In 1964, Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a changin’.” This is as true today as it was then. Technology is playing a major role in the changes happening now. This can be exciting or scary depending on your perspective.
When I work with teachers, it’s clear that many are resistant to the changes happening in education. I believe this resistance has more to do with fear than a reluctance to continue learning and evolving in their practice. Most teachers enter this profession because they genuinely love to learn; however, many of us get into the classroom and feel isolated in our work. Even though we are on a campus full of colleagues, we rarely have time to walk down the hall to ask questions or share best practices. However, in this time of unprecedented change in education, it is critical that teachers feel supported.
Here are some ideas for how schools and administrative teams can support their teachers and encourage them to experiment with technology in their classrooms:
1. Create a school culture where teachers know it’s okay to take risks and fail.
First and foremost, remind your teachers it is okay to fail. Failure is part of learning. Teachers must feel confident that their administrative teams will celebrate their attempts to use technology in the classroom. Not every lesson is a smashing success. That’s okay. We can learn from those moments and improve on them. If teachers worry that they will be criticized for trying something new, then they are less likely to experiment.
2. Leverage your students as tech support.
Students are the most underutilized tech support on a school campus. Our students are being raised with technology, so why not use their expertise to support teachers?
There are several ways to approach this, but I suggest encouraging your most tech-savvy teacher to start a “Tech Team” on your campus that is comprised entirely of students. This can be a club or an extra-curricular class where students work directly with teachers to solve tech problems on campus. The tech team can collect teacher requests using a Google Form, then visit classrooms to assist teachers and/or create video tutorials for the staff that are available online.
3. Build time into the schedule for tech-savvy teachers to mentor/coach their peers.
Most school campuses have at least a couple of teachers who are tech-savvy and eager to try new tools and teaching strategies. These teachers can be an incredible on-site resource for their peers. Why not ask these teachers to spend one or two periods in their teaching schedule working with teachers instead of students? This would allow time for the teacher mentors and coaches to work with other teachers on their campus helping them to design technology infused lessons, co-teach, and provide meaningful feedback.
Teachers on a campus are keenly aware of the challenges that their peers face, so they may be in the best position to support one another.
Dylan’s song famously says, “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.” For educators who are unwilling to change, they will find that they are increasingly out of step with the younger generations of students entering the classroom. Each year that goes by our students are more immersed in technology. This requires teachers to rethink their approach and explore how technology can be used to place students at the center of learning. It also requires that schools and administrative teams think outside the box when it comes to supporting their teachers and encouraging them to continue learning and evolving.