Why is Mastering New Technology Important?
During the 2020 school year, educators not only found themselves in the middle of a pandemic, but also reinventing education as we know it. School districts shifted instructional delivery from face-to-face learning to online learning in a matter of days to ensure students are able to access adequate instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic as many cities were ordered to stay home. Within weeks, educators implemented new technology strategies with little training or sufficient time for planning. Some educators embraced technology, while others struggled to implement and effectively use it. School districts are now charged with ensuring all teachers are proficient with technology skills to support the foundation of online learning and blended learning for students.
Where Should You Start?
Campus leaders should take a grassroots effort approach to help teachers learn new technology. There must be a clear vision and purpose for teachers to embrace the new norm of using technology in schools (Anderson, 2003). Growth mindset is critical for teachers to positively embrace using new technology in the classroom and in the online delivery platforms. Teachers have to approach learning about technology with the mindset that student achievement will be enhanced as we prepare students for a global world post high school. Therefore, the quest to help teachers learn new technology should be a shared and collective vision as all educators are responsible for ensuring students are equipped for their future (Culatta, 2019).
Once collective efficacy among teachers is established, leaders should assess the tech proficiency of staff to determine their significant needs. Teachers may be at different levels of technology proficiency and should not all be treated the same when planning for professional development delivery. Classroom observation data, self-reflection feedback from teachers, and giving teachers choice to a variety of technology professional development sessions are great platforms to help teachers grow their technology skills.
Technology savvy teachers should be the first to lead professional development and mentor their peers. They can also coordinate long-range planning to ensure teachers can effectively implement technology in all content areas. Technology vendors and consultants could provide ongoing support for teachers as technology is ever changing in the field of education. Campus leaders need to plan a budget to secure the necessary training and equipment to support the sustained use of technology for instructional delivery and provide a cycle of feedback to teachers on a consistent basis.
Teachers must also be able to set up technology equipment and troubleshoot basic software. For example, knowledge of how to properly set up laptops, desktops, install printers and scanners, cameras, and other supporting equipment can alleviate stressors that come along with learning new technology. One cannot assume that all educators have the basic knowledge and skills of managing technology equipment. Technology accessories can be intimidating if basic set up skills are not the norm for teachers. Most campuses and school districts have technology specialists dedicated to maintaining technology equipment, but teachers may have to wait for extended periods of time to receive assistance. The more comfortable teachers are with technology hardware, they can focus on the instructional delivery and content of using technology with students, despite tech barriers.
Tips and Strategies to Try
Now is the time for educators to embrace the instructional use of technology as education continues to evolve. Web 2.0 tools, video conferencing, and virtual white boards are just a few components that teachers can explore to enhance their craft with using current educational technology. Web 2.0 tools include a plethora of site-based instructional platforms such as Animoto, Kahoot, Schoology, Canvas, Grammarly, Flipster, Flipgrid, etc. as well as current social media resources such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Teachers should also be well versed in using basic presentation platforms using Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezis, etc.
Using one of the aforementioned tech resources is one of the most practical ways to deliver content to students but should not be the only way. Students need teachers who can engage them at high levels and pique their interest during online or blended learning when using technology. Therefore, teachers must get of their comfort zones and try a variety of technology tools and strategies to meet the needs of all of their students.
Campus leaders should establish a technology committee to provide ongoing support to colleagues as they face unexpected obstacles such as equipment shutdowns, software updates, and the use of new tools. The technology chairperson of the committee should continue to receive professional development and attend technology conferences to support the overall campus regardless of their technology proficiency. As technology evolves, strategies may be adjusted to better meet the needs of students.
Last but not least, educators must acknowledge that some students are very tech savvy and can also teach their peers and educators on how to use the latest tech tools. Millennials and Generation Z students are the leaders of the future of technology. Student ownership is key to ensuring technology is embraced by all learners and successfully implemented in schools across the country.
Campus leaders and educators must take advantage of the use of technology despite challenges of implementing online learning and getting teachers to learn new technology tools. The world as we know it is forever changing with technology at the forefront of education. Educators must also remember the technology present today will be obsolete in 5-10 years, hence the dire need to continue to be lifelong learners and ongoing technology implementers in the world of education (Schaffhauser & Nagel, 2016). Technology is definitely here to stay.