How to Start a (Technology) Revolution at Your School

Embracing technology: a matter of time or priority?

There are a lot of technophile teachers out there. You know the type, or you may even be one of them: they have the latest tablet and smart phone, are using all kinds of cool web apps in their classroom, have a blog or two going at the same time, and they manage to send out tweets several times a day – and on top of that, they really are awesome teachers!

But there are also many teachers who are still not plugged in, and when the conversation turns to technology, they say that although they like the idea of using more technology, they just don’t have the time to do anything about it.

This idea is brought up in a thought-provoking post by Bill Powers, Why ‘I Don’t Have Time for Technology’ is No Longer Excusable. Powers discusses how many educators use the excuse of being time challenged when it comes to keeping up to date with and using technology to enhance student learning and outcomes. So, instead of plugging in to the conversation, they let the conversation go on without them, claiming they don’t have time to tune in.

A great point Powers makes is that the use of social media, such as twitter, has made it much easier for busy professionals to stay up to date and share ideas with one another.  So, he wonders why it is that some educators don’t spend more time on learning and collaborating, to help them be more effective in their roles?  He asks his readers:  “is it lack of time, or something else?”

As I thought about my answer to this question and read other blogs on the topic, I considered the idea proposed by some that it was a teacher’s duty, part of his or her professional responsibility, to stay current and connected, especially when it comes to the practice of integrating technology into the classroom.  (See the post by Nicholas Provenzano Professionals Make Time For Learning for more on this.)

It is true, there is a lot at stake when it comes to keeping up with technology in our classrooms, and teachers do need to be effective at technological and digital integration.

Why we must get every educator to embrace technology

In their book, Shelly, Gunter and Gunter (2012) point out that our world is in the midst of a digital revolution and today’s students are fundamentally different from previous generations of learners. Not only do they view the world through the lens of technology, but they also think differently, and the backgrounds and expectations for learning that they bring into the classroom with them are different.

As educators we must meet our students where they are, and help them grow from there. To engage digital natives, we have to thoughtfully integrate technology into our curriculum that allows our students to use their digital backgrounds as the platform for their learning.

We are also responsible for preparing our students to live and work effectively in this digital age, and we simply cannot teach our students the skills they need to use without having them actually practice using those skills in our classrooms.

Back to the question of time and priorities. . .

So, yes, mastery of seamless integration of technology in the classroom is imperative today. Most educators I know are at least somewhat aware of the importance of integrating technology into their lessons. And many teachers do use computers, and doc cams and smart boards, and whatever else schools make available for them to use.

Are they using these tools effectively to meet the needs of their digital learners? The answer to that question seems to be left up to the individual teacher to figure out – and some teachers seem to be more in tune than others with the need to connect digitally with their students — and with the benefits of connecting digitally with them.

With so much at stake, we really do need to consider why teachers would not make learning about and using technology a priority in their lives.

As Powers states in his post, “we emphasize and focus on what’s important to us.”  Maybe the reason some teachers are not focusing their time and energy on learning about technology is because they still are not fully comfortable with using it.  Even though almost everyone uses technology in their daily lives, there may be teachers who feel intimidated by the idea of trying to squeeze it in to their lessons “on top of everything else.” These teachers may need help seeing how the integration of technology is not an add on, but an investment that can transform their teaching and actually help them.

In a post referred to by Powers, Steven Weber’s I Don’t Have Time points to Bill Ferriter’s idea of Flipping the Faculty Meeting  as a way for school leaders to set the tone and lead teachers to using technology through example.

Another idea I came across for helping more teachers integrate technology into their curriculum is explained by Mary Beth Hertz in her post Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. She says schools need  technology mentors as well as technology coaches to help teachers effectively integrate technology into their classes.

I like both of the ideas outlined in these posts, and the general idea Ferriter suggests about school principals using meetings and other opportunities to lead by example when it comes to integrating technology. Having teachers use technology for their own learning experiences and having them share with each other about it can get them excited about investing their time in learning to use technology in their classes. Principals can and should also tap into the resources they have, e.g., teachers at their schools who are technophiles and who enjoy and have seen the benefits of using technology in their classes, and develop them as mentors.

