Chapter Five

Choosing the Right Tech

Why adopt new technology?

In an era of consistently rapid technological innovation, it is crucial to students’ success that the education industry stays “ahead of the curve.” Each year, our devices become smarter, faster, and smaller. As users, our experience is expected to improve. While it is challenging for districts and schools to keep up with the rapid change, the potential educational technology offers to create an innovative and engaging classroom makes the change management worth it.

We are inundated with articles describing the promising future of ‘personalized learning’ for teachers and students; a world in which each student learns in their preferred method, at the exact pace that enables them to truly understand and grasp each concept. This is what the future of educational technology looks like.

The impact that technology has made in the classroom has been inarguably huge, particularly when it comes to communication, collaboration, and student engagement. The systemic effects have not yet taken hold, but with this guide you will be able to lead your teachers to the forefront of 21st Century education.

There is no single answer to explain why technology has not been fully adopted in schools. One of those reasons is it is hard to affect the way one teaches when it is a familiar and proven method. Encouraging teachers, providing the right training, and creating a safe and comfortable environment to adopt educational technology will give your school the boost it needs to explore all educational technology has to offer.

Beyond the old promise that technology will make the same job easier, there are many things that can be done with technology that simply were not possible before. In the same way that curriculum changes, teachers should be encouraged to change the way that material is presented to their students.

With community and social technology tools, it’s even more imperative that the entire community buys into the concept before adopting. There are only benefits – particularly for your students – to gain if everyone gets on board with adopting educational technology. 


Choosing the Right Tech

The first step in your journey is to choose appropriate technology. Your success in implementing new tools will depend on the characteristics of the technology itself. Nothing is worse than putting a square peg into a round hole. Finding the right tool for the right job should be a preliminary step before any implementation. In this process, you will also want to think about what type and level of technology integration you would like to introduce into your school.

Types of Technology Integration

  • Teacher specific tools
  • Online learning and blended classrooms
  • Project-based activities
  • Game-based learning
  • Learning with mobile devices
  • Instructional tools like interactive whiteboards and student response systems
  • Web-based projects, explorations, and research
  • Student-created media
  • Collaborative online tools like Wikis or Google docs
  • Using social media to engage students

Levels of Technology Integration

Sparse: Technology is rarely used or available
Basic: Technology is used or available occasionally/often in a lab rather than the classroom
Comfortable: Technology is used in the classroom on a fairly regular basis
Seamless: Students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content

Ask your teachers

Your teachers probably have a better idea than you do about what challenges they face in a typical day. They may have already started to use a tool to solve these challenges or have ideas for what may help. The easiest way to figure out what your teachers are likely to use is to find a tool that directly solves a problem that they face.

Including teachers in the decision making processes to evaluate tools will help you make the most of the experience teachers bring to the role. Collect feedback from teachers and students about the efficacy of programs and tools being used in the classroom to promote buy-in from all involved.

Your success in implementing new tools will depend on the characteristics of the technology itself.

Multi-Tool Platforms

The last thing you want to do is add so many different technologies into your classrooms, each using a separate login, that your teachers become overwhelmed. Teachers may give up on some tools entirely in frustration.

Incorporating various tools into the same platform can make yours and your teacher’s lives easier for many reasons. By providing one simple interface for teachers, they can easily take advantage of the various tools at their disposal. There is also the added benefit of aggregating analytics, which can be used to help with decision making.

Multi-tool platforms also have the benefit of discovering unexpected use from the built-in integration between their tools.

Support and Training

Every company should offer some level of training to get you up to speed on the use of their software. However, the place where companies vary widely is their level of support.

Look for companies that offer different methods of contacting them. For example, if they only have an email address listed, you will likely not hear back from them very quickly. This can become a huge problem if this tool is something that your teachers will be using every day and will need a quick response to any issues encountered.

Instead, try to choose tools that offer support chat, or a support phone number. Good companies will also include written support documents and tutorial videos on their website.

Bonus Tip: Companies often host free webinars on an ongoing basis. Take advantage of this for extra PD!

Ease of Use

Though the planning and execution of how new technology will be integrated is important, at the end of the day, what matters most when selecting technology is its ease of use. A teacher will quickly give up on a tool if they don’t easily see the value it should provide or it makes their life more difficult. Instead, technology should always be implemented to make their work easier.

At the end of the day, what matters most when selecting technology is its ease of use.

A trial or demo of a product will give teachers some time to assess whether the new tool is truly effective or not. Trials also have the added benefit of gathering voluntary teacher buy-in before a mandatory roll-out.

 

Chapter SixEffective Professional Development

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