So I've been working for three months now to bolster the integration of technology at my new school. In essence, my job is to encourage teachers to integrate technology in meaningful ways in a streamlined, pedagogically sound way.
Now, as I reflect on the term I've had, I must say it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Our teachers have, by and large, been very open to new ideas, and are excited about integrating technology into their classes.
I am not sure if the group of people I work with are typical of other schools, and if what I've noticed applies more broadly, but I'm going to put these ideas out there, firstly because that's what this blog is all about, and secondly because there may be something here that other edtech directors and schools might learn from.
The Lessons Learned
- The ICT teachers are an essential core of any integration efforts. Do nothing without them!
- Having a team of people who are excited about technology is essential. I have an awesome and diverse team who share ideas, assist with individualized training, learn as part of our PLN on Twitter, attend conferences, and who get other teachers excited about tech. Integrating technology is about creating a culture of innovation, and that can only happen when there is a core group committed to spreading the love.
- By far the majority of teachers are keen to try integrating technology into the classroom. For most, you just have to show them the basics about how to use it, why it's valuable, and how it will save them time, and off they go. For some, some additional support, patience and encouragement are required.
- Patience. Every teacher wants to innovative… in their own way, in their own time. It will happen.
- Counter to what many may think, I have found that the more… shall we say 'seasoned' teachers are by far the most enthusiastic in trying new technologies.
- For those who are resistant, three things always come up. They are relatively simple to counter, but have your reasons ready for when they do arise:
- The fact that students write paper-based examinations.
- Connectivity problems.
- The 'fact' that the kids prefer working on paper.
- The school needs to encourage teachers to try – even if they fail initially. Where teachers are punished for trying and making mistakes, they stop trying. And as we all know, the best way to learn is to experiment, tinker and try. Even if that means we get it wrong from time to time. There needs to be a deliberate and conscious effort to encourage and motivate teachers – even when they fail.
- Teachers do use technology. Even those who say they don't. They use Facebook, WhatsApp, email, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, marks and timetable software, and so on. Those who say they don't know how to use technology just need a little reassurance. The key is to leverage their confidence by showing them how much they are already doing.
- Go slowly. As hard as it may be, think, discuss, plan and – more importantly – chat to IT support before you roll anything out. And it's the same with training. A session once every two weeks gives teachers an opportunity to try something new before the next thing is introduced.
- You don't need a tablet. The students do. You don't teach with a tablet. They learn with one.
- Talk. Technology integration is not its own little domain – it touches on every single aspect of a school. Communicate with school leadership, staff, parents and students to keep them up to speed and to ascertain how technology integration affects their various domains.
- Go free. There are so many open source and / or free software programs out there, it's silly to pay. Of course, when you've established that something really is worthwhile, and it costs money, support those who've created it.
- Teachers want it to be simple. And they're right. If an app or programme is too complex, it will not (and should not) be used.
- Get the kids involved. They can tell you what works and what doesn't.
- If it really isn't working, and you've tried, dump it and move on.
- Forget SAMR and TPACK. RAT is the way to go.
- Make training hands-on. There is nothing worse than telling teachers that technology has the potential to transform pedagogies and create child-centered journeys by lecturing at them.
- Have a plan for kids who cannot afford devices.
- For younger students, iPads are the way to go for five key reasons:
- Network security
- Device safety settings
- Ease of use
- Robustness and reliability
- Vetted apps
- For Grade 10 and up, it has to be BOYD. Cellular telephones should not count, as it is often difficult and cumbersome for students to create content and collaborate using just their cellphones.
- There will always be a place for pen and paper. The key is to go 'paper less', not paperless.
- Get those digital textbooks. Nothing infuriates me as much as seeing kids lugging around big heavy bags – with a tablet in their hands.
- It a simple fact: young people are so much more engaged and involved when they use technology to learn. It is one thing to know the theory about why this happens. It's another to see it happening. At the same time, know that there is no such thing as a 'digital native' and kids need support and training.
- Have a confidante (preferably from another school) to bounce ideas off of.
This may sound like I had a very successful term. The truth is, I did not. I did a lot wrong. I'll spare you the details, but mostly it came down to over-enthusiasm. Many of the things I've listed above are a result of me not getting those things right.
I'm hoping Term 2 goes better.