Since the introduction of technology into Primary education almost three decades ago, there has been a lot of pressure on principles to ensure the effective implementation of ICT in their schools. Today, the increasing developments and advancements in ICT has not made it easy for them to determine its worth in education. As educational leaders, it is their role to measure the impact that ICT has on teaching and learning. For the majority, cost plays a crucial role in their decision.
We must not forget people like yourselves, the teachers, who do have a burden of trying to utilise what technology is available to you at the time. It is those people who are at the frontline of ICT use in the classroom. For preservice teachers, there comes the assumption that since they were trained in ICT integration, they would serve as the catalyst of change in their school placements. Unfortunately, research shows that despite this many of them move into a profession that has a teaching culture that actively discourages such innovation (Phelps & Graham, 2013). All too often they are thought of as being confident and competent user of ICT. An assumption that research has shown otherwise. We are not all technology experts despite being more knowledgeable about it than our parents and grandparents.
It is important that before we go ahead and solve this problem that we understand some of the issues behind this negative culture that exists.
One of the reasons research shows why teachers are reluctant to use technology in the classroom is because they feel that they are not tech-savvy enough to use it. It might be something like attaching documents to an email, creating a PowerPoint presentation or navigating the Internet. Whatever it may be teachers can feel marginalised and frustrated by the new ICT tools that they know they have to use but don’t understand. Not having belief in their own ability to use ICT in their lessons promotes a strong sense of discouragement.
It can also be a frightening experience for some teachers as technology takes control over a lot of things leaving a strong digital footprint around the classroom. Privacy and cyber bullying issues play a central role here.
Research also suggests that teachers witness many tech-integrated strategies but then find themselves pulling back due to the inconsistencies of teaching and assessment.
Finally, personal experience also plays a role in the discouragement of technology use in the classroom. Whilst many have computers they mostly use it for entertainment purposes.
Back to the issue at hand, how can you motivate your teaching staff to use technology in the classroom more often? These next few tips are not my ideas but I believe that they are great starting point to those of you who struggle for motivation.
- Get support from the top: If you are the principal and you don’t use technology yourself a lot, then what chance does your staff have of using it too. Great leadership is all about leading by example so get with the times or fall behind the rest. It is also extremely important that as an educational leader that you provide lots of support for your staff and stick with them through all the ups and downs of using technology in the classroom
- Make sure that you have the right agenda in mind. You should be working towards the school’s agenda and not your personal agenda.
- Don’t expect smooth rides, there will be bumps along the way. Take small steps towards larger goals.
- It is great idea to provide incentives to your staff to use technology in the classroom. You could encourage use of technology by sending out daily emails that includes important information and that all staff should read. One school that I read about used special software to maintain student information.
- A great idea to have teaching staff complete a technology-needs assessment, which is used to develop a plan for personal growth. Teachers can also maintain a technology portfolio and use it to organise their web sites, show evidence of technology activities in the classroom and store training handouts for example.
Along with the above points, remember that it needs to attract attention and is relevant to the need of the staff. Provide support so that they can feel confident about mastering the topic and satisfy their needs.
The implementation of technology in the classroom must be productive which means that it has to support and enhance curriculum content. It is not an easy thing to achieve especially with the continuous developments and advancements. Every teacher needs to update their own skills and knowledge but the time available may not permit this. As a teacher myself, I can see why many of my colleagues might choose to stick to ways that work best for them. Why risk something new in the classroom and end up with a lapse in student achievement? Motivation of teachers needs is the key for educational leaders who want more use of technology from their staff. The simple truth is that motivation for use of technology in the classroom is that firstly, it has been proven to improve student attainment levels. Secondly, it provides a great teaching tool to staff. However, teachers need to be motivated by the fact that as teachers their role is to prepare students for life in a technologically-dominated society. Society demands this of them.