Al Kingsley discusses how schools can create a culture for everyone to continue building their edtech skills
Technology has certainly played a huge part in helping education to continue throughout the pandemic so far and teachers have done an amazing job of adapting their teaching practice to better serve students in a totally online learning environment. It has been a huge learning curve for everyone. Teachers who were already using edtech extensively in their classrooms found the transition easier than those who did not – but it’s more important than ever to address any edtech problems teachers may have, as digitally-led learning is set to play an increasing role in education in the future.
There’s a difference between choosing not to use edtech for pedagogical reasons (i.e. if the learning situation is not appropriate for its application) and choosing not to use it due to lack of confidence. Let’s deal with the latter, because not moving forward with technology due to feelings of being overwhelmed or uncertain is absolutely something that can be overcome with the right support from senior leaders and colleagues. I think the majority of schools now realise that not doing so is counterproductive and they will try to assist teachers as much as they can, within the limits of their budgets.
Removing any barriers to more fluent edtech use in the classroom has taken on a new priority for schools now that we have seen just how important it has been over the last year. Indeed, some of the adjustments that have been made out of necessity (e.g. online parents’ evenings, using a variety of tech solutions for communication, apps for audio feedback, the use of video exemplars and so on) have worked so well that many schools are planning to continue them in the future. So, it’s now clear that, in terms of technology use, there is no going back to how it was before and edtech is set to become even more embedded throughout schools across the world.
Skill building one step at a time
What happens though if you are one of the teachers who has seen their colleagues making great strides with edtech and you feel left behind? The use of technology doesn’t require a special talent; it’s simply a process of building skills upon skills. Think of it this way: long ago, people changed channels on the TV by pressing dedicated buttons on the set. Then we learned to use the remote control and then later, hook up and use a video recorder, then a DVD player – and now we’re streaming films and interacting with TV-related content. The accumulation of skills over time has led to us all being extremely comfortable with this kind of technology.
To help you reach this point with edtech, there are three key strands:
Practice makes perfect
We’ve all heard the common-sense advice to “use the right tools for the job” and this applies to building your edtech skills in the classroom. Practising on the actual device you will be using to teach with makes sense and will eliminate the additional worry of having to lead a class when using unfamiliar technology. Introducing one new tech feature into your teaching at a time and not trying to do too much at once will keep your head clear and your tech fears manageable – and when it all goes well, it’s a foundation that you can build upon, practically and psychologically. Going over things by yourself will also go a long way to alleviating the fear of doing something wrong, as this is a time when you can make mistakes – and learn how to fix them – without the pressure of being in front of your students.
Getting support from others
In any workplace, if there’s a person who has a particular skill or is good at something, then the word gets around. You’ll know who the technology champions in your school are, as well as the teachers who do a great job of using it in their lessons. Don’t be afraid to ask for their advice or tips on the solutions you are getting to grips with. And if you are a ‘tech champion’ yourself, you can help others become more confident not just by disseminating knowledge but also by celebrating their successes.
Another useful way to keep abreast of edtech trends and tips for the classroom is to cultivate an edtech personal learning network on social media. Here, you’ll see discussions, questions being answered and tips being shared. It’s a great way to stay up to date with how different solutions are applied to teaching and learning and it will keep your knowledge current.
Being part of the bigger picture
Schools are likely to have a digital plan or strategy in place with aspirations for how their staff will use technology for better student engagement, communication, efficiency and so on, right across the board. You are a vital part of this. Helping the school achieve its vision for technology integration is something all staff will work towards together. So, if you have training needs, then share that fact with leaders. You may not be the only one. This way, the school will be aware of the additional measures they need to put in place to ensure their edtech goals are achievable.
Pulling these strands together will help to shape and develop your edtech skills, knowledge and confidence in its use. Gaining support from those who are comfortable with what you are learning – and that can be at any level: a colleague, ‘tech champion’, NQT or a student digital leader – will help cement your skills and boost your belief in your capabilities so that in time, technology will become a valued part of your teaching toolkit.