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.
- Intellectual Stimulation – they have to be convinced over time that it is the right thing to do. For example, use research and articles from http://delicious.com/mattscottkuhn/Research%26News-EdTech 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.