Aug 08 2023

Collaboration Between Educators and IT Specialists Can Transform Classroom Tech

K–12 leaders must include teachers and other end users in technology conversations to make ed tech more effective in learning environments.

When school leaders enable teachers and IT specialists to team up, it’s transformative. I’ve seen it in my own district. As a technical operations analyst at Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, I have honest conversations with teachers and students about classroom challenges, then we collaborate to find solutions. Unfortunately, this kind of relationship between educators and district IT specialists is uncommon.

Annually, K–12 schools spend $26 billion to $41 billion on ed tech in the U.S. alone, yet many of those tools sit on the shelf.

According to a survey conducted by Logitech and Education Week, 1 in 6 educators say that if they anticipate spending too much time troubleshooting technology, they won’t use it. This is not only frustrating for IT leaders and ed tech advocates but also highlights the need for educators to have open conversations with IT and district leaders about their concerns and options.

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Teachers Want Two-Way Technology Communication

Often, K–12 communication about technology starts with district leaders or technology specialists announcing new ed tech, upcoming changes or scheduled outages and ends with teachers listening. That’s it.

To be effective, communication should flow in both directions. Hearing teachers and students, at all grade levels, can lead to powerful changes.

I’ve seen the power of two-way communication firsthand. In my district, we created ways to listen to students’ and teachers’ feedback.

Through that process, students told us that they can’t hear their teachers when they sit in the back of a room. Our team investigated options to give all teachers’ voices a lift — a critical support because 75 percent of teachers nationally say their voices are hoarse and strained at the end of the day.

We explored adding microphones and using headsets in classrooms. Now all classrooms have amplified sound, and feedback shows that students and teachers can hear and be heard.

REVIEW: Lightspeed Redcat’s audio system delivers high-quality classroom sound.

Teachers Need Problem-Solvers, Not Technology Providers

At work, we all want to be professional, but sometimes professional communication can come off as confusing or cold. For IT teams, that can be a big problem. We work with everyone — the superintendent, accounting department, attendance, guidance counselors, teachers, students and sometimes even parents — so we need to be great communicators.

Simple steps, like leaving room to continue a conversation, can help. I make it a habit to end any communication by letting the other party know they can come back to me if a solution isn’t working. By reiterating my commitment to address the issue beyond my initial answer, I show that person that they can count on me. It’s a practice that, when adopted districtwide, could be transformational. 

Educators sometimes see IT teams as technology providers, an idea that’s reinforced when technology specialists act as if that’s their entire job. When technology teams become problem-solvers, the dynamic shifts. An IT department’s primary purpose isn’t only to implement tech tools but also to find solutions for students and educators that improve the classroom environment. By redefining the role of IT specialists, IT staffers will be seen as people who care about finding answers.

DISCOVER: Services help schools make the most of their existing workplace solutions.

Tools Are Great, but Some Teachers Have Tech Overload

An IT department’s role isn’t to push as many tools on teachers as possible. Our job is to help them find the right tech to use at the right time.

There are so many great tools available, from tablets and Chromebooks to headsets, styluses and educational apps, but we need to allow teachers to say, “This is too much tech.”

When teachers tell me they are experiencing tech fatigue, I first help them see if there are better ways to integrate technology into their routine. It’s important to know that it’s not about using more or less technology, but about finding solutions that enhance the overall learning and classroom experience.

1 in 6 educators

say if they anticipate spending too much time troubleshooting technology, they won’t use it.

Source: Survey conducted by Logitech and Education Week

Together we might explore options like a whiteboard camera that supports teacher-focused instruction. Once they see how simple a tool is to use and how something like a camera pointed at what they are writing can help students at the back of the room see more clearly, they often feel less fatigued.

EXPLORE: eGlass brings digital innovation to the common chalkboard.

There are other times when, instead of focusing on the technology, I help teachers rearrange their class schedules to have both tech-free and tech-enabled learning days. It’s a way of spreading out ed tech so that students get the benefit of all styles of learning.

Flexible approaches to technology can foster better partnerships between IT specialists and teachers as well as improve ed tech adoption across districts.

The right tools can help students and teachers focus, collaborate and create. By redefining the relationship between IT departments, technology integration specialists and educators as a partnership, we can make sure more educators have access to ed tech and the confidence to use it.

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