Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You Want Me To Use This In My Classroom? What's The Point?

There is one in every school. There is one in every district. There is that one teacher, no matter what you do, no matter how much time you take, how slow you go, how much one-on-one time you spend with them, there is that one teacher who is not going to integrate technology into their classroom. They dig in their heals. They bury their heads in the sand. They shut the doors to their classroom, leaving technology (and perhaps ultimately quality learning) out in the cold.

As is the case every Tuesday evening, educators, parents and students from around the globe came together on Twitter for #edchat. The topic: How do we encourage those teachers who don't see or refuse to see the value in technology integration? It was, as always, a fascinating discussion. Here is just a snapshot of some of the thoughts of the participants:
  • Motivation comes from success. Use the same strategies as with students - meet them where they are. Change is always painful but change WILL come. For those who refuse to integrate - it depends. Is it mandatory by the school or district? If so, refusal becomes grounds for dismissal. Why do we hesitate to dismiss employees who demonstrate poor performance or insubordination? In corporate America, these people would be looking for a job. Why do we not hold the same standard for educators but accept sub-par employee performance? I think the main reason teachers are apprehensive is that they wonder if they learn it now, will budget cuts cause them to lose it later? Valid concern. Another is the implementation dip - change is a process. Everyone is in a different place on the continuum. -An Administrator
  • I think that many teachers are apprehensive because technology is ever-changing. It can be very intimidating for those who don't keep up with the current trends, such as twitter, delicious, and blogging. I think that for many teachers, however, if given more technological support and resources, they might be more prone to check things out. I know that I was not personally an advocate for technology before learning about what is out there on the web, but after taking my Technology for the Elementary Teachers course I feel a lot better about bringing technology into my future classroom. -A Pre-Service Teacher
  • We need to get administrators on board with the amount of support, time, and training it takes for continuous technology integration. Teachers need to have an in house person to go to to fix what doesn't work. They need to be given time during the school day to work on lesson plans, collaborate with others and integrate technology. Training needs to be scaffolded, accessible and continuous. We can't expect teachers to learn everything in the summer. PD needs to be throughout the school year. We need to take away the excuses so that there is no good reason to NOT integrate technology. -An Instructional Technologist
  • Apprehensive because they've seen so many changes. They don't know what will stick and what won't. They don't see what people are doing with technology these days. I motivate teachers best when I'm able to have conversations with them, find out what they're doing and give them a few suggestions. -A Media Specialist
  • I believe the best way to try to motivate your peers is by showing them that you have been using, effectively, a tool to save you time and, at the same time, foster learner autonomy. I don't really think that refusing to integrate is a problem as long as the teacher is capable of responding to his or her learners' needs. After all, what matters is that we, educators, empower our learners with knowledge and show them that they are the ones who have to make it happen. This can be done through many different ways.
  • If I had to name the main reasons for teachers being apprehensive, I'd say it's because they might not be willing to make changes in something that's always worked for them, and they might be afraid of realizing they can't cope with the new technology properly. Finally, I guess we should never stop thinking about our context. The Internet has brought us closer together, but let's not forget to act locally without forgetting the particularities of each place. -A District Administrator
  • I don't know that we can motivate teachers who have made up their minds not to learn and stretch. I think the motivation needs to largely come from within. I think that we can introduce our peers to new concepts and ideas but it will be up to them to take hold or pursue them. I think if you refuse to integrate you are doing a disservice to your students. It should not be tolerated by administrators, fellow teachers, students, or parents. Teachers that I know are apprehensive because they don't want to learn one more thing. I hear that a lot. Everything is too much to expect from them. Legitimate reasons for being apprehensive are: not enough support, equipment that doesn't work consistently, or lack of training. -A Teacher

You can read more of the comments here and the archive here.

Here are some of my thoughts...

I deal with this every day so I am sort of an expert on the matter.

Every job in education is hard, there is no doubt about that. And most of us in education feel like we are dumped on over and over and over again, especially teachers. I started my career as a classroom teacher, I know what that feeling is like. However, it's not about me. It's not about my administrators or the big wigs at the state or national level. All that should matter to me (and to every educator out there) is the kids.

I think many teachers have lost focus and think the job is about them and their satisfaction. How they feel is all that matter. And not that the feelings of educators are not important, but come on! It's not about you. It's about the kids.

Backing off my soap box...

Like I said I deal with teachers who flat out refuse to integrate. I hear time and time again, "What's the point? What I have done for years has worked, my students have passed the test. Why change now?"

It's not about you...

Three themes repeated themselves over and over. Time, training and image.

Time is easy to address. Everyone's time is valuable. Everyone feels like they don't have enough time. Nto enough time to sit in a workshop and learn. Not enough time to learn how to use a new tool. Not enough time to take the kids to the computer lab because there is too much curriculum to cover.

It's not about you...

