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Creating demand for educational technology integration

By February 23, 2010June 14th, 201620 Comments

In our work at McREL, we get a lot of inquires about creating demand for educational technology integration. Some school leaders struggle with how to get their teachers to utilize technology to its full potential. Often they are just missing a few pieces of the puzzle that if put in place, would change their schools into 21st century learning environments. Below are seven steps in creating demand for educational technology integration and the support needed to sustain it.

  1. Intellectual Stimulation – they have to be convinced over time that it is the right thing to do. For example, use research and articles from and other sources to discuss for 10 minutes each month. This can be done at a staff meeting or in an online environment such as moodle or an internal blog.
  2. Functionality – Technical assistance and support in using the equipment and software are often inadequate in many schools. If teachers feel that they cannot depend on the technology to work, they will not trust it. If they do not trust a pedagogical tool, they will not use it as part of regular instruction. Instructional Technology (IT) support needs to view their job from the eyes of the teacher. Therefore, filters should work, but not hinder real-time instruction. Computers and software should be kept up-to-date with all browser plug-ins for IE and Firefox including java, flash, and shockwave. Within reason, real-time and long-term technical support should be available and effective. IT should empower and instruct teachers in fixing the most common and harmless technical problems.
  3. Access – teachers need access to adequate electrical power and computers inside the regular classroom. Signing up to use computers (or laptop carts) should not be overly time consuming or burdensome. Teachers need a formalized and relatively fast way of requesting access to blocked websites, services, software, and hardware.
  4. Bandwidth – why buy a Lamborghini if you have no fast roads to drive it on? Some schools have bought lots of great hardware only to find that their internet bandwidth does not support robust use. This is a disaster. It creates lots of frustration and bad attitudes. Plan for twice as much bandwidth as you think you will need.
  5. Professional Development – Integrating educational technology is an ongoing learning curve that never ends. Teachers need help in learning how to use and integrate effective technology tools into the curriculum. A regular schedule of general and specific PD should be offered (and required) every school year. See our website for options.
  6. Monitor and Evaluate – Teachers will pay attention to what their leaders pay attention to. If the leaders keep a close eye on the types and frequencies of instructional techniques, than data driven decisions can be made that will focus the school, teams, and individuals on their strengths and weaknesses. This will make the use of PD and technology resources more efficient and create a desire for positive change.
  7. Manage Transitions – Some staff members will be overwhelmed with the changes educational technology integration brings. For instance, where they once felt that they were a pedagogical expert with clout, now they feel like a beginner. Furthermore, they may not be convinced that this is right thing to do or that it is worth the time and effort needed. Leaders must seek out these individuals and manage their transition to a new way of doing things. This requires a differentiated approach to instructional leadership and mentorship.

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.


  • Janice Hutchinson says:

    Hi Matt
    I find your post to be very interesting. I am one of those teachers who is desperate to see teachers at all levels of academia integrating technology in the learning environment.
    I am particulary fascinated by your second and seventh point. I believe that many teachers have not held on to the view of technology intergration not because they do not understand the benefits, but simply because they feel that there is limited assistance available to then at their local schools. If teachers know that they have all the support tools in place of a fact they will be intersted.
    For teachers who are immersed in the traditional methods, I feel your first point will be effective. use various means to convince them of the benefits to be derived from technology integration. As teachers we need of a fact to “work smarter not harder” (Pinnock, 2010).

  • Matt Kuhn says:

    Thanks for the kind words Janice. Once in a while I find a school that has met all seven of these points, but is a rare occurrence. I hope your school is close to this ideal.

  • Janice Hutchinson says:

    Presently my school is working to ensure that everything is in place to meet the criteria you mentioned.
    Just last week the staff were presented with a draft of the technology plan and I must say that the issues you raised were catered to. Most teachers had a little concern about the the help they will be able to receive at varying times throughout the day, but this was quickly resolved as we were informed of a technical team that will be put in place to resolve these issues. Training sessions will also be held to ensure that teachers will be able to deal with some of the simpler technical issues. Most of the teachers are excited about this new technology plan that will affect all aspects of our practice.

  • Matt Kuhn says:

    That’s great to hear Janice. We can always use good examples of schools that are doing the right things right. Any chance you could share the name of the school you work at?

