Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Helping the Technophobic Teacher

The following guest post was written by Mark Pullen, an elementary teacher in a 1:1 classroom in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.  

The infusion of technology into the classroom has the potential to be the greatest change agent in K-12 education for the foreseeable future. As a result, I believe that one of the most important goals for today’s principals must be helping their technophobic teachers to learn to utilize technology more effectively. Here are four ways in which principals can do just that:

Set clear technology goals: While this will be important to all of your staff members, this will especially aid the struggling teacher. Don’t be vague: “All students at Lincoln Middle School will learn to become active digital creators and safe web 2.0 citizens” may be fine language for your building’s official tech plan, but to the technophobic teacher, it means little.

Find in-house technology mentors: Mentors aren’t only for new teachers. Identify your best technology mentors and pair them up with teachers who need extra help. Students can be used to mentor other students as well; for example, in the elementary grades, schools often designate “reading buddies” – older students who pair up with younger students to read with them. For elementary principals reading this, why not encourage the creation of a “technology buddies” program where your older students pair up with younger ones to help them learn some core technology skills?

Focus on key proficiencies, not ever-changing sites and tools: Help your technophobe teachers to understand that the goal isn’t necessarily to have students learn Prezi, Glogster, VoiceThread, Animoto, and Adobe Premiere by the end of the semester; rather, it is to have students become comfortable with presenting their learning in a digital form. The specific sites and tools will change too quickly for the technophobic teacher to ever feel confident in understanding them, but the core student competencies needed will generally remain more stable from year to year.

Create differentiated professional development opportunities: Your technophobic teachers need to be met where they are and brought forward from there. Too often, I’ve seen professional development that is far too complex for some teachers and far too simple for others. I’ve seen teachers that struggle to attach a file to an email; if that’s where they’re at, professional development about starting a classroom Ning network just won’t be helpful.

Our mindset toward technophobic teachers should be similar to our mindset toward struggling students: all teachers can learn, and we need to intentionally provide those struggling teachers with instruction that meets them where they are to help them increase their tech competence and confidence.

About the Author:
Mark Pullen has been an elementary teacher for 13 years, currently teaching third grade in East Grand Rapids, MI. He’s an advocate for classroom technology integration, and writes extensively on that subject on behalf of Worth Ave Group, a leading provider of laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance for schools and universities:

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