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Technology Tips for Teachers: how tech can enhance your classroom

by Tia

Technology in the classroom is inevitable. Our modern world relies on technology, and people should be literate and capable of digital technologies. At the same time, many of us are actively adopting technology because it is so beneficial.

But these needs place our educators under pressure. They must bring technology into the classroom, and if they do not, their learners surely will. Yet educators have reason to be cautious since many attempts to introduce technology don’t deliver. The comprehensive EdTech Genome Project report states that most fell far short of expectations despite over $100 billion spent on classroom technologies over the previous decade.

Connecting education with technology is challenging, says Renasha Papiah – Commercial Business Manager at Acer Africa, “The main problems we see at learning institutions is around purpose and buy-in. Educators and administrators are under pressure to add technology but don’t get the support to work out what will work best for their circumstances. So, they spend a lot getting shiny gadgets that the market pushes to them, yet those are not fit for purpose, and the people benefitting from them, the educators and learners, are the last to be consulted.”

Technology in education should start at the ground level with pragmatic decisions. Educators are at the frontline. Whether they want to introduce technology where others are resistant or find themselves prompted by the ambitions of their institutions, they can be in charge and lay the groundwork for successful EduTech. Here are several strategies that help:

Expect things to change: Digital technology can make education tasks more efficient. For example, maintaining a mailing list of parents and sharing a PDF of the classroom schedule saves time and avoids confusion. Ultimately, technology will change how educators and learners do things, such as personalised education content or online classes. Traditional classrooms typically centre around the educator. Technology could change this, especially if you assume it cannot. Don’t expect things to stay the same.

Start with simple technologies: Going for the ‘flashiest’ examples of education technologies is tempting. A good example is how schools fervently adopted a range of tablets yet didn’t necessarily see massive improvements. All technologies must follow a purpose; the best way to understand that purpose is to start with simple technologies. Use PowerPoint or Google Slides for presentations and encourage learners to create presentation projects. Create WhatsApp communities with nested learner discussion groups. Try out email, social media, and other broadly used technologies. See what learners have access to and start there.

Know the difference between educator and learner tech: Different people have different technology needs, though we often assume those needs are the same. It’s important to know why a classroom introduces a specific technology. It can be to support the educator (a smart whiteboard) or the learner (tablets with educational software). It could cover both (software that interacts with both the whiteboard and the tablets). Technology’s purpose depends on who uses it.

Ignore the digital native myth: Younger people generally pick up technologies fast. Yet while that statement is true, it also feeds the ‘digital native’ myth, which assumes that younger people are naturally gifted and intuitive with technology. That has more to do with the ease of the technology. Think of it this way: someone can teach themselves to drive at an early age, but that doesn’t mean they are a good or accomplished driver. Learners may have a knack for using technology, but that doesn’t mean they know how to use it well. They need guidance and training.

Ignore the Luddite teacher myth: Educators and other adults are often framed as anti-technology and resistant to change. Yet, the educator often brings tech into the classroom, looking for a better way to reach their learners. The Luddite teacher myth often excuses schools from properly training educators or engaging with them about what technologies would work the best. Educators then get reduced to doing what they are told, which is a surefire way to make the wrong technology investments.

Work with a trusted technology provider: Learning institutions often struggle to decide what technology makes sense, so they lean on technology sellers to guide them. However, these sellers are rarely education experts and tend to push what looks the best. So, a classroom ends up with a dozen laptops because the seller said it’s a good idea. Yet, was it? What is the purpose of the laptops? Are they aligned with the classroom’s needs and functions? Too often, classroom tech is introduced with good intentions but little perspective on purpose. A trusted technology partner asks many questions first and will walk away if the deal doesn’t benefit the education customer. Organisations like Schoolscape also aim to match educators with the right technology partners.

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