Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Breaking Down Walls to Increase Teacher Confidence When Integrating Technology

I've been an Instructional Technology Specialist (Tech TOSA) for the past year and a half.  In my role, it is my job to help train and coach teachers in my district to integrate technology into their curriculum to enhance instruction, transform student learning, and meet the CCSS standards related to technology.  While many teachers are excited to use technology in the classroom, and the Chromebook carts are being checked out and are in constant demand, many more teachers are still not comfortable using technology in the classroom.  Many lack the confidence to use technology with their students.

There seem to be a variety of reasons why teachers are afraid to use technology with their students.  Some feel that they don't have a grasp on using the technology themselves, and don't want to feel that they are not in control in their classrooms, or not the expert of everything.  Some have had bad experiences in the past with the wifi or technology not working, and don't want to run into problems again.  Others are afraid of classroom management issues, such as students being off task and texting, surfing the web, etc.  All of these issues seem to lead to the idea of mindset.  

My goal is to slowly change hesitant teacher's mindset about using technology in the classroom.  I want them to understand that the teacher doesn't have to be an expert on the technology tools; they can rely on students to be the experts and share with their classmates.  And while the network may go down or tech may fail, it is important to always have a plan B, or even a plan C, because non-tech lessons may not work either, and you always have to have a fallback plan.  And lastly, students will always be tempted to get off task if they don't have an engaging assignment.  Before computers, smart phones, and texting, students passed notes.  The same classroom management skills and strategies that you use in a class without technology, are still important in a class with technology.

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist
A few weeks ago, I saw this diagram "Teacher confidence in use of technology" by Mark Anderson in my Twitter feed.  This diagram perfectly describes the different levels teachers are at in my district.  I feel like many have moved on to the mastery, impact, and innovation levels.  But there are still a lot more at the survival level.  These teachers are scared to use technology with their students, and don't seem to be able to move up to the next level.

To get to mastery, the simple answer is that the teachers should receive training and play and practice with the different tools.  Then that would increase their comfort and confidence.  But many seem stuck.  They know they need practice, they know they need to sign up for training, or one on one appointments, but they don't always do that.  They have built up a wall of fear, that they have a hard time climbing over it.

How can I break down the walls that these teachers have built?  How can I change their mindset about technology and alleviate their fears?

I'd love for administrators to model using different tech tools in staff meetings, and to have technology purposely integrated into all professional development my district offers, not just the tech PD offerings.  I feel that this would help hesitant teachers start to see the benefits that using technology could provide to learning.  But this is a challenge for me in my district right now, and I feel like I'm making baby steps in these areas, but it's not enough.  Yet.

Another thing that I just started to try is to work with teachers to "crash their lesson".  (This ideas is based on the Yard Crashers TV show.)  In this process, I meet with a teacher and look at a lesson that they have already used in the past, that they would like to improve, and we find a way to use technology to enhance the lesson to meet their content goals and standards.  We plan a revised version of the lesson, and then I go to their class to co-teach the lesson or just help out and provide support while they teach it.  Afterwards, we reflect on the process and share what we've done with the whole staff as part of a weekly Tech Tip blog post.  It's starting to get other teachers, who are at the Survival level, to book appointments with me to brainstorm ideas to include technology in their lessons.  I'm hoping that this continues and spreads by word of mouth to other teachers.  

Do you have any suggestions to help teachers make that huge jump from survival to mastery?  How do you break down those walls that have been built?  Please share your ideas in the comments section below. I'd love to see what has worked for you.

1 comment:

  1. I think when teachers receive consistent and regular support/coaching, and/or has successful lesson plans that they can use, couple with continual practice and development of tech knowledge and know-how, they are more likely to transition. Fear, like you mentioned, stops anyone from trying. For teachers, since they are in front of so many students, worry even more.

    When teachers start seeing the benefit, their desire and commitment will become stronger, and a position cycle starts.