I know that all tools are technically technology. However, for the purpose of this post, I’m thinking computers, tablets and mobile devices. This is not a comprehensive list and I admit that it’s limited entirely to my own experiences and my own local context:
Implementing new technology can be frightening on so many levels. Whether it’s a fear of letting go of control or a sense that one doesn’t have the right skills or a concern about digital footprint, privacy or cyber-bullying, many teachers are simply scared.
#2: Low Self-Efficacy
When I did my Master’s research, I believed that professional development needed address skills and motivation. I wanted teachers to see that technology could be a positive thing. What I found, however, was that they were motivated and somewhat skilled. What they lacked was a belief in their own ability to create tech-integrated lessons.
To me, this is the biggest barrier. Teachers see quality, tech-integrated strategies. They know that these strategies work. They’ve seen it in action. And yet . . . the test is drill-and-kill, multiple choice. So, teachers find themselves pulling back due to the inconsistencies of teaching and assessment.
In many cases, teachers themselves have only used computers for entertainment and social interaction. Often, this comes from a consumerist mentality. Books, no matter how poor the quality, might be escapist, but they are seen as “good escape” because “at least people are reading.” This is because reading is viewed culturally as educational while all things techie tend to be viewed culturally as entertainment.
#5: Lack of Leadership
When principals worry more about managing liability than pushing for change, technology becomes an easy scapegoat. What if they break it? What if they see inappropriate sites? What if they bully one another on Facebook? It becomes a hassle and to a busy or worried administrator, it’s sometimes easier to create anti-technology policies in the name of safety.
#6: Inconsistent Paradigms
I see teachers who say, “What am I supposed to do with eight computers?” or “How should I manage multiple devices?” And yet, the same teachers will do learning centers or use eight sheets of chart paper and have kids work in groups. Teachers worry about off-task behavior online and yet kids pass notes frequently.
#7: Personal Experience
Certain teachers are comfortable with instructional strategies that match what they did growing up. Something as simple as a blog or social media sound extreme because they are different. If teachers themselves have never used these tools in their free time and schools haven’t used these in professional development, the tools will always seem strange.
It takes a certain level of humility to say, “my non-tech approach is wrong and maybe I need to consider technology.”
#9: It’s Optional
I am not a fan compliance-driven leadership. However, in a culture of compliance, some teachers will only do what leaders mandate them to do. So, technology isn’t required. Somehow, we treat it as if it’s a matter of personal choice in a way that we would never do with pedagogy. Someone is still allowed to be a “good teacher” and use virtually no technology whatsoever. Failure isn’t an option, but irrelevance is. Somehow we’ve screwed up our priorities. Somehow we’ve allowed teacher comfort level to drive what we use with students.
#10: Lack of Technology
With recent budget cuts, schools aren’t investing in technology. I’m hoping this will change with the movement toward digital textbooks (not a fan of textbooks, period, but it’s at least a new device) and bring-your-own-device programs. However, I fear that those can be a cop-out. We need to invest in quality technology. We need to make it a policy priority.
#11: Lack of Research
There is solid research out there regarding some tech-integrated strategies. However, Larry Cuban is right in suggesting that computers have been oversold and underused. Part of this comes from the utopian hype of technophiles who convince teachers that a SmartBoard will cure leprosy and an iPod will turn water into wine. Another part of it comes from a lack of communication. We’re not sharing the research well enough with the broader community of teachers.
I’m a computer and photojournalism teacher with extensive experience in technology coaching, along with keynotes and workshops. If you would like me to work with a staff on the journey of technology integration, you can contact me at [email protected].
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