Authentic trainings are important. Those of use who spend vast amounts of time training teachers need to realize that in addition to teaching the tool and showing examples of how it can be used in the classroom, teachers want to hear from other teachers how it works for them. I can tell teachers all day what worked for me. But until they hear it from a peer what I say is meaningless. Oh, and Administrators, you need to provide your teachers and other staff the ability to learn. Meaning you need to forget about time and curriculum every once in a while and think about what your kids need.

It's not about you...

And if someone says one more time that their teachers are scared to look dumb in front of the kids I am gonna loose it! We teach our kids to use mistakes as learning lessons. Making mistakes is human. And I have written about this before, it happens to the best of us. At some point we are going to look like a failure in front of a group of learners. But the best of us use these moments as learning moments. Expect to fail.

A great suggestion was focusing on one tool for an extended period of time, maybe even a year long training. This allows for slow, easy integration. Time is taken to learn the tool. Ideas are suggested on how it can be used in the classroom. Successes and failures are shared. If there is time introduce a new tool. The point is that it's easy to get overwhelmed. And that is when teachers shut down and back away. Slow down and take it one tool at a time.

So how do you motivate the unmotivatible? You can't and you don't. Those that are never going to integrate can't be changed. Efforts need to spent with those that are willing and want to learn and are eager to try. Then you might start to change minds.

So what do you think? What are some reasons you think teachers refuse to use technology in the classroom? Are they right to think they way they do? Should teachers who refuse be punished (as was suggested)? What other thoughts do you have. I look forward to your comments.

photo credit: artescienza via photopin cc


  1. Thanks for the post Steven. You hit the nail on the head with "It's not about you." That is the root problem with most opposition. Teachers think it is about them. It doesn't matter whether it's technology or intervention strategies.

  2. Really well-said. Authentic Trainings and PD needs to be throughout the school year and supported by administration.

  3. Great post! We need to move ahead and concentrate on the educators who will use any tool at their disposal that will lead to more positive student outcomes. I think that this is most educators. For the rest, they will make themselves increasingly irrelevant!

  4. If it's truly not about you ... then how do we re-engage people to see uses of technology? It can't be a threat, it can't be difficult to use, and it can't be an intrusion ... but if it's not about you, then who is it really about?

  5. Great discussion!
    I comment sometime in my talks that there is a "Training Trap." No matter how much and how many types of training are provided, there are teachers who want more before they try something.
    I don't necessarily think that these teachers do this to intentionally keep from trying new things, rather these individuals believe that there will come a time that training by itself will make them competent. They don't recognize that it is only through using things that competence can be developed, and then mistakes are still made.
    Not meaning to be antagonistic, but by insisting on the importance of training (which I do think is important) do we throw a life preserver to those who don't want to dive in (that metaphor might be a little mixed up, but no matter).
    I have never had a student with a tech-based assignment come to me and say, "I need more training."

  6. Great discussion! I just wanted to post what my district does. We have passed the NETS for Teachers, Administrators, and Students as what we are going to follow in our curriculum. We have created checklists of what the students should be able to do tech-wise K-12. Each summer we rewrite curriculum for rotating areas and incorporate technology into the rewrite as we can. But, we also have a stipulation on our evaluations that teachers have to work towards a tech integration goal per year. They have to show their building principal one lesson in which they are using technology with their curriculum. Right now, it isn't a part of their evaluation but an added step. In the future, this will be added to their evaluations.

    You must have administrator backing. Without it, all of this is dead in the water. I am fortunate to be able to work with administrators who see the value of technology and support it 100%.

  7. Great post, thank you. I've struggled with this problem often and it's always good to see it from someone elses prespective.

    I strive to teach my children about being internally motivated and not relying on someone else to tell them to do the right thing. I think as teachers and administrators we sometimes forget that we can't change our colleagues motivation or behaviour anymore than we can change our children's. It is always a person's choice how they react to a situation.

  8. The one piece that can't be over-emphasized is that your infrastructure needs to support the new technology you wish to integrate. If you are in front of students and 10% can't connect to the site you are trying to get to, or your policies are such that they can't install the Active-X control to make the site work properly, then you will lose them.

  9. Hi,
    I enjoyed Tuesday's edchat.
    When I work with my classroom teachers, I always remember my own hesitation about technology(about 6 years ago): "How could I possibly learn about technology when I am sooooo far behind already?" One wise tech teacher told me to just jump into the river and keep swimming. That river will never slow down.
    I share that bit of insight with my classroom teachers.

  10. Integrating new technology can be exciting and intimidating for many teachers. I especially like the ideas of saving time and not being afraid to make mistakes with the use of new technology to help encourage teachers with cold feet.

    This seems to be a positive message for the students when the teacher is seen learning to adapt to something new. If we can model this message with our own learning, can this lead to improved dynamics within our classrooms? Would students then reflect our modeled behavior and be less critical of themselves and their peers in their learning? As a result, would we then see higher confidence in students?

    It is possible that how we model our learning and integration of technology, directly or indirectly affects our students’ learning. The ramifications for not integrating technology into the classrooms when it is accessible in a technologically driven society, may affect the teacher and the students in more ways than one.

    This is an important and interesting topic of discussion. Thanks for the nice post!