2014). These aspects of technology integration disproportionately hurt schools in high-poverty areas. Over half of teachers in high-poverty schools, “agreed that the ‘lack of resources or access to digital technologies among students’ is a challenge in their classrooms” and that its “results are strongest when the uses of technology…are combined with strategic teacher support…” (Darling-Hammond et al. 2014).

A lack of adequate training has been identified to be a key barrier in effectively integrating technology into the classroom. Modern Teacher, a Chicago company that partners with schools to integrate technology into the classroom, found in a nationwide survey that “… of 600 K-12 teachers, 50 percent reported inadequate assistance when using technology in the classroom” (Willen 2014). This seems to be a common occurrence amongst teachers, both new and veteran. One school technology director remarked that, “It’s a lot more fun to brag to a school board that you bought all of this stuff than that you trained teachers on how to use it” (Sheehy 2011). This problematic view can increase barriers teachers face in gaining access to and incorporating technology into their lessons. After assistance, knowledge was the second most mentioned barrier. “Lack of specific technology knowledge and skills is one of the common reasons given by teachers for not using technology” (Krijnen, 2006). Technologies such as tablets and wireless streaming devices can be used in engaging, innovative ways or alternatively they can accumulate dust on a shelf. Teachers have demanding, time-consuming jobs and often do not have time during the year to learn a new piece of software or hardware. More importantly, they do not have time to find a way to seamlessly incorporate it unaided into lessons. Technology can be seen as more a nuisance than a tool without effective training. If school districts do not provide preparation for faculty on how to meaningfully incorporate the technology into their lessons, teachers will often resist its integration. This type of guidance could be achieved through collaborative in-service days where teachers could train and share their ideas.

“Many schools today invest enormous sums of money into both hardware and software purchases. However, these policies and purchases often ignore the importance of training teachers to use the technology effectively and how to “blend” it into their classrooms. If these policies continue making technology a priority and school districts are going to invest money into obtaining it, they should also be investing in finding ways to provide training programs to help teachers use it more successfully.”

Although there is often a lack of in-district training, alternative programs have emerged to help fill this void. Technology powerhouses like Google, Apple, and Microsoft have taken active steps towards getting their products and programs into classroom. Although these efforts are obviously advantageous for the growth of their consumer base, they have become so invested in getting their technology into the hands of school districts that they have entire divisions dedicated towards discounts on hardware and software. They also can provide remote training for educational purposes (Apple 2015; Google 2015). A school district could use an in service day and easily access these resources when purchasing tech from these companies. In addition to corporations who create the hardware and software, several nonprofits and independent companies have sprouted up across the nation. Programs such as BetterLesson in Montana or Graphite in California have developed web based resources (such as free lesson plans developed by other classroom teachers that emphasize the blending of technology) and in person training programs to assist teachers in making a shift towards blending technology into the classroom (Murphy 2016). What is not known is how widespread these programs are and if they are reaching school districts that are already resource strained and might benefit most from these types of services.

Technology is a powerful tool for education. However, teachers need to be trained on how to seamlessly integrate that tool into the classroom. Although some companies in the private sector have been finding ways to fill this need, education policy that is aimed at increasing the presence of technology in the classroom needs to make a conscious effort to package or think about more enhanced training. This could come in the form of ensuring designated trainers from existing faculty or including training resources in massive district purchases. Additionally, as teachers are trained and begin to implement tech in the classroom, they should share their triumphs and failures as a professional community either within districts or by utilizing online tools like Graphite. Technology in the classroom can be transformative. However, it will not be transforming anything as a paperweight.

References

Apple. 2015. Apple and Education. January 1. Accessed September 2015. http://www.apple.com/education/.

Darling-Hammond, L., Zielezinski, M. B., & Goldman, S. (2014). Using technology to support at-risk students’ learning, (September 2014), 18 p.

Google. 2015. Google for Education. Jan 1. Acces sed Sep 2015. https://www.google.com/edu/.

Knoke, William. 1996. Bold New World. New York, New York: Kodansha .

Krijnen, W. P. (2006). Some results on mean square error for factor score prediction. Psychometrika, 71(2), 395–409. http://doi.org/10.1007/s

Murphy, Megan E. 2016. Private groups step in to show teachers how to use technology in the classroom. February 16. http://hechingerreport.org/private-groups-step-in-to-show-teachers-how-to-use-technology-in-the-classroom/.

PBS. 2013. “PBS Survey finds teachers are embracing digital resources to propel student learning.” Press Release. Arlington, Virginia, February 4.

Sheehy, Kelsey. 2011. “Schools Turn to In-House Experts for Tech Training.” U.S. News. November 8. Accessed September 2015. http://www.usnews.com/education/high-schools/articles/2011/11/08/schools-turn-to-in-house-experts-for-tech-training.

Willen, Liz. 2014. “Blended Learning: What do teachers want even more than new technology? Training on how to use it.” Hechinger Report. March 14. Accessed September 2015. http://hechingerreport.org/teachers-want-even-new-technology-training-use/.

 

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