Although many teachers now have grown-up in the technology age, many traditional or “old-school” teachers are still not feeling equipped to teach in the classroom of the 21st century. Teachers that earned their certificates in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and even the 90’s may or may not feel prepared to operate and utilize today’s education equipment in the classroom.
From the replacement of chalkboards with smart boards to the use of iPads in the classroom with apps for learning in English, Math, Science, and many other areas, the advances in technology are taking hold in today’s classrooms. The question remains how do we educate our teachers on how to use the technology?
What Needs to Change
Despite the fast-paced advances in the development of technology, technology can be used well if the teachers are first educated on how to take advantage of the resources that they have available to them. Teachers do not only need fancy apps and computer programs, but they also need proper training, as well as simple devices with easy to use features, affordable gadgets and programs, and ongoing support.
1. Include Teachers on the Decisions! – Teachers are not often included in the decision about what materials to purchase for their school and or how those materials will be utilized, but are expected to use them regardless. One of the biggest most common mistakes that increase the gap of comprehension between teachers and how to use their resources is that often teachers are simply handed a new program, device, gadget, or system, and are told to use it. Principals, executives, and other administrators make decisions about purchases but very rarely is teacher input included in the discussion. Open a dialogue about the needs of the educators before sliding the school board’s credit card across the machine.
2. Provide Proper Training – Instructions needs to be provided to groups and or individual instructors as needed through multiple sessions of training before each product or program is introduced to the student body. How can we expect teachers that were not trained in the 21st century to understand how to implement programs and devices of the 21st century, without proper training? Training requires patience, professional trainers, and can even require one on one attention. If we expect our teachers to implement unknown technologies we have to offer adequate time, training, and attention to each teacher who may have questions about the functions of a new program.
3. Purchase Simple Devices – Start from the understanding that not all teachers are automatically technology gurus. If a school, a university, or a community center is employing new technology in their programs and classrooms, they should not only talk to their educators and teachers before putting out the money for a complicated device, but also start with purchasing some basic programs, games, and apps that are easy to use. If a teacher is familiar and more comfortable with using a certain device, he or she will be more apt to use it, rather than leaving it on the shelf and collecting dust in the closet.
4. Use Affordable Programs and Devices – Although it is true that many new technologies and devices are outrageously expensive, some start-ups are offering free apps and other programs to gain publicity and market their company. Make use of free and or low-costs devices and apps to reduce the schools’ costs and minimize teacher out-of-pocket expense. After all, not all school districts will have access to equal funds for implementing technology of the 21st century in the classroom.
5. Offer Ongoing Support – Lastly, after a new program or device is introduced to the classroom, and all the teachers have received training, don’t assume that the teachers understand 100% how to use the technology. Provide ongoing support, training, and continuing education regarding the new products. The process of learning must start with the teachers, in order for the students to also effectively learn! As teachers always provide ongoing feedback, exams, and reviews for students, even technology experts, administrators, and trainees need to remain available to teachers to listen to feedback and provide additional instruction after the initial use of a product.
With the advancing technology age, efforts need to be made by both teacher and technology experts to meet in the middle. Just like we cannot expect technology experts to automatically become amazing teachers, we cannot expect our teachers to be immediately knowledgeable about how to operate a Smart Board or how to manage a class of students with iPads.
By including teachers in the discussion about materials they need for the classroom, offering training and ongoing support, and using both simple and affordable gadgets and programs, teachers and educators will feel that their voice is being heard, and will be more motivated to learn how to use the technology in the classroom to the benefit of their students.
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