by Margaret Brewster
Running a successful edtech program is a bit like conducting an orchestra: each of the musicians needs to follow the score if they want to be invited back for a second performance.
These days, teachers and technology come hand in hand with the high demand of integrating technology into the classroom. Whether you’re considered a technology teacher or not, here are four signs that can indicate your edtech program may need some fine tuning.
1. Limited activities from limited bandwidth.
Students spend 37 percent of their math class time on algebra and 63 percent trying to stream related videos. If your school’s bandwidth just isn’t sufficient to run your educational technology program, you’re not alone. According to a study by the State Educational Technology Directors Association in May 2012, 80 percent of schools in the U.S. who qualify for federal assistance through E-Rate don’t have enough bandwidth to meet their educational needs.
The good news is that high-speed broadband improvements are underway in nearly every state in the U.S. (Check out the National Broadband Map for connection speeds available in your area.) If your bandwidth is a bottleneck, here are a few suggestions:
- Establish a good channel of communication with your telecommunications company. It may be able to provide you with reports that provide data about average and peak bandwidth consumption, if your district lacks the ability to generate such reports itself.
- If you are able to install additional bandwidth, make sure that each school or site receiving the upgrades has a contact person to coordinate access. Also schedule the project long in advance to ensure that you have time to work out the bugs.
- If expanding your bandwidth isn’t an option, teachers may need to adjust their edtech curricula accordingly. Avoid bandwidth-intensive activities, such as video streaming and cloud computing, and concentrate on apps and other technologies that won’t clog the system.
2. There’s permanent marker on the SMART board.
Few things can be as frustrating to IT professionals as teachers and staff who haven’t been adequately trained to use a school’s technology. Given the significant financial investment required for educational technology, building in sufficient resources for professional development for teachers to become technology teachers is absolutely essential. One rule of thumb is that spending plans should allocate a full 30 percent of their funds toward teacher training and support.
If inadequate teacher training is incapacitating your edtech program, consider the following:
- Make sure that adequate time for professional development is built into the teachers’ schedule. Make training videos available online if possible, so that teachers can learn at their own pace.
- Provide teachers and staff with opportunities to share best practices. Consider scheduling regular working groups or meetings throughout the school year.
- Encourage teachers to ask their students when they don’t know how to do something. Teachers may be surprised to find that students often have the answers – and if they don’t, then finding the answer through their own investigations can be a useful learning exercise.
3. Battling the Distractions
Students have – unbeknown to the teacher – spent an entire class period playing World of Warcraft on their iPads instead of reading their history e-textbooks. If students are distracted rather than engaged by their tools, whether laptops or tablets or smart phones, the problem may lie in the teacher’s pedagogy. Some teachers make the mistake of simply swapping out printed textbooks for e-textbooks in a classroom full of iPads and calling it edtech, hoping that the video games in the classroom will enhance student engagement like the studies have said.
Edu-tech professionals generally agree that high-tech classrooms require a fundamental shift in the teacher’s role – a transition from “sage on the stage to a guide on the side,” as it’s commonly put. According to education consultant Ben Johnson, teachers in high-tech classrooms should:
- Inspire good questions from students
- Give students engaging, open-ended problems
- Channel student interests in productive ways
- Constantly assess student learning and provide critical feedback
Furthermore, when teachers stop asking themselves how they should teach the content and instead focus the question on how to get students to learn the content, students will lose their interest in distractions.
4. Today’s conversation in the teacher’s lounge centers on nostalgia for the bygone era of chalkboards and overhead projectors.
Technology can be frustrating and confusing at times, but all successful edtech programs need buy-in from teachers and administrators. If they’re not excited by your edtech program, then the writing is on the wall. Fortunately, generating enthusiasm usually isn’t hard. If you’re meeting with resistance, try the following:
- Offer opportunities for collaboration and input in program planning and development. Avoid situations in which teachers feel the program has been imposed upon them.
- “Wow” your colleagues with best practices and examples of unique things technology can accomplish in the classroom.
- Collect and share as much research as you can to demonstrate technology’s positive effect on educational outcomes.
While technology in the classroom isn’t new, today’s high-tech classrooms are speeding through territory that is largely uncharted. There are bound to be glitches along the way, but with the right resources at your disposal and dedicated resources for training teachers in classroom technology, you’ll be sure to fine tune your program in no time.
Margaret Brewster is a freelance writer and non-profit consultant, currently writing for Online-Education.net and staying up to date with the latest in classroom technology integration; image attribution flickr user wootang1