Professional development is an important part of any new educational program, especially in one-to-one settings where teachers need to use the classroom technology to its full potential. This becomes even more essential when introducing new technology, as every new product has a learning curve and can add more to the teaching process than traditional methods with which teachers may be more comfortable.
Technology training for teachers is a lingering issue with many educators in the United States. According to a 2015 survey conducted by GfK on behalf of Samsung, 60 percent of educators say that they want to use technology effectively with their students, but feel inadequately prepared to do so. Some instructors are happy to learn to use the tools themselves, while others need help with integrating technology into their lessons. Regardless of the teachers’ technical proficiency, there are ways to overcome these hurdles.
Assess the Educators’ Needs
How can school leaders provide technology training for teachers that gives them what they need? Before adding a new technology to the classroom, or before deciding which technology to purchase for your schools, school leaders should take a step back and look at their long-term goals, recommends Ashley Hays, director of professional learning at Eduscape Learning. With this in mind, educators should analyze their specific situations and ask themselves questions about what their students need. What skills must students have at certain grade levels? What do their stakeholders feel is important for students? What is on their five-year plan?
In addition, schools should compare technologies to see which is the best fit for their classrooms and will best support those goals. School leaders should ask their teachers to assess their level of skill in using the chosen teacher technology as well as their level of comfort with integrating technology into their classrooms. For example, some teachers may feel comfortable using a tablet, but they might struggle with integrating the tablet into their lessons in a meaningful way. Knowing this will help to empower teachers with the level of support they need.
Focus on the Classroom
When deploying technology in the classroom, it’s important to understand the distinction between training teachers how to use the technology and how to incorporate the technology effectively. Frequently, school districts will purchase a technology solution for classroom use and they will require training for teachers to use it. According to Hays, school leaders will often say: “We just bought 30 Galaxy tablets or Chromebooks, and we want you to teach us how to use them.” However, the teachers will explain that they don’t need to know how to use the device. Instead, they need to know how to manage their classrooms when they shift to a one-to-one computing environment.
Professional development programs should provide the basic technology training for those who need it, but the bulk of the training should focus on classroom management and technology-based lesson planning. School leaders should use their long-term educational goals as the basis for the techniques they focus on during the training.
Plan for the Long Term
Technology training should be accounted for when planning for professional development. “Some schools call us with the idea that they’ve got one day for professional development, and they need to learn X, Y, and Z,” says Hays. However, teachers need more than a single session to fully understand how to use the technology in their lessons. Eduscape uses the “SAMR” model to support educators in integrating technology, and its training incorporates that model into the district’s goals. This model takes teachers from using no technology to planning lessons fully around technology, which could help educators make this happen in their own schools. The four steps are:
- Substitution: Use a technology tool where you would have used an analog tool.
- Augmentation: Add a technology tool in addition to the one you substituted.
- Modification: Use technology to add elements to an assignment that were not possible in an analog setting.
- Redefinition: Design the lesson with technology in mind.
The process typically takes two years to get to the redefinition stage, Hays notes. The beauty of the model, though, is that it doesn’t stop once it gets to the redefinition phase. Teachers can continue to adapt their lessons using the SAMR framework to incorporate new technology tools and uses — helping to improve educational outcomes for years to come. Using this method along with various mobile devices can help teachers do their jobs more easily, while helping children learn in fun, new ways.