  • Mary says:

    Good Evening Matt,
    I completely agree with your article, especially #2 and #3. I am very proud to say that my school just purchased SMART boards for every room, but they did purchase the mounts for the projectors and we received very old lap tops to use with them. This is irritating because the functionality is hindering the true power of the SMART board. I wish schools received more funds, so technology could advance to its true potential.

  • Mike Larson says:

    This is a topic of discussion in our high school math department currently, and we are starting to gain district support for training teachers in IWB’s. I have a promethean board in a class and absolutely love the capabilities I have in both presenting information and allowing students to interact with the board. This being said, I have a couple thoughts to share.
    1. Veteran teachers seem to be the ones holding back in our department of 16 teachers. They say that it would take too much time to prepare lessons to be worthwhile, and that it is too costly for the district.
    2. I have had issues with point #3, because I can’t access enough information via the web or download any software. I believe that administration needs to confide more in the teachers. I mean have them sign a waiver or something, but it is a real hassle to have them unblock things every other day. Do the majority of schools block teachers from all blogs, videos, and downloading software?

  • Carri says:

    I would love to do more with technology in my classroom. My problem is the availability of the technology. I agree with most of your points, especially #2 & #3. Getting the technology to work and keeping it working is sometimes very tricky. I work in a small school that does not have access to techinical support. We also do not have hardly any technology in our classrooms. We are limited to 2-3 computers (that only work half the time) and that pretty much sums it up for my technology in the classroom.

  • David Broom says:

    This is a very interesting piece and you are definitely correct. Technology is definitely needed in education because we live in a technological world and the only way to prepare our students for the real world is to create a learning environment that incorporates technology on a daily basis. My school district has been making a huge push in technology and they are putting smart boards into every classroom. Also, the new reading series being implemented has many different aspects of technologies such as videos, assessments, and games to engage students in the weekly readings. Technology captures adults attention and helps adults learn so it is a no brainer that it will and does capture students attention. Technology is an ally for any educator and the use of a smart board is amazing.

  • Andy says:

    My staff just moved into a new school two and a half years ago and I was amazed at the technology. We have so many amazing tools to teach with. I’m the technology representative in the building. What I have really been amazed at is the lack of training involved with the new technology. Many teachers in my building do not know how to use any of the equipment that they have been entitled to. I agree with you Matt, the lack of technological assistance can delay many great teachers from using technology to aid lessons and instruction.

  • Matt Kuhn says:

    Wow, this posting has received a lot of traffic lately. Many of you have brought up issues around the statement, “Teachers need a formalized and relatively fast way of requesting access to blocked websites, services, software, and hardware.” A new book has come out lately called “Security vs. Access” by Robinson, Brown, and Green. I highly recommend it. Some of you have also mentioned how PD is so critical. Otherwise you are just buying a lot of expensive door stops. PD must be ongoing, not a one shot deal done before anyone has had a chance to work with the technology and reform their pedagogy.

  • Kharma Banks says:

    This post was quite interesting in my opinion! I absolutely value the integration of technology into the curriculum, but, agree that there is much PD needed to reach many teachers out there in the way they need to be met.
    First of all, I have a wonderful administrator that really supports the idea of incorporating technology to create these global learners. He tries to help our school get technology when possible. At my school, we have laptop carts that we can check out and use in the classroom, but they are not up-to-date anymore. When checked out, they do not work properly, are slow and it makes it quite difficult to use those in the classroom. I would love to know how to solve some of the mini-problems that might allow us to continue our work when the laptops are having a problem.
    I have just completed training for incorporating a SMARTBoard in my classroom because I was selected for a grant, but, prior to this, I had to check out the one SMARTBoard for my school and wheel it down the the hallway, make sure I signed up in plenty of time so that others would not have the time slot I chose. Then, I would get down to my classroom and the laptop was not working properly or somethig went wrong and I had to change my plans/activity to keep the class moving and engaged. Also, the computers that are in my classroom are outdated. We are finally getting the computer lab updated, and hopefully classrooms are next, but, it’s hard to have a continuous computer center when the technology does not work sometimes and is perfectly fine other times. I think it is so true that we need to have teachers trained on how to solve minor technical problems as there will not always be someone to help out when needed. Teachers need the PD on solving problems so they can troubleshoot and keep on going in the classroom. Technology is awesome when it works and is available for use! I will continue using technology, but, I will continue to have a back-up plan in case it is needed. However, I hope that our district can help us catch up with other schools that have access to more up-to-date technology and the PD to help us as well.

