Musings from the Plains
Schools invest a lot of time and money in technology, yet evidence suggests that the adaptation of technology and its impact on learning in the classroom varies. I am sure you have encountered teachers in your school or network that perhaps never or very rarely use technology in classroom instruction.
Why is that?
Tech leaders have all the right intentions. They plan and implement tech, outline the vision, put in the CPD and then wonder why people don't use it or end up complaining about it.
I think it personally comes down to three key areas.
Lack of confidence in the technology
If you tried at least three times and the tech does not work as planned in your lesson, it can lead to a lack of confidence. My experience in ICT suggests that when a teacher books tech or wants to use it for their lesson, the tech team needs to do more than just simply setup. A mechanism of pedagogical support is necessary at that point. Before the lesson is delivered, talking to the teacher, finding out what they want to do and informing them of possible pitfalls and ways around those would be a good start. A successful beginning with tech can help build a skill set for the teacher and give them the confidence to use it, which they can propagate to others around the school. But alas, the opposite is quite common in schools where the above doesn't happen and the teacher propagates that the tech does not work.
Of course, there are constraints of time in implementing the above but aren't those there always. Good planning and using others to support you gets around that quite easily.
Often, there are unrealistic expectations of how technology works. A tablet or a mobile phone can often boot up and load applications quicker than an old desktop or a laptop. Wi-Fi that can be relied upon can hang at times due to a myriad of factors right when you need it. Even industry-standard software can have issues running on networks. Building resilience in staff and informing them about key issues can ensure that their expectations are managed. I have encountered teachers that say the reason they won't start using the tech is that it doesn't work 100% of the time. I agree that it should be the case, but this is an aspirational or a very rare situation, like getting every child in your class to view your subject as their number one choice or get 100% in every test and exam. It isn't going to happen often. My answer to them is that using tech that works most of the time and furthers learning compared to using a traditional method that does very little all of the time is much preferable.
Another teacher once said that pen and paper works for me all the time, tech doesn't. I agree with that to a certain point until you run out of ink or paper. Also, the training and experience of using pen and paper has been engrained for x amount of years. The teacher is an expert in its use. I asked them to think about their first few years with pen and paper. They probably were scribbling random lines like any toddler. It took them a good year or so of solid instruction before forming sentences and writing correctly. Yet, with technology, the expectation that they will grasp its use without structured CPD (continuous professional development) and practice is quite prevalent. We seem to lose the growth mindset approach to accept failure and learn from it as we get older, not be scared of the unknown, yet this is something we want to instil in the students we teach.
Lack of personalised training
ICT training provision is often low key in schools. It all boils down to sessions on training days or throughout the year if your school is good. Access to videos or support upon request. Staff rarely request ICT CPD on CPD request forms. Less than 10% put in annual ICT CPD requests compared to subject-specific CPD, which ranks the highest at (approx.) 60%. This is based on data from the schools I have worked at.
How do we go about CPD at our school? We have the usual channels along with ICT Wednesdays or Tech Tuesdays, where we set up published training sessions on a range of topics related to staff needs. We gather these through staff surveys. During lunchtimes and after school, these sessions allow staff to drop in based on what they want to know.
We also have ICT CPD screens in the staff room showing tips and tricks related to the tech we use. We keep these short (10 to 30 sec) so people can pick things up at a glance. We use informal channels to encourage staff to take up tech courses related to their area. We have a working party whose role is to get others to propagate the effectiveness of the technology. But we need to be even more proactive in our approach as tech leaders or champions. Identify areas in the curriculum which could benefit and then actively target teachers who need support the most. We talk to our teachers regularly, especially at crucial choke points during the year.
In the end, it comes down to two things people and purpose.
Take on board the former and always keep your eye on the latter, and tech adaptation rates in schools will become higher, leading to higher standards of learning and a general improvement in well-being overall.
I am Sunny Thakral. If you are here on the site then you know a bit about me. If not then I am a teacher and these are my musings. Hope you enjoy them.