Despite the fact that technology is more readily available in classrooms and lecture theatres than ever before, there are still concerns that some teachers are not using it to its full potential. The reasons behind this are relatively well known: lack of time to reach the necessary level of proficiency, lack of confidence in their ability, or a lack of resources to invest in either the ideal tech solution or the ongoing training and resources needed to ensure it is used for many years to come.
To overcome these issues, they must be addressed at the beginning of any build or refit project. It is easy to believe that the more kit installed in a space the better it will be, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The important thing is to think about how the space will be used – will it be used to teach multiple subjects and age groups, how do teachers want to utilise the area, what technology would aid learning and save time for teachers, rather than acting as a hindrance? Once these questions have been answered it will be easier to begin to build an effective learning space.
As soon as the decision has been made regarding what the teaching space will look like, it’s important to get teachers on board and give them time to get hands on with the new kit before they are in front of a class full of students. Many schools have enthusiasts who see the benefits of edtech and are keen to get hands on with kit from the start; this can be invaluable in encouraging uptake. Having a person who uses the technology on a regular basis who can act as a champion, answer queries and share lessons developed with kit in mind can be a great asset to a school and can be less intimidating for the less tech-savvy teacher than approaching an ICT professional.
Remember that the vast majority of teachers do see the importance of integrating technology in the classroom and do believe it has a positive effect on learning outcomes, so it’s often anxiety about using technology rather than a lack of belief in its value that holds teachers back. This being the case, it can be a good idea to introduce teachers to specific tools – based on their current teaching methods – that will make their life easier rather than simply expecting them to go from using little more than a laptop and projector to embracing interactive, collaborative learning spaces overnight. Productivity tools such as Dropbox for sharing documents or interactive tools such as Google Earth to add a more visual element to classes are simple, effective ways of saving time and enhancing teaching. Once the potential and ease of use of these has been realised teachers may well be more willing to look at other tools, both hardware and software. The key thing here is not to force technology on educators but to show what can be achieved without having to learn large amounts of new processes and systems.
While this informal approach to technology is often a good idea for those more reluctant educators, introducing professional development based around technology relevant to a teacher’s subject area will be welcomed by many as it adds an element of professionalism. An interactive programme that encourages teachers to explore the functions of technology, investigate how it will work and create real-world examples of how it can be used will boost confidence and undoubtedly encourage uptake. Recognition or incentives for doing this will allow this to be taken a step further, acknowledging the time, effort and thought that goes into creating a blended learning environment or flipping a classroom.
And finally, don’t forget that your integrator or manufacturer is there to help. They don’t want a classroom full of technology to be sitting unused any more than other stakeholders in the project. If more training or suggestions for different use cases are needed the people involved in specifying and designing the tools with undoubtedly have numerous ideas and suggestions for encouraging uptake.