Leading Teachers Toward the Digital Future, Together

Study points to need for training teachers more effectively about how technology can improve teaching and learning.

Most teachers are unsung heroes, going about their business, doing their jobs and often taking money out of their own pockets to pay for supplies for needy students. Unfortunately, some educators also can be set in their ways and unwilling to embrace technology.

A recent uplifting story of a kindergarten teacher in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles broke through that stereotype. When Jan Price, a 71-year-old teacher, heard that the district was going to invest in tablets, her heart sank. She thought it might be time to retire.

That was more than a year ago. Today, Price has pioneered the use of tablets, and her school is one of eight tech model schools that the Los Angeles Unified School District hopes to replicate.

Price credits the local instructional technology facilitator for her success — and it’s no wonder.

In a recent survey by Education Dive, sponsored by Sprint, 86 percent of respondents agree that teachers in their district need more training in educational technology. Unlike Price of LAUSD, 41 percent of respondents say they don’t believe their districts have an explicit plan that lays out for teachers how educational technology can be most effectively used in lessons and curricula.

For teachers who want more training in technology, there’s hope. About 75 percent of survey respondents say districts plan to make professional development in educational technology a top priority this year.

Budget Woes, Yet Bright Spots

Funding continues to plague U.S. school districts; 75 percent of survey respondents list budget limits chief among the greatest challenges their districts face in delivering access to educational technology.

Along with inadequate technology training for teachers and staff, other top concerns include inadequate network infrastructure (38 percent) and unreliable device or software options (31 percent).

Despite these challenges, there are many bright spots. Nearly 59 percent say their districts use educational technology daily that isn’t notebooks or desktops. When asked to name the top three ed tech tools most beneficial to teaching and learning, 62 percent say notebooks. However, 55 percent cite interactive whiteboards as the second most beneficial tool, and 50 percent cite tablets as third.

Plan for the Future

There’s no easy fix to all the challenges schools face in bringing technology to students, faculty and staff. Schools can start by making technology a focus. Nearly 71 percent say their districts need an office or department that’s dedicated only to technology in classrooms.

While a good start, as the study points out, school districts and boards must provide resources for IT specialists and collaborate with educators to design systems that offer training and support to peers who are still adapting to these new digital classrooms. Look at Jan Price of LAUSD: When the district offered encouragement and training, she responded. It’s pretty clear many other teachers and districts would respond in kind with the right amount of funding and positive leadership.

Jul 05 2016