In my previous post Tech Use Part 1, I talked about all the reasons I could find and think of for people to use technology in the classroom. However, there are a considerable number of teachers that still do not use it. In this post, I cover the reasons why. Some of these reasons, similar to the previous article, have come from a collection of blogs and websites I found through research, which are all available at the bottom of the post. With these reasons, I have added possible solutions or statements which help rationalise and overcome the issues.
This post is aimed, not just at the individuals who are reluctant to add the technology element to their teaching, but also at those who are trying to champion the wider use of technology in their schools or education establishments. For those people, it's important to understand where you're colleagues are, and this post lays out some issues colleagues may have. I hope I am able to arm you with positive, realistic solutions to helping others overcome their hurdles. If not, I'm sure you'll let me know.
Reasons Teachers Don't Use Technology and how to overcome them
Let's start with one of the biggest reasons. People are scared of change, and many people are scared of using technology. So using edtech requires people to change the way they teach, and also use methods they may not be using at home for themselves.
Overcome: "Do one thing everyday that scares you". Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you remember when you started teaching? That fear you felt in front of your first class? If you're teaching experience was anything like mine, then you found it to me the biggest challenge of your life. If not the biggest, then pretty close to it. Being one of the most difficult professions to be in (in my biased opinion), means that there is little else that is worse than the fear and stress of being a trainee teacher. If you can do that, then you can do this.
2. Low Self Efficacy
For those that are not afraid of using technology for themselves, they may still not trust themselves to use it in front of others, let alone teach others to use it. A level of confidence is required that doesn't come naturally.
Overcome: Practice, practice, practice. The more you test the technology out on small classes or on other teachers, the more you will practice how to use those tools in front of your main classes, and trust your own ability.
3. Not tried and tested/Lack of Research
Modern Technology in the classroom has not been tried and tested. Compared to traditional teaching methods, there is limited research on learning outcomes and performance in schools. A lot of technological methods that are used in schools are being used for the first time. With performance outcomes and exam results at the utmost importance, why risk the learning of students with what you're not sure of?
Overcome: You will be surprised by the number of technological tools that are still being used. The thing to realise is that even though you yourself, or your school haven't tried it, there are many other organisations and educators that have. Looking on twitter, facebook or other social networks will help you connect with others who have tried out what you are about to, and can give you hints and tips.
The view that technology is a product not a tool puts a lot of people off. With Apple, Google and Microsoft ruling the roost and the ed-tech market reaching $8.38 billion in the 2012-13, it's understandable. With sales and marketing teams visiting schools, and countless stands at expos like Bett it's sometimes difficult to see past the consumerism of educational technology. Billions are spent on resources every year, resources that some teachers never use.
Overcome: Books are just as much a tool for consumerism, and have been for much longer than modern technology. There used to be scrutiny of text books, now it has moved to technology. However, for every paid technological tool, there is a free tool that does a similar job. It may not be as good in all cases, but it will be good enough in most cases. Check out my blog on the tools I use in the classroom for some examples.
5. Lack of Leadership
With every new tool or method change, there needs to be leadership to champion it. With modern technology in the classroom, this is more of a paradigm shift than a simple change. New techniques and avenues of learning which were not possible before are now possible. Leadership is needed to encourage those reluctant to change, and provide necessary guidance and support. Without that, it just won't hold.
Overcome: Be the leader! If you are in a position of leadership already, then champion it among your colleagues. If you are not in a position of leadership, then talk to the head of training and CPD in your school and see what provisions there are. You don't need to be the tech savvy one in your school, although it helps if you are.
There are already standards which are followed in schools, education districts, or local education authorities regarding many non-technology teaching methods. Some feel that with teaching techniques using technology, this may not yet be the case. With its ever changing, and fast paced nature, it is difficult to find out what works, as not enough research has been done. So you will often find different teachers in the same school using different tools for the same thing. Those tools, being different enough in some cases to not be compatible at all. For example, Edmodo and Google classroom.