  • Jacob Schober says:

    I found the reasons behind each of your 8 ways to create demand for educational technology to be very true and particularly applicable to my school district. However, the demand I believe is largely there as the educational workforce is getting younger and even older teachers feel much more comfortable with any type of technology than they did years ago, but I believe that school districts have not been able to incorporate these tools to feed the demand because of lack of knowledge and therefore the appropriate funds are not acquired. I teach a physics classroom of all seniors and there are many different utilities and equipment that can be utilized during their class to engage them and prepare them for the level of programs and analytical tools they will have to use in college.
    Teachers in my district have been working with administration to secure funds for advanced lab equipment and finally we got a modest set of Vernier lab utilities, but the amount of resources that can go along with these (probes, online programs, lab workbooks, professional development conferences, etc.) that we have not yet acquired are basically making this expensive equipment about 20% as useful as it could be, and I believe this very point is at the heart of your argument.
    I think that unless we get our students fully equipped are ready to compete in a collegiate and professional environment with students from other countries that are far more experienced in technology, we as a country will continue to trail other countries such as Japan, in the area of formidable research and development until we can find a way to fund the need and demand for proper technology in America’s classrooms.

  • Matt Kuhn says:

    Jacob, I agree that as time goes on, the barriers to seamless integration of instructional technology will have more to do with those at the top that make the policy and funding decisions and less to do with the practitioners in the classroom.

  • I really appreciate this article – it helps me put a focus on the work I’ll be doing this year encouraging reluctant teachers to integrate technology in their lesson plans.

  • Brenda says:

    I work in a district that provides a plethera of technology resources to the teachers and staff. While many of the teachers have expressed an interest in aquiring and using more technology, they are overwhelmed with the amount of other requirements (testing, documentation, etc).

  • Jill Galloway says:

    I think we are at an interesting point in education, where transitioning from traditional instruction to a 21st century approach is more important than ever. It is time to bridge the gap and help all educators realize the importance of revamping, not only how their classrooms work, but also how they perceive education holistically, in order to successfully prepare today’s children. Technology integration is an important piece of that. Instead of trying to constantly throw tools at teachers and hope they pick up on the value of those tools, it’s time to make the teachers want it. Help them understand why it is essential. These strategies will help develop a relevant context for all stakeholders, making educational technology integration a natural, seamless step on the journey to robust, 21st century classrooms.

  • Dawn Richardson says:

    This is a great specific plan to getting technology integrated in the classroom. I am the tech representative at a fairly new school and in a district with great tech resources. We are making progress every year. It is just like in the classroom, where you have to work with all different levels of experience. Fortunately, my school/district are doing great in most of your areas. I will be using your idea in #1 to interact with my teachers this year. Thank you for the instant resources for that endeavor.

  • Alicia says:

    I think this is a great plan of action in order to get teachers to develop their knowledge of technology. I know a lot of teachers in my school are afraid of using technology. They are only affair because they don’t know how to use it properly. Being able to discuss it and use it before you use it in your class, is something I feel will help a lot of teachers feel more comfortable with it. Having administration that support and help manage how their teachers are responding to the new technology is also something that will help improve technology use in the classroom.

  • Tammy says:

    Working in a school where technology is highly regarded, I really agreed with the importance and steps for integrating technology. Teachers are reluctant to use technology in some part because they must be able to rely on it to work. As stated, teacher development is also essential. In the school where I work, there is a technology director that instructs the whole staff at some meetings. At other times, he works in small groups after school to teach technology concepts which can be easily integrated into the classroom. Every classroom has a Smart Board, therefore we share different ideas for using the Smart Board as a teaching tool. I have found this as an effective way to learn more about it. I think time is the most important component. If administrators offer teachers the extra time needed, they will take advantage of being able to plan more effectively. This seems to be an ongoing issue and struggle in the educational field. Thank you for the insight to technology integration.

  • Alicia Castillo-Timothy says:

    I am currently a graduate student at Walden University and I am pursuing a Master of Science in Education with specialization in Integrating Technology in the classroom. I think you offered a practical and insightful plan of action to integrate technology into education. I believe technology can be used a powerful tool in the classroom to enhance the lesson presentation, in addition to engage student interest and participation. Unfortunately many still operate with an 8-track mentality in a world where IPods, smart-phones and other gadgets and software are updated each day.
    Although administrative support and resources are not readily available, I am determined to discover new tools and trends to support teaching and learning.

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