By summer 2020, FCS selected Canvas as an LMS and leaned into its Microsoft license, switching all schools to Microsoft Teams for synchronous instruction. The tech shift also required more professional development meant to ensure that all educators — from early adopters to ed tech novices — could effectively use the tools for instruction.
“Although the technology tools were there, some had never used them before. So, having to take what you would normally do in a face-to-face classroom and then convert that to remote teaching overnight — without ever having done it before — that’s a big lift,” says Heather Van Looy, the district’s director of instructional technology.
As it turns out, FCS was not alone. According to a 2020 GBH Education survey of more than 1,900 educators nationwide, “only 66 percent of teachers reported being very or extremely confident in using digital media services for teaching after the pandemic-prompted shift to remote learning.”
In addition, the survey found that 13 percent of teachers started using K–12 ed tech only after the pandemic-related school closures. And for schools that remained partially open, teachers also had another concern: Simultaneously instructing two sets of students (remote and in-person) became a huge challenge that some districts resolved by creating separate, stand-alone virtual academies.
Integrate Ed Tech Tools with Key Professional Development
Regardless of classroom setup, school districts need to help teachers gain confidence using ed tech. Instructional technology coaches are key to that effort, says Mindy Frisbee, senior director of learning partnerships at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). When it comes to creating effective ed tech training, it’s critical that educators not only know the fundamentals of how to use a tool but also understand why and when to use it, she says.