Teachers everywhere recognise its possibilities for innovation, communication and learning, but it is still the case that some feel daunted by its complexity and anxious about using it with their students.
It's understandable. If teachers are simply given a whistle-stop tour of a solution for an hour or so during a training day, they are unlikely to be confident enough to put it to use in the classroom straight away. What’s needed is the chance to get their hands on it, practice, and become familiar with it on their terms. Without this time factored into their timetables, they will struggle to gain a working knowledge of the edtech or use it meaningfully with their students – and so the cost of buying and implementing it is wasted.
Even if teachers do work in a school committed to helping them develop technical skills, where's the best place to start? Being left alone with unfamiliar technology can be intimidating, so they must receive practical training that they can subsequently try out on the actual devices they will be using with their classes.
Accessing the technology as soon as possible after the training will help teachers to consolidate what they have learned. Taking it slowly and becoming familiar with one feature at a time means that knowledge and confidence will build together before they put things to the test in front of their students.
To achieve fluency in any new skill, repetition is the key. This rehearsal time is where making mistakes is beneficial, as it provides teachers with the chance to find out how to fix things without being under pressure; minimising the fear factor and leaving them better prepared for the classroom. Some teachers I have spoken with say they have practised by videoing themselves and, when happy with the results, have incorporated the feature into their video exemplars for students or parents. This means they can review and adapt as they go while building up a bonus library of instructional resources.
Use it, don’t lose it
Through necessity, technology has taken centre stage these past two years. So, whether collaborating and communicating in Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet or helping students to learn via ClassDojo or Seesaw, many teachers have worked hard to raise their edtech skills in a short time – and for that, we applaud you!
The next critical issue is that these newfound skills are not lost now that we are beginning to move past the pandemic phase and the urgent need for remote teaching and learning is diminishing. For that not to happen, the progressive use of edtech needs to become embedded across the school. Schools can achieve this by reviewing and standardising their solutions; making things easier for educators moving between sites, and easier to support. So deciding, for example, whether the school will go down the Apple, Google or Microsoft path will give leaders a firm foundation on which to implement complementary applications that are most accessible for teachers.
A fundamental part of retaining any new skill, as well as using it regularly, is ongoing learning support. This can take various forms, such as formal training sessions, top-up training, peer sharing, solutions champions, internal teach meets on tech best practice, or interacting on dedicated online forums to ask questions and share answers and experiences with others. The secret for teachers to maintain their confidence levels and keep their knowledge ticking over is to evolve with changes in the technology, rather than letting skill levels drop and having to play catch-up later on.
Edtech skills are the future
Being digitally literate as an educator has never been more important. The pandemic has been a huge catalyst for change in this respect, with the need to teach children remotely and maintain communication with parents to support the continuation of learning. The work teachers are doing to increase their digital confidence right now will continue to integrate technology into their teaching practice, so that it moves from being a box they must tick to being a tool they automatically use to achieve their pedagogical aims.
Al Kingsley is Chair of two Multi-Academy Trusts in the UK. He is also the author of My Secret #EdTech Diary, a book that examines the past, present, and future role of educational technology and how it influences and shapes our education systems.
A version of this article was originally published as a guest post on the “Learning as I go: Experiences, Reflections, Lessons learned” blog by Rachelle Dené Poth.