As I navigate through the research of my graduate studies, I have become increasingly curious as to what the barriers of and enablers to tech integration in the classroom are. As educators, we are in a time of change. The BC Ministry of Education’s emphasis on 21st Century Skills, the new K-9 curriculum, the draft 10-12 curriculum, and the increasing presence of web 2.0 tools in the hands of our learners, all reflect this change. Therefore, I’m left with a couple of questions that I’ve been chewing on as of late:
1. What are the barriers of tech integration in the classroom? And to what extent do these barriers affect the use of technology by educators?
2. What factors encourage the adoption and use of technology in the classroom?
Now these won’t come as a surprise to many of us. Educators have pinpointed these barriers when contemplating many changes we’ve witnessed in our profession for decades.
Lack of resources: edtech tools are expensive. Whether it’s a class set of iPads, Chromebooks, a wireless LCD projector setup with speakers and an Apple TV, or a few MacBooks for high-level creating and publishing, the tools demanded to make the particular shifts in our teaching are costly and resources are scarce. Educational agencies need to value supporting this transition by investing funds to create more resources. Money is a factor.
Lack of time: Teachers already have enough on their plate, so where is one to find the time to learn web 2.0 technologies? Adapt their lessons to be enhanced by these tools? And make the required pedagogical shifts in their practice to capitalize on the new curriculum and the many edtech tools swirling across the educational paradigm? Not enough time is a factor.
Lack of necessary knowledge and skill: who are the professionals who have mastered these edtech tools? Have teacher training programs closed the gap between what edtech tools are available to educators and what is being taught to new teachers? And perhaps most importantly, how do we create more tech savvy educators on the frontlines? Anytime I have collaborated with a colleague on using tech in their practice I inevitably witness some serious anxiety on their part. And it’s no surprise why. When tech is placed into the classroom without proper professional development and curriculum consideration, teachers quickly get nervous. Professional development is needed for certified educators, and it should address how to use and implement technology. This would create the teacher expertise required to spread the knowledge and skill needed in to the classroom. And further to that, professional development must also focus on the pedagogical applications of web 2.0 tools. In order to touch down on the essence of the curriculum changes before us, we need to do more than merely adopt technology. We need to revamp our teaching practice. My gut tells me that school districts are more concerned with acquiring the hardware and software tech instead of implementing the staff development for integrating tech effectively.
The Enabling Factors
Identifying the game changers: in every school there are a number of teachers who I see as being game changers. Whether it’s because they were early adopters, or they are risk takers and willing to try something new, or they have a knack at collaborating with their colleagues and building positive relationships, these game changers are a valuable resource. These educators provide their schools with the knowledge, skill set, and confidence needed to make some significant strides in adopting and integrating tech. These game changers enable other teachers to take risks in their own practice after they witness the benefit from tech adoption and the positive affect on learning it can have.
Encourage a culture of innovation: school districts and school leaders must encourage a culture of innovation. We must move from viewing ourselves as the traditional academic, one who is all knowing and all powerful, and we must move towards viewing ourselves as educators who reflect and adapt our practice as we go. We must respond to our environments and the emerging technologies before us and work towards utilizing the power of both. In doing so we will become innovative educators who are better able to meet the needs of each learner we work with. To be a part of a culture of innovation is to be a part of a staff whose leaders value these traits and encourage sharing, collaborating, and growing.
Rework how you spend your time: if we truly value tech adoption and integration, and we truly value pedagogical change, then we must honour that value with the gift of time. I have witnessed many schools tinkering with how time is spent at school. Whether it is allocated team planing time, timetabled collaborative blocks, or teachers who coach and mentor their colleagues through making changes in their craft, there are many ways we can rework our time to accommodate and support the adoption and integration of technology in our classes.
Empower learners: we cannot overlook the role that the most powerful person in our classroom has in enabling tech in our practice: our learners. Students create, collaborate, publish, mash-up, network, and discover in online platforms ALL DAY LONG. It’s not a matter of having them be a part of the conversation around tech adoption and integration in the classroom, they should be leading the conversation around tech adoption and integration in the classroom. BYOD allows us the opportunity to incorporate their tools in to our classrooms. But more importantly, embracing a learning culture that empowers student voice, leadership, and teaching with these web 2.0 tools in mind alters the fabric of how we view school. And on top of that, teachers benefit from the expertise from our students in helping us through this transition.
My hope is that we begin to eliminate the barriers outlined in this post and find innovative structures that allow the enabling factors to flourish. In the coming months I will share how I’m doing just so in my own practice as I collaborate with colleagues on adopting and integrating technology in their practice.