A recent survey reported in the UK newspaper the The Telegraph stated that as many as half of the teachers consulted for the survey said they rarely use technology in the classroom.
This came as no surprise to me, but what did surprise me when I shared the article with my professional networks, was the number of trainers and teachers who actually blamed lazy and unmotivated teachers for this.
From my experiences with our teachers at EnglishUp and my previous international experience as an edtech teacher trainer, I have always found teachers more than willing to develop their use and understanding of technology. The problem is that so often when teachers are asked or even told to use technology within their classrooms, they soon discover that they are being set up to fail.
So here are a number of what I believe are the real reasons so many teachers are reluctant to use technology in the classroom and some suggestions for what we can do about it.
Lack of training
I hear this time and time again. When schools or education authorities decide to implement new technologies, the decision is often made without any real thought to training. Technology is moving very quickly and new apps, websites and devices are being made available all the time. Training for teachers is however far less frequent and often not seen as a particularly good investment for cash strapped schools.
Training teachers to keep up technological change needs to be constant and if possible self directed so teachers can get the training they need to achieve the goals they want to achieve.
Wrong kind of training – Technical rather than pedagogical
Often the training that teachers do get is technologically focused rather than pedagogically focused and comes from the tech experts at the company selling a particular product rather than pedagogical experts e.g this is how you switch it on and off rather than this is how you use it to promote learning. Teachers are then left to figure out how to make it effective with their students.
Training needs to be delivered by pedagogical experts who can give teachers hands on experience of using technology to learn.
Wrong kind of training – Not relevant to teaching context
When pedagogical training is delivered, it is often generic to the technology and not specifically designed around the needs and context of the teachers and their syllabus, so they are left to adapt this themselves.
Training examples need to be applied to the materials and content that teachers actually need and have to teach as part of their syllabus.
Many tech trainers, though very well meaning can tend to be a little evangelical and often preach the amazing values that they feel technology has without being realistic about the limitations and the difficulties many teachers face in their day to day implementation of technology. They also tend to over emphasise the benefits and overuse the technology when there is no real benefit.
Training needs to be balanced with a critical eye so that teachers also understand the pitfalls, problems and limitations that accompany the use of technology.
If schools are investing in hardware or software it can be very easy to choose the wrong thing. Educational technology sales people can be very persuasive when they are trying to make their commission and getting good unbiased advice can be a real challenge. It can be tempting to buy something that looks great in your marketing materials, and this often isn’t what teachers and students need.
Schools need to be wary edtech hardware vendors. The lifetime of most edtech hardware tends to be pretty short and like mobile phones, the new model can make previous models look tired and old fashioned very quickly.
Lack of syllabus integration
In order for teachers to be able to use the technology it needs to be integrated into the syllabus. They need to see the connections to what they teach and it must help them to achieve their goals.
Technology can’t be an add on or extra work. It has to be integrated into and help them with the material they have to cover in the classroom with their students.
Lack of consultation
Technology is often chosen without consultation and the involvement of teachers. This lack of consultation can result not only in poor choices but also in technology being dropped on teachers and teachers seeing it as an additional problem they have to deal with rather than the solution to the problems they already have.
Teachers need to be part of the selection and procurement process to ensure that they are getting the technology they want and need.
Lack of support at the chalkface
Classroom technology and particularly hardware that is connectivity dependent is notorious for problems and unreliability and when things go wrong in front of the students it can be humiliating for teachers. This is made worse when there is a lack of technical support. Many IT support departments are very traditional in the way they offer support which tends to be through raising tickets or a phone line. They often need explicit explanations of what and how something is malfunctioning and tend to be unsympathetic when teachers can’t accurately describe the problems in terms they can understand.
Tech support needs to be delivered in a way that serves and supports the teachers rather than the other way around. Teachers do need to be trained in how to articulate and describe teach problems with accuracy.
Lack of infrastructure
Often investment focuses on hardware with its visible collateral value rather than on the necessary IT infrastructure to support the technology. The comparatively small investment necessary to provide the connectivity to make the technology work well seems to be valued less as it lacks the same collateral value, but it’s an essential part of the investment as without sufficient connectivity and some to spare teachers are just being set up to fail.
Before investing in classroom hardware schools need to make sure they have sufficient connectivity infrastructure to support the modes of use that teachers will apply with it.
A lot of classroom technology is bought with the expectation that just putting it into the hands of the students and teachers is enough to totally transform the learning experience and turn all our students into super achievers overnight. The reality is that much technology implementation will only enable students and teachers to keep up with the real world and won’t really have any significant impact on achievement in the classroom. The only thing that can really do this is better trained teachers and improved methodology and content. Technology can facilitate this kind of advance but making it a reality takes a lot more work and requires much deeper change and understanding. Using technology to enable a status quo and prop-up ineffective modes of information transfer will ultimately have little or no significant impact.
Technology needs to be applied with an understanding of how it can enable a transformation in students’ pedagogical experience and teachers’ pedagogical practices.
In many cases teachers see the technology as a hindrance or unnecessary to achieving their aims and in some cases this may be correct.
Technology training needs to include an understanding of how much and when not to use technology. Technology should never become an obstacle to learning.
If you can think of other reasons why teachers who have technology may choose not to use it, please do leave a comment.
- Aptis for Teachers and ten reasons for taking it
- Bucking the native speaker teacher trend
- Using the webcam to engage with online students
- Warmers and fillers for the online classroom