Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Easiest Way to Force Teachers to Use Technology

Maybe you'd love an interactive whiteboard - or maybe you'd treat it like nothing more than a huge projection screen

    Force is an aggressive word, I'll admit, but when an individual school or entire district spends thousands or tens of thousands, or (gulp) more on equipment or software they are desperate to have that equipment used as often as possible.  How frustrating for them when parents, or God forbid board members, walk through and see the document camera gathering dust, or the SMART Board covered up with a filing cabinet and table shoved up against it - like in some classrooms in the schools where I currently teach.  Why would this happen, you exclaim?!  How could a teacher not avail themselves of such wonderful resources!?  There are many reasons, but the biggest one is the answer to the blog title.....they never wanted it in the first place, and it doesn't fit into the way they teach, or the way their classroom or instruction is designed.

   How do you force an educator to use technology?  The simple answer is, you don't.  Educators aren't pets.  You don't reward them, and you don't force them.  They're professionals.  You support and respect them.  Way back in 2011 and even before that administrators were encouraged to include teachers in the planning stages of technology purchases.  I hope the majority of school districts operate in this manner, but I hear too many horror stories of educators with equipment they can't use, spending precious time writing grants and proposals on for the equipment they long for to believe it's true.  

    Educators should be encouraged to use technology because, according to the SAMR model of integrating technology into instruction, it allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.  Only the classroom teacher can conceive of the task they want the students to accomplish, and what skill that student will gain and knowledge they will demonstrate from accomplishing that task.  Therefore, only the classroom teacher knows what technology and support they need for that task.  By leaving them out of the selection decisions, we are left with the opposite, forcing teachers to reverse engineer instruction and tasks to fit the technology they are given.  It should not surprise us when educators decide that their most precious resource, time, is not worth the gargantuan effort this would require.  The benefit simply does not merit the expense.  Technology integration should always start with instruction, not with hardware or software.  What do they need to learn, not what can I do with this?

    You force an educator to use technology by including them from the beginning of the procurement process.  Why do we need it?  What do we want to accomplish?  What are our requirements?  What do we already have?  How do we maintain it?  What are the hidden costs?  What are our training needs?  How will we replace it when necessary?  Who will use it?  Who do we need permission from?  Do we need to write or change policies and procedures?  How will we evaluate progress or success/failure?  These and a million other questions need to be answered before one purchase order is signed.  This takes time, and there's the rub.

    Often this step of involving more people is avoided specifically because it takes an investment in time and trust.  However, I imagine the ROI (Return On Investment - to use a beaten to death business term) when the decision is made collaboratively and the equipment actually gets used is much more impressive than when the decision is a top-down, administrative SNAFU (US Military term - censored, but you get it).

    What is your experience as an educator?  As an administrator?  How do we make sure it happens in the best way for everyone, especially our learners?

Out on a whim,


For more wild ideas about tech integration

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