Ok, so maybe don’t stop buying technology. Or do. Let’s talk. Last few weeks I have been meeting with teachers, supervisors, and administrators about technology in their schools and what needs they have. My goal in doing this is to find out what they have and what I can do professional development wise to make sure they are using these tools to maximize student learning.
The problem I am seeing is that many are not using the tech they have beyond games or teachers use. The schools keep buying more or buying things that do not fit the classroom’s needs. Teachers say they need ipads or laptops but what they have already sits on the shelf. Or worse, things like clickers are being bought in a BYOD classroom.
So lets just take a moment and stop buying technology. Buying technology or stating that you are going to BYOD is the easy part. Often so much goes into this part that the rest is forgotten. Technology get put in the hands of teachers and then we expect them to use it to meet the needs of the students in their classroom. Does that happen? Yeah there are pretty awesome teachers who take PD in their own hands and do amazing things, but these are not the norm. We don’t buy new curriculum materials and just hand them to the teachers and expect them to know what to do with them. Imagine being a science teacher and given “new and world changing” lab equipment that looks nothing like they have ever used. Would you expect the teachers to use it correctly? What if they were chemicals they had never heard of? This could be a disaster. Yet we do this with technology. The technology is not going to teach. The technology is not going to change pedagogy. The technology is not going to turn itself on if the teachers are afraid. It is a tool, a tool that needs to be taught.
My new rules of thumb when it comes to purchasing technology:
- Will improve student learning? Look at the tech. Is it just attractive or could it really make a difference in the student’s experience? If it is not focused on students and learning then it probably is a waste of money. Are teachers going to be touching it or are the students?
- Do the teachers/students already have tech that can be used for the same purpose? What does your school or do you already have? Is the technology just a fancier version? If your school is BYOD, you probably do not need clickers, there are plenty of free programs that teachers can use. If classrooms have working Chromebooks, don’t replace them for iPads just because. Use what you already have, if it works. If it no longer works, can it be repaired for a much lower price?
- For every new device or new initiative, you need at least 3 professional development sessions.
- To learn how to use the devices or follow the procedures properly.
- To learn how to use it for student learning. How to use it for high level (think Bloom’s) activities.
- A follow up to make sure the devices are being used correctly (or at all).
- If all else fells, ask an expert. You have instructional technology people in your district. Ask for their honest opinion on the technology.
Technology is not a magic potion. It is not going to produce miracles. What it can do is enhance learning and lower the walls of your classroom. If the technology is only going to be used for the “S” in SAMR, and you are not going to push it’s use nor provide professional development, then don’t buy it. You are doing more harm than good. New technology without support or purpose is going to cause frustration or will sit in the closet. I see it happen everyday.
So please, stop buying the technology because it was asked for or because it looks cool. Buy it because it can change how students are learning and how your teachers are teaching.