Educational technology tools are often the answer to challenges teachers face in the classroom. Whether its classroom management, learning retention, or improving test scores, there is a product out there to fit your needs. (By the way, have you checked out Walkabouts?)
After you have decided on a product, the next step is to implement the technology and leverage it to produce the results you are hoping for. During this implementation process, there are three steps administrators can take to provide the support teachers need and make all the difference.
- Explain the why and the how of the new technology.
- Understand the obstacles teachers will face when beginning to utilize the technology.
- Provide needed support during the learning phase.
THE WHY AND HOW OF NEW TECHNOLOGY
Why is your school adopting new technology? What problems will it solve? Answering the why questions can provide the valuable insight and motivation teachers might need to start using the technology. Explain how it will help teachers achieve their goals and make their jobs easier. If your focus is to find new ways to teach the required curriculum, explain how the program does x, y, and z so teachers can use it to supplement their lesson plans. If your focus is classroom management, explain how the technology can help improve student behavior. After a teacher knows the why, he or she is much more likely to be enthusiastic about implementation.
Next comes the how. If a how-to checklist or implementation guide is not provided by the technology company, create your own. Teachers need to know where to go to learn about the new technology.
Should educators focus on a specific feature that you expect all teachers to use? If so, tell them! A checklist of the features teachers are expected to use and directions for using those features can clarify your vision, make sure everyone is on the same page, and provide a quick reference for teachers.
UNDERSTANDING THE OBSTACLES OF EDTECH
Implementing new technology means teachers must adapt. Making a transition to technology and changing up lesson plans might come with mixed emotions. Even though educators may recognize the value, change may represent a challenge due in part to a timeline to learn a new tool. As a result, fear of failure may be involved.
A recent article in eSchool News addresses the emotional side of EdTech innovation:
Leaders need to communicate to their staff that EdTech holds the potential not just for promise and excitement, but also for loss and challenge. If those things can be combined, . . . . you’re able to give people more encouragement to try something new, because you’re acknowledging the challenge . . . and therefore not expecting them to be perfect at first.
If teachers fear failure (and who doesn’t?), asking them to learn new technology may be scary. Acknowledging the challenge and encouraging teachers to try can go a long way.
Most EdTech companies have a support team to help new users. Provide teachers with contact information for technical support. When educators know whom to contact with questions, they can contact the support team instead of giving up when they get stuck.
Create a clearly-marked shared folder that all teachers can access, and place all helpful materials there. The EdTech companies usually supply reference and how-to documents for users. Instead of emailing materials and updates on the technology, let teachers know to look in this folder for information. And, of course, make sure all teachers know how to locate the shared folder.
Identify a super user to help others. If one teacher learns quickly, publicly recognize his or her skill and ask if the teacher will serve as a designated point-person to guide others.
Check in a few weeks after the technology implementation. Remind teachers about the shared folder of support documents and the point-person for questions, and ask about challenges or questions teachers have. If needed, contact the company’s representative to ask any remaining questions.
By explaining the why and how of new technology, understanding obstacles to new EdTech, and providing support for implementation and use, you will enable your staff to use technology effectively in the classroom, making the most of their time and the school’s money.