We need to be realistic about tech adoption in schools

By Dave Saltmarsh, education evangelist at JAMF Software

Success stories of leadership with mobile learning often highlight best practices that encourage starting with clear instructional goals and including a wide range of stake holders in all aspects of planning. Beyond a focus on the why and who to include,  top priorities for successful programs must set realistic expectations on gradual change to teaching practices.  There is a need to provide resources to create the conditions for gradual change in the evolving role of teachers.  It is also time to place a spotlight on the complex challenge – how teachers can work, not compete, with technology to keep students engaged. 

There is concern and speculation by some that teachers will struggle to keep pace with tech-savvy pupils and that technology could lead to ‘deschooling’, where digital technology could effectively replace all of the structures and functions of traditional education. Unfortunately, these concerns are not always being addressed, creating hesitation to the integration of technology in schools. The truth is that education technology cannot be successful in keeping students engaged without the endorsement from a teacher. In reality, technology will not replace teachers, but teachers that use technology will replace teachers that don’t. (Clifford, 1987)

The much-loved human element of teaching is still required. Keeping students engaged is no mean feat and while digital content, gamification and technology can help make learning more interesting and engaging – there is a need for a teacher to help guide and counsel the student and understand which content can be best leveraged digitally for the best results. Beyond even being facilitators, today teachers are become activators of learning. As such, education technology should be considered as smart asset for teachers to use – helping to reduce their pressures.  Apple’s decision to make changes to the way applications can be deployed for iPads in classrooms to help IT administrators and teachers, is a step in the right direction.

To increase success, we must understand how to implement technology for teaching with a strategy. To deliver wide scale adoption, many programs start with a smaller group of teachers, helping them to find a way to use technology to adapt traditional instructional learning content into digital content. Included within this group needs to be teachers that are not necessarily early adopters. Too often pilot programs only involve highly tech savvy teacher who do not represent the larger group of teachers who are willing, but have hesitations. We have seen the use of digital content manifest into new learning methods such as the flipped classroom, where students can learn theoretical aspects of the lesson outside of the classroom to save time, and then enjoy the practical aspects of the course in class or ask the teacher questions. Consequently, more personalised learning experiences can be formed with the help of technology.

Once a strategy is in place, teachers and IT admin can roll out technology, digital content and apps to a classroom, then an entire year and eventually an entire school. Including resources that support the needs of teachers identified as “hesitant” will provide credibility in the program. Giving non-early adopters a voice might be as simple as them highlighting ways the use of technology will save time rather than steal time. These teacher will be able to validate practical ways to support teachers in changing practice from less lecture and teacher lead and still include ways to transition from one learning mode to another. It may be a slow and gradual process but it will allow time for teachers and IT admin to understand and monitor usage and make tweaks to the strategy in a manageable way.  Teachers will play a role in the roll out of technology and apps and so a device management solution can help them to manage what can and can’t be accessed by students to provide content and resource tailored for each students as well as which current applications can be used to boost productivity levels.

It’s time we move the conversation about education technology on from how teachers might  struggle or even resist adjusting teaching practices to one where we can discuss how we can help provide resources to teachers  to drive education technology adoption in schools. 

W: www.jamfsoftware.com


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