Those of us who do feel comfortable using technology could also make a concerted effort to reach out to other teachers by acting as mentors, starting a technology blog for our department or school, asking if we could post our blogs on the school website or teachers’ portal and then promoting our blog posts to others at our school via e-mail. We can start the conversation at our schools.

I do think that individuals are ultimately responsible for their learning, but just as we need to meet students where they are in our classrooms, school leaders, and those of us who are technophiles have to meet other teachers where they are, inspire them, and help them get to a point where they can take more ownership over their learning. Then, I think, we really will have a technological revolution in our schools.

How does your school motivate teachers to invest time in learning about and using new technologies? As a technophile teacher, how are you involved in this process?

Resources: Shelly, G., Gunter, G. & Gunter, R. (2012) Teachers discovering computers: Integrating technology in a connected world (7th ed.) Boston: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.

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About amysullvn

I have taught 9th and 10th grade Intensive Reading and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) for the past 8 years in Brevard County, FL. I am currently working toward the completion of my masters degree in Instructional Design and Technology/Educational Technology at the University of Central Florida.
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3 Responses to How to Start a (Technology) Revolution at Your School

  1. Diana Amend says:

    Hi Amy,

    You ask, “Are they (teachers) using these tools (computers, doc cams, etc) effectively to meet the needs of their digital learners?” I think most teachers are doing the best they can with what they have or at least what they have been trained to use. As a teacher that longs for a SmartBoard, it breaks my heart to hear teachers that have them in their room say they never use them! Usually, it is because they have never been trained on how to use them.

    Also, thank you for sharing the link to the Mary Beth Hertz post. I enjoyed reading her thoughts and wondered how her suggestions could be implemented at my school. Like most schools, mine has an Education Technology Facilitator (ETF). She is a wonderful teacher and I know that she works tirelessly. Sadly, her day is spent troubleshooting computer problems, updating computers, and prepping the labs for county and state tests. It would appear that very little, if any, of her day can be spent helping teachers implement technology in their lessons. So, your point that “schools need technology mentors as well as technology coaches to help teachers effectively integrate technology into their classes” could not be any more true! I truly believe that our ETF could be a great asset to our teachers, if only her time could be freed up to Coach. In the meantime, we need to open our doors and be willing to mentor our neighbors. Everyone has something to share!

  2. Jessica Farrell says:

    Hi Amy!
    I thought that your points about faculty working together and administration taking opportunities to help provide resources was a really good point. I hadn’t really thought of it as a joint effort even after watching the video “Did You Know?” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1JyLYphevc ). I think that mentoring, collaboration and modeling are fantastic ways to inspire reluctant teachers into using technology. I think one of the things about teachers who are not using it in the classroom is that they don’t are haven’t seen the ways that tech can help them! It really makes life easier rather than more complicated (well, most of the time!).

    My administrators were not tech savvy. We got a new PowerPoint every staff meeting and it almost always had “technical problems.” I loved my administration– but they were not being part of the solution. We had technology teachers at our school and a serious, serious technophile teacher. She was able to secure one of the computer labs as her classroom. I have no idea what she promised or whatnot— but we were all very, very jealous. She was able to do wonderful things with the kids, but the rest of us just didn’t have the access to that scale of tech. Some of the teachers in portables didn’t even have computers in their classrooms (other than a teacher one). How do resources end up so unevenly given up? And, how many of these teachers are ignoring the conversation of technology in the classroom due to convenience?

    Thanks for the post and questions, Amy!

  3. Megan Shipe says:

    Amy,
    You are impacting in how you remind educators that we are students as well, continuously learning as times are changing. Your statement, “Individuals are ultimately responsible for their learning, but just as we need to meet students where they are in our classrooms, school leaders, and those of us who are technophiles have to meet other teachers where they are, inspire them, and help them get to a point where they can take more ownership over their learning.” Some of the younger generation of teachers still fall into the “digital generation,” as stated by Shelly, Gunter, & Gunter (2012).

    One of the most important ways to impact classroom teachers with technology to allow them to meet the needs of their students using technology is to make everyone feel comfortable at their own level as a ‘technophile.” Building networks, mentoring programs, and programs within schools with branch out teachers to build an understanding of the ease, use, and effectiveness of technology in the classroom. It is important that we focus on technology and its benefits not only for our students, but for educators as well.

    Thanks for such an impacting blog posting!
    Megan Shipe

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