Overcome: Although, they are not as robust, there are some standards developing and some camps emerging. The three biggest camps are Google, Apple and Microsoft. These at least give some form of consistency in tools used. There are of course a huge collection of other tools not affiliated with the big 3, and for these you can look to review sites or edtech databases such as those listed in this blog post. However, you don't have to see it as a negative. The good thing with there not being a for tech, is that you can use what is best for you and your students.
7. Personal Experience
The experience of some using technology has not been positive. Those who struggle with technology at home will be reluctant to teach with it. Those who have attempted to teach with technology in the past and failed will be reluctant to use it again, or will put the failure down to "it doesn't work" instead of "I didn't do it right", and revert to their old methods.
Overcome: Edtech only becomes useful when it saves you time or improves the learning of your students. If it doesn't do that, then don't use it. So if there is a tool that doesn't work for you, either use something else, or stick with your old method. However, there are often many tools that do similar things, so if one doesn't work, try another. Don't be afraid to get help from someone who may know more. Making connections with other teachers will help to find out experiences of others which could be more positive.
Some see changing the method of teaching as a sign that what they did in the past was wrong. Whether this is correct or not, it takes humility to admit that you can always do things better and to always try and improve what you do.
Overcome: There may be an element of humility, however, improving your craft doesn't mean that what you were doing before was wrong. My main motivation in using edtech is making my job easier and quicker, so I can spend more time on the things that really matter, getting my students to learn. This will always motivate me, so I will always try to be more efficient. I think we all can.
9. It is optional
If you make something an option, then you are bound to have some people that do not take that option. People will continue to use their old methods as long as it suits them.
Overcome: I don't think making edtech use compulsory is the answer here. However, if the tech option is made more attractive, then more will take that option. As I have said, tech should not be used if it makes your life harder. If it truly is easier and quicker, and displayed in the right way, then it will become the popular route.
10. Lack of Technology/Digital Divide
Using technology in the classroom is great if you have it, but not all schools do. There is still a huge digital divide in the world, and even in some western countries.
Overcome: I don't have an answer to this. This is not an easy solution to solve, and is in fact an issue that many around the world are trying to address. Mobile technology is probably the most readily available and cheapest technological tool that can be used for learning. However, not having access to any technology...I don't know.
11. Pressure to conform
It's not easy being the only teacher in a school using methods different from anyone else. Not only does it isolate you from the other teachers, as you can't compare or share lessons and resources, but it gives a different learning experience for the students. Being the only teacher using technology can make it an unusual experience for the students, and can make learning more difficult. This will lead teachers to use more popular methods, and lead them to conform with the rest of the school, which often means abandoning technological tools.
Overcome: Just like point number 5, be the leader. There has to be someone that tries out the stuff that no one else does. Why not you? It may be lonely at the start. It may even be lonely for a long time, but it reaps benefits. If no one else learns from what you do, then you still benefit. At the start it may be more difficult, and it may be wise to use both methods (tech and non-tech) simultaneously until you are sure it works meaning more work for you, but try it non-the-less. It will get easier over time.
12. Takes time and effort to change
As a teacher, time is of the essence. It literally does not exist. Every hour of every day is taken up with planning, teaching, marking, admin, meetings, creating curriculum not to mention dealing with behaviour issues. There is no time for anything else, and changing your teaching methods doesn't make things easier. Finding and using different technology tools takes time. Time that many teachers don't have.
Overcome: It always takes time and effort when you're improving your craft. You can't get away from that. But you can share the burden. Identify a teaching buddy or group in your school and investigate tools that you are interested in using together. You can each try different tools or each try the same tool and feed back. This will cut down the time tremendously, and having someone to bounce ideas off is invaluable.
Technological privacy is an issue that is ill understood by many, and teachers being in a position of responsibility really do need to know what the rules and regulations are. Should students use social networks in class? Which ones are safe? Is it OK to put all classwork on Google drive? Should students share their work with other students? Instead of finding out all the answers to these questions, it's just easier not to use edtech altogether. Ignore technology, ignore the problem.
