Online Modules and Opt-Out PD
One of the biggest problems with professional development (PD) is the same one that is faced over and over again in the classroom: everyone learns at different speeds. You can reduce this problem by offering online courses to introduce the technology to your teachers. This lets them complete the training at their own pace.
If they get through everything with ease, they can opt-out of in-person PD. This lets your technical support team focus on the teachers who need the most help getting up to speed with the tool. This also allows your teachers to attend only the professional development that they need, so that they will not be overwhelmed with their workload.
However, ensure you are checking in with teachers about their success implementing a new tool if they are not attending a PD session, as you want to assure them that help is still available if they need it.
Make sure that each group of teachers is not too large. Smaller groups, determined by level of proficiency with the tool, allow the instructor to focus on training in accordance with varying degrees of proficiency and levels of understanding. Aim for 10-15 teachers in a PD session.
Most commonly, teachers are reluctant to embrace a new tech tool if they lack confidence in their ability to use it comfortably on a regular basis.
Teachers who are already frequent users of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) are shown to have more confidence using technology, perceive it to be useful in their personal work and teaching practices, and are more likely to plan to use it further in the future. You can help teachers who lack confidence in their ability to use technology through appropriate and patient training.
A teacher’s success in using the tool will also depend on their beliefs about teaching and learning with ICT. Ensure that the goals of integrating a given ICT tool are communicated effectively. This will help teachers see the value in learning how to utilize this new tool. Careful training allows teachers to become aware of the range of uses and possible benefits; if the software matches the teacher’s pedagogy, they will use it.
Demonstrate Benefits for Teachers and Students
The right technology combined with executive integration can have tremendous benefits for both students and teachers. Executive implementation of communication technologies promotes a facilitative role for teachers, while students become active participants who take responsibility for their learning. The teacher’s role continues to be important in this space, as students (often thought of as “digital natives”), must learn how to use these tools for 21st Century learning.
How tech tools benefit students:
- Students are able to learn at their own pace, reviewing material as needed
- Improves collaboration, problem solving, and communication
- Access to up-to-date, primary source material
- Opportunities for expressing understanding via multimedia
How tech tools benefit teachers:
- Fewer classroom management issues because students are engaged
- Methods of collecting/recording data
- Ways to collaborate with students, teachers, and experts around the world
- Provides opportunities to differentiate instruction
- Giving them more power in the school
- Making their administration more efficient
Demonstrate Students’ Need For Technology
The best way to help teachers understand students’ need for tech is to demonstrate how technology is an important form of literacy. For better or worse, students live and breathe technology. The world that today’s students will work in will be full of technology. It is imperative that students learn how to think critically and use technology responsibly from adults who understand the larger implications of concepts like “digital citizenship”. Students need role models for the safe, confident and proper use of technology as they are already immersed.
Technology integration teaches important 21st Century skills including:
- Personal and social responsibility
- Planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity
- Strong communication skills (interpersonal and presentation)
- Cross-cultural understanding
- Visualizing and decision-making
- Knowing how and when to use technology and choosing the most appropriate tools for the task
Tech is Situational
It is important to remain flexible with regards to where and when technology is appropriate. For some subjects, classes and age levels, certain tools will not be a good fit, and it’s crucial for administrators and teachers to work together to understand these limitations.
Although there will be some tools that require everyone to adopt, introducing tools purely to “help teachers” should never be considered mandatory. Teachers have varying instructional styles, and view their role in many different ways. The last thing you want to do is encourage resentment because a teacher doesn’t see the need for the tool.
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