Helping Teachers Embrace Classroom Technology

February 14, 2017

This article was written by Dennis Pierce, the former editor-in-chief of eSchool News, and current freelance writer covering education and technology. He has been following the ed-tech space for more than 17 years. To contact him, email: 

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Change is hard in any context, and that’s especially true when it comes to trying something new in front of a classroom full of students. How can K-12 leaders get veteran or reluctant teachers to embrace change and try new ways of teaching with technology?

Tom Daccord is the co-founder and director of EdTechTeacher, which delivers workshops to help teachers integrate technology effectively into instruction. He says the key to helping teachers embrace the use of classroom technology is to demonstrate its value.

“You need to show teachers the clear benefits of using technology, and how it can support learning in ways that were not previously possible,” he says. “Educators are evaluating technology to see whether it provides value beyond what they’re already doing in the classroom.”

If teachers see how technology can help them become more effective instructors, they will be more apt to experiment and take risks in their classes. As a starting point, here are three easy ways that technology can help improve teaching and learning significantly.

Making assignments more engaging and interactive

“I often show teachers how I can take their handouts or homework assignments and make them interactive,” Daccord says, “such as by inserting a whiteboard app within a document so students can draw, sketch, or solve a math problem.”

Teachers also can use a variety of apps to insert video into a document. This helps students visualize an abstract concept, he says, while also allowing them to go back and watch over and over again until they understand.

Unleashing student creativity

Thinglink is an app that makes images interactive by letting you insert hidden video, so when users move their finger or cursor over the image, a video pops up with some additional context. Teachers could use Thinglink as an instructional tool for their students—but imagine if teachers then turned the tables and asked students to create virtual tours or presentations using this app? Students could create a virtual tour of a battlefield, for instance, by making a video explaining what happened there and then embedding it within a map.

Unleashing students’ creativity gives them alternative ways of showing what they know. Not only might they be more engaged in the assignment, but they also get opportunities to demonstrate their learning using various modalities, which can benefit students whose strengths might not show up in traditional forms of assessment.

Getting to know students better

One of the common concerns about learning to use technology is that it takes valuable time. “Teachers often think of technology as an add-on,” Daccord says—“as one more thing they have to do. I think it’s important to demonstrate that not only does technology enable them to do things they couldn’t do before; in many ways, it can also make them more efficient.”

Here’s a simple example that also helps teachers become more effective: “Show them ways they can collect information from students instantaneously, by using technologies such as Google Docs, Sheets, or Forms,” Daccord says. “Often, teachers will collect activities at the end of the class period, and then it could be days before they can evaluate these. With technology, teachers can know instantaneously what students know, think, feel, and can do.”

This ability is extremely valuable. “When you have that information right away, you can make adjustments in your teaching to meet students’ needs,” he says. “Otherwise, it might be too late.”

Aside from Google apps, there are many tools that can provide instant insight into students’ thinking. Daccord cited apps such as Socrative, Quizlet, and Kahoot. Assessment software also helps make students’ thinking visible, with tools for creating, delivering, scoring, and analyzing formative assessments. Tools like these give educators the information they need to make better decisions and improve instruction.

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[Jim Thorpe]
[Jim Thorpe]