Overcome: There are simple initial guidelines that can be followed. For example, students under the age of 13 should generally not be using any social networking sites inside or outside of school. Those above that age, should have sharing limited within school and all email communication monitored and controlled by staff or the IT technicians. Above that, there are some district or local authority rules which have details as to how technology and communication within schools should be done. Simple guidelines are easily googlable.
UPDATE:For further guidance check out this article at Brookings.edu and this educators guide to student data privacy pdf document.
14. Changing Teaching
The teaching profession is under attack, and the changes brought about by technology are adding to this. Some teachers see it as not being the same as it was before, and yearn for the days where you could just "Teach".
Overcome: The teaching profession has always been changing, and should always change. That's because we are always learning more about how we learn and finding different things to learn. Technology changing teaching is not a modern phenomenon. When pen and paper came into existence, that was modern technology for that era, and people had to learn how to use it and teach people how to use it. Now pen and paper has turned into computer, phone and tablet. It's time the teaching profession moved with the times, at the same pace as other professions.
15. Lack of Purpose
"I don't need to use technology" or "I can't see a reason for technology in my classroom" are common excuses. "If it ain't broke, then don't try and fix it".
Overcome: Like I've said before, if using technology doesn't make teaching easier and quicker compared to your regular methods, then don't use it. However, I'd be surprised if you were able to store all your student results on a graph paper or in your notebook and add or compare results quicker than if you were using spreadsheet software. Or if you were able to present video, audio and images to teach a difficult concept without using presentation software. Even though using technology should not be the main aim in any lesson (apart from those that teach technology, of course), no one can doubt that technology can enhance any lesson compared to lessons where technology is not used. Lastly, using technology won't automatically make your teaching better, however, it increases the chances of students accessing and engaging with the learning. So, there is always a purpose.
16. Risk of Failure in Front of Class
One of the most embarrassing things is falling flat on your face in front of 30 eleven year olds. When trying to use a technological tool that doesn't work, or one where the students know more than you do, it can feel terrible. Especially when you have planned your whole lesson around it. Why risk it?
"Part of embracing technology in the classroom is recognising it's flaws" Anon
Every teaching tool or method has its issues. It's not wise to say that you will never have problems with using technology in the classroom. However, it's not a teachers job to make sure that the technology never fails. It's a teachers job to ensure that failed technology does not get in the way of learning. Have backup lessons, or make sure that students have an alternative way of reaching their learning objective. Also, be honest with students. More often than not, they will understand. It's OK that some of your students are better or know a bit more about certain technologies than you. It's not your job to know everything about the technology you are using to teach. It's your job to know how to use it to help your students learn.
17. It's just fun and games, not serious learning
The computer room is used by teachers when they haven't planned a lesson, or used as a treat for the students, where the students and the teachers know that they can get away with doing little or nothing productive at all and get away with it. Students just play games in there, and I can't control or stop them. Waste of time. No real learning done.
Overcome: Let me start by saying that fun and games is not always bad. Gamification or serious games is a real thing that can help improve learning, and is gaining ground not just in education but other sectors like HR. However, the issue here is when technology is used as a time filler and alternative to real learning. This is an issue I have seen and experienced in many schools I've worked with, and it's difficult to change the mentality of the teachers that see this. What's worse is that it can be even more difficult to change the mentality of the students that experience this (but that's a topic for another blog post). It's different in computer science and ICT, and can be different in other subjects too. With the appropriate use of control software and stern instruction, this can be changed. Observe a good/outstanding computer science or ICT lesson in your school or another school. The learning objectives may be different, but the outcome and quality of learning can be just as good.
As stated in the rational, this post is aimed at helping educators start using more edtech in their teaching and learning, or to help them convince others to do the same. This is by no means a full list. There are many other reasons out there I'm not aware of, but I hope the above is enough to get you started.
Sources used in part 1 and 2
- Picture source: http://images.all-free-download.com/images/graphicthumb/firefox_extension_htmlvalidator_icons_clip_art_24427.jpg