The educational technology business is a multi-billion dollar industry. Every year, districts spend tens of thousands of dollars on new programs, devices, tools, and gadgets. Sadly, many schools receive these new programs, devices, tools, and gadgets, and let them sit in boxes or unused on desktops. Not only are precious funds being wasted, but opportunities for dynamic teaching and learning are being lost. Technology must be seen as a tool to enhance the learning process, not a hindrance, annoyance or distraction.
Here are 5 ways to increase technology use for both teachers and students.
- Teachers need to be trained
Teachers are busy. They do not have the luxury of time to teach themselves how to integrate a new device or program during their regular day when they need to be focused on their students. Teachers, like students, need to be trained on new tools. School administrators need to be the experts on site for these new tools, devices, and programs. Teachers will see the benefit if they feel comfortable and supported in using these new tools. Trainings should never be a one-off event. On-going training is necessary as well as creating opportunities for teachers who are at different levels of understanding to learn at different speeds. Professional development needs to be personalized and tailors to a teacher’s individual need.
- Model new technology often
Staff meetings are a great way to model new technology. When using new technology becomes a part of the leadership’s routine, it will help ease the transition at the classroom level. If a school wants to move to a shared online calendar and using a learning management system to share documents and best practices, administrators need to commit to using these tools first. Teachers should never be asked to do something that the administration isn’t willing to commit to.
- Practice, practice, practice
Students need the opportunity to practice new technology. As digital natives, they will be able to figure out how to use new programs quickly and with purpose. However, they need time to do this. Many schools still rotate students through a computer lab for an hour per week. Schools need to bring the lab to students in their classrooms so that technology is readily available to them. If we committed to classroom labs, devices, and tablets, students will have the opportunity to use them more frequently.
- Build technology into your school’s vision
A school’s vision should reflect the values of administration, teachers, students, and parents. Building technology use into the school vision will help keep it at the forefront of the collective consciousness of all stakeholders. Many school visions are vague, out-of-date statements that mean nothing. For example, and this one is real, “We believe that all students can meet their full potential”. Be specific, be bold, be forward-thinking.
- Create a tech maintenance budget
iPad screens crack, computers get viruses, and keyboards stick or lose letters. It happens to all of them. There is nothing worse, other than the device never being taken out of the box, than having that device sit discarded due to something fixable. Schools need to maintain a technology maintenance budget so that these items can be fixed quickly to get them back into circulation. The longer students and teachers go without these tools, the more excuses they will have for not using them in the future.
Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. He is the co-author of Can All Schools Succeed. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.principalsdesk.org.