Modern technology has the potential to transform classrooms. The possibilities of an increasingly digital and connected world are nearly endless: Technology can save schools time and money, allow for more individualized learning, and increase engagement at all levels—just to name a few.
However, like any tool, technology is only useful if it’s actually being used. That means that to get the benefits, you have to get the ones who will be using it on board.
School districts across the country know that teachers can be hard sells when it comes to adopting new technologies. They’re often already working at capacity, and throwing another thing on their plate without making some room first is a surefire recipe for frustration.
Fortunately, with a little research, planning, and communication, it’s possible to get teachers on board. It’s all about seeing it from their point of view, and meeting them where they’re at.
Here are 8 specific strategies to warm the teachers in your district up to modern technology.
Assess their wants and needs
There’s no point in getting teachers technology they don’t need. Wondering how to figure out what that might be? Ask.
Discussing tech decisions with teachers helps ensure that your edtech spend is being leveraged to its fullest potential. It can also make teachers more open to adopting the tech, because they’ve been involved in choosing it.
When surveying teachers, try to include questions such as what tools they’re already using, what their major sources of frustration are, and whether there are any technologies they wish they had. A survey is also a great place to integrate a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, which can give you a well-rounded picture of where your teachers are in terms of their tech skills.
Teachers may be more open to adopting modern technologies if you start small. There’s no point in completely remaking classrooms and giving every student a tablet if the teachers and students aren’t ready for it.
Rather than rushing into trying every new technology, try one or two at a time and allow teachers to get comfortable with them before adding more.
Opt for user friendly tech
Just like their students, teachers have different learning styles. Pair that with busy schedules and a wide range of technological know-how depending on factors that can include age, education, and interests (just to name a few), and you’ll find that the best technologies for teachers are the ones that are user friendly.
Being user friendly includes being relatively quick and easy to learn, not having bugs, and having “drag and drop” and other intuitive features.
Clearly communicate benefits (and myths)
Teachers tend to make their decisions based on evidence. If you introduce new technologies without a clear reason for why you’re doing it, it’s unlikely you’ll get a large adoption.
One of the primary goals of any teacher is to meet the core national standards-based learning objectives. If you can show them how modern technologies will help them accomplish this and other goals, teachers will be more likely to adopt the new technology.
Other benefits that modern classroom tech can offer are time savings—which is huge to teachers—and increased student engagement—which benefits everyone.
Cover myths, too. Many teachers fear that allowing more technology into their classrooms will just increase the number of distractions. However, the classroom is the perfect place to teach students how to use technology responsibly. Consider investing in tools like screen monitoring software to help teachers keep their students on task.
Almost everyone rides with training wheels before they learn how to ride a bike; throwing someone into a situation where they have to use a new tool or skill without proper training is liable to fail.
Sometimes the creators of a new tech will offer or be able to suggest a training program to use, otherwise there’s a wealth of professional development websites for teachers that you can direct them to, and use yourself.
Make sure to create time before, during, and after the introduction of any new technology to allow teachers to be prepared, use it properly, and stay up to date on its functions.
Create a community
Consider creating things like discussion forums and community boards for teachers to share resources that have helped them. Creating a space for troubleshooting and questions can help smooth the learning curve and lead to higher usage.
Another adoption-helping tactic is to hire or assign a tech-savvy teacher to help other teachers learn the ropes. Like most people, teachers respond well to their peers, and are often well-suited to helping each other out. Research suggests every school needs at least one technology coach if they want to succeed.
Don’t make them pay
The past decade has been a tough one when it comes to school funding. Some districts haven’t fully recovered from the cuts that happened around 2008. It has resulted in teachers getting stuck with the bill if they want their students to succeed. Some teachers are spending hundreds of dollars a year out of their own pockets.
Any new technology that requires them to spend more of their own money isn’t going to improve the situation, and could contribute to even more frustration and resentment.
If your district is struggling with funding, explore the hundreds of free or low-cost tech tools teachers can use in their classrooms.
Plan classrooms accordingly
It’s not very helpful giving students laptops if there aren’t enough outlets to charge them all, or if the sun is streaming in and washing out their screens.
When you’re introducing more modern tech into your school, you’ll have to think about everything from the layout to building materials. Some important things to consider are WiFi connectivity throughout the school, USB charging stations, safe storage for expensive devices and tech, glare-reducing windows, and more open-concept classrooms that facilitate more modern styles of learning.
Creating the space for modern technology to exist within the classrooms is just one of the practical ways to encourage teachers to adopt it. At the end of the day, teachers want their students to succeed, and if you’re able to show them how modern technologies can help them do that, they’re more likely to welcome—and actually use—them.