Feb 26 2009

Converting the Skeptical

You have to find creative ways to pull some staffers into the 21st century.

Every school has staff members who are reluctant to learn new skills. Here are some tips to sway these nonbelievers in your favor:

1. Show them the value of 21st-century technology. They may see it as an expensive project, not as a valid learning resource. Explain to them some of the benefits that other schools have seen, such as decreases in discipline incidents, more student enthusiasm and higher literacy skills.

2. Give them a reason to use the technology. Show them how they can make their lives easier with the new technology. If they can see how it will improve their classroom and save them time, they may be more willing to jump onboard.

3. Include technology integration in staff evaluations. Using the technology in the classroom should be a key component of your 21st-century plan. Make sure that your administrative team is willing to include technology integration as part of staff evaluations.

4. Praise them when they teach a lesson that integrates technology. Positive encouragement and enthusiasm breed comfort and more enthusiasm.

5. Keep the lines of communication open. Maybe the teacher is afraid of not looking like an expert and it’s easier to avoid the technology than to use it. Whatever the reason, assure your staff that you will work with them and that it’s very important to the institution that they get up to speed with the technology.

As you can see, there are many different professional development opportunities, and you will need to find a plan that works for you. There is usually at least one staff member who is hesitant to embrace new technology, and it’s important that you convince them to ensure the success of your 21st-century rollout.

Your administration needs to believe in the plan as well if you want them to work with you on professional development planning and setting aside time for staff to learn the technology. Your administrators need to be modeling the use of technology so that teachers can see its value.

If your administrators have tablet PCs, they can take handwritten notes on the computer while doing staff evaluations. Teachers can see the technology in action. Whatever you decide to do for professional development, be sure to research what other districts are doing as they may have some good ideas that you can use.

What the Future Holds

Skeptics of 21st-century classroom technology may be feeling a little like Rip Van Winkle. While teaching methods and approaches have been static, the world that awaits students has changed a lot, and they need to be prepared for it.

Technology is not a panacea to every issue in education, but simply a very helpful tool to better teach today’s students. “Technology isn’t the biggest achievement [here],” says Howard Mahoney, principal at New Technology High School in Napa, Calif. “It’s a tool that facilitates project-based learning. It allows for collaboration.”

Collaboration, the ability to work on and complete a project with others, is a key skill set for 21st-century workers. If educators are to properly prepare their students for the future, technology needs to play a role in that preparation.