Advances in technology has led to some very innovative ways of teaching and learning in the classrooms that have it. Many benefits have been discovered through the process of integration, however, there have been some challenges in this rather large undertaking of implementing it.
One common obstacle to integrating technology is preparing our teachers for effective use. Often times, technology is purchased and then placed into the classrooms of teachers who have had inadequate training and knowledge of best practices with technology. A solution for this barrier is to have conversations and common visions when a district or school is starting to talk about purchasing the devices. As the conversations are developing, begin the professional development process with the teachers who will be using it. Offer various sessions before school during school and after school to meet the needs of all individuals. Many professional development sessions are now taking place online, in an asynchronous time frame, personalizing the PD for teachers. Our district is training our Technology and Learning Coaches to be “Peer Coaches” where they work with individual teachers for a year, providing on the spot and relevant training because it was based on the teachers’ need/desire. Many times, PD is offered and though it is a fabulous topic/training, the teachers are not using it right away, it is not meaningful to them. We are finding teachers need to learn to use the tool when it is most relevant.
“So, we have technology, but the internet is not working?” “A student’s device is broke, but I do not have another one for him to use until it is fixed.” Common phrases heard by teachers when they start to use it, but something out of their control creates an issue. Infrastructure and technology support is another barrier teachers have when they are integrating on a routine basis. As a district, how do you manage so many devices? How do you sustain the technology when something breaks down? I think plans should be in place before a school or district fully implements technology use. The more successful opportunities teachers have will lead to continued and routine use, enhancing teaching and learning.
The last obstacle to note is the many programs available, it takes time and energy to determine which are the best ones. Time is already allocated to other tasks and to add another component to the “plate” can be discouraging to the teacher. It can also be very daunting to take on if you are unfamiliar with how to approach a new website and evaluate for effectiveness. Digital Immigrants are not comfortable with simply clicking buttons to see what will happen. One solution our district has implemented is a Digital Starter Kit for Grades 3-12 and PreK-2. This is a suggested list for a teacher who is novice to technology use in the classroom. It has helped our new teachers and veteran teachers start somewhere, build successful lessons to continue the momentum of using technology.