Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of teachers in a lot of different schools. The schools include public and private, urban and suburban, and are located in wealthy and in high poverty neighborhoods. And yet in schools all across the country, there is the same phenomenon: only a handful of teachers use the technology the school has purchased.
I recently heard of a school in which tens of thousands of dollars had been “invested” into SMART Boards that get used 2-3 times a week, mostly to show movies. The laptop carts stay locked in closets. School-wide subscriptions to amazing educational sites are accessed by only a handful of teachers who know that the subscriptions exist.
Part of the reason why technology in schools goes unused is that the teachers never asked for it to begin with. But the fact that they haven’t been shown HOW to use the technology compounds the issue.
The teachers that I work with as an instructional technology coach have a distinct advantage, in that their schools apply for grants and spend the money to train teachers in how to use the equipment they purchase. Many of these schools even scrounge up school-based funds for ongoing mentoring and coaching so I can help teachers create lessons and support them during implementation.
And guess what the result is? The vast majority of teachers start to regularly incorporate technology into their lessons at a level that is comfortable for them, and slowly increase their technology use over time. In fact, I’ve never coached a teacher who had absolutely no interest at all in using technology when the equipment AND training was provided. Some are apprehensive, sure, but they’re all willing to try a few new things when they’re not left to sink or swim on their own.
The mentoring/coaching piece seems to be the critical one. If schools aren’t going to invest in training teachers, is it worth spending millions of dollars on new technology that teachers didn’t ask for?
Doesn’t it make more sense to ask what the teachers WANT to use and buy it for them?
Part of me says it could be that simple–just let the staff determine how the technology budget is allocated. Allow teachers to decide what would be most useful for them and their students. But on the other hand, many teachers don’t know what their options are: they’re not familiar with the range of equipment and programs they can choose from, and are unsure of how they could integrate them in their classrooms. Non-techy teachers need someone who understands technology AND pedagogy/curriculum well to assist in making tech purchasing decisions.
There are no easy answers, but each time I hear about a Promethean Board that’s never been turned on, I have to believe schools can create a better process than what currently exists. What about having a committee of tech-savvy teachers (or tech-interested teachers) in each school meet and determine how to appropriate the budget? They can confer back with their colleagues and head up a vote. I don’t know if this is the best way to do it, but shouldn’t tech purchasing decisions be made at the individual school level with input from the teachers who will actually be using it?
How does your school determine what technology to buy? Do you think schools and districts should continue to buy the equipment THEY think teachers should use? How can teacher (and student) input be incorporated?