For K–12 school districts that want to adopt classroom technology to improve outcomes or better engage students, the first step is engaging teachers, says Shannon Tabaldo, founding director of the Innovation in Digital Education and Leadership institute.
“As we move into this space of digital technology integration in the K–12 world, teachers in a special place in their career — maybe they’ve already been in teaching for quite a while — they don’t have the educational background of technology,” Tabaldo tells EdTech, following an appearance at the International Society for Technology in Education 2018 conference. This usually leads to an evident lack of student engagement, Tabaldo explains.
To help guide successful technology implementation, Tabaldo and her team at iDEAL work with schools to instruct teachers on classroom technology best practices and help these educators feel more comfortable incorporating the tech in their curriculums.
A Modern Take on Teaching Requires Tech in the Classroom
One of the most common complaints Tabaldo hears from teachers is that incorporating technology is not what educators pictured when they started their careers.
“What I hear sometimes is, ‘I didn’t sign up for this when I decided to be a teacher 20, 30, 40 years ago,’” says Tabaldo. But a more modern style of teaching has emerged that empowers students to take hold of their own educations — demands the integration of classroom technology to encourage this autonomy.
“Now, teachers are coming out of teacher-preparation programs with inquiry-based pedagogical practices, where we have kids learn and we question them and we have them explore and engage and wrestle with the materials,” Tabaldo explains.
3 Ways to Bring Teachers to the Table on Tech
While most teachers are capable of learning how to use new technology in their curriculums, Tabaldo says it is important that administrators help make the transition as easy as possible.
A good start to this process includes three things:
- Allow time to learn: In order for educators to become comfortable with their new classroom tools, they need to be given the space to learn about and experiment with the capabilities. For example, at Beekmantown Central School District in New York, teachers have Chromebook training time during the spring, before their students receive their notebooks, giving teachers more time to familiarize themselves with the new tech.
- Do not overload initiatives: This is a common mistake for districts that are enthusiastic about technology integration and decide to bring in a number of new tools at once. While a connected classroom full of different technology solutions is a good goal to have in mind, it’s important to integrate one tool at a time so teachers can master one solution before they are pulled to the next.
- Have a clear vision: As with any improvement plan, it is important that district leadership has a very specific goal in mind when implementing technology solutions. Utilizing data analytics is a good way to find where schools can improve, both for teachers and students.