For more information check out Is More Technology the Answer?
As I have previously said, technology alone cannot solely solve all the ills of education nor should it be expected to. You may have heard of schools or whole cities that adopted 1:1 technology programs. Some places like Savannah and Mooresville have done it successfully while others like Los Angeles and Hoboken have been resounding failures.It must be simply stated that laptops, Chromebooks, or iPads alone will not fix the educational problems in our classrooms…school…country. Ignoring their usefulness though will only increase those obstacles.
Teachers and tech staff can struggle with devoting disproportionate time to maintaining equipment and resources rather than advancing and training staff in the best use of their resources. Teachers need to be given the tools to succeed but not overburdened with learning too much too quickly so that they are overwhelmed. Here are some keys to implementing technology in the classroom well.
- Determine a goal. What do you want from a technology program? The answer better not be cool new stuff. Let the impetus be student and teacher needs. Make the goals specific and create a timeline for implementation.
- Involve the right people – Will this affect students, teachers, or parents? Then include them in the decisions and the efforts at change.
- Create a plan. As the saying goes, failure to plan is planning to fail. Make sure the plan includes administrative, teacher, and student training as well as a plan for the inevitable maintenance and upkeep. Who is going to fix the problems when they come? If you’re ordering 500 new computers, can your one tech teacher handle it?
- Test the idea. Do you need to fix everything at once? Can you test the idea with a smaller group and pilot it to see if it will work?
- Have a leader. Who will continue to guide the initiative? Should it be an administrator, IT, a teacher, or a committee of all of the above?
- Have a means of communication. How do you right things when they start to go off the rails? How do you know when there is a problem? Is there a chain that will be followed and let the leader(s) know?
- Focus on the right one. In a 1:1 program, look a the 1 that is the student to guide you before you look at the 1 that is the hardware. Let students not devices be the driving force.
- Determine what’s best for schools individually. Just like blanket teaching, blanket technology implementation is ineffective. States and districts may want to offer options but leave individual decisions up to the schools and classrooms who know best what their students need and can handle. Perhaps 1:1 is the answer or perhaps a rotating model can work.
- Check your current tech – Can your current technology support the same goals as effectively? If you buy new computers, can your network support the traffic? Can your current digital curriculums be run on the new systems? It’s best to ask beforehand.
- Work to maintain funding. One time purchases can often be problematic, so strive to find funding to continue whatever initiatives you begin. Maybe that means you start smaller than you originally planned.
- Strive for home access. There are national and local programs that have helped students in poor communities get home internet access so the devices don’t go to waste.
- Assess the success. Regularly check-in and measure the effectiveness of your initiative.
- Balance digital learning with hands-on learning.
- Emphasize the importance of digital citizenship.
- Create consequences. What are the consequences if a student or teacher is misusing technology. Do we just take it away for good? Would we take away pencils from the student misusing them? Have a plan ready which may including monitoring software. Also, plan to let them know that the software is installed.
- Don’t give up. Any worthwhile change may have multiple points of failure. Try to fail small first and learn from those experiences, but don’t be discouraged.
For new technology implementation to work, teachers need to be competently trained and reasonably comfortable with how digital tools and resources can be used effectively. This includes basic troubleshooting knowledge. There should be a uniform integration of and access to technology across classes. Administrators, teachers, and students (when possible) must be able to have worthwhile discussions about how to use technology in an effective, safe, and socially relevant way. Technology must be used daily and in a collaborative environment to be effective.
There must be consequences if students (and for that matter, staff) can’t handle the privilege and freedom of being plugged-in. Screen time should always be limited based on the level of a student’s maturity, their behavior, and what is healthy. Like with everything in your rooms, clear boundaries must be set. Those who cannot handle the allure of the blinking screen, should (at least temporarily) be removed from it. We wouldn’t permanently take pencils away though for misuse, so you can use a graduated return.
Also, teachers should, just as they do with students, continually assess how effective the technology is at producing desired educational outcomes. A weak lesson does not become strong simply through the use of iPads.
I would love to see up-to-date technology in schools across the country where every teacher had multiple devices and unblocked internet access. It would be a place where the only decision was how best to use all the tools available. I want to see students on devices because they cannot learn healthy habits without us teaching them. I also expect 1:1 digital device policies to eventually become the norm in schools, but we must work to make an effective transition.