Research from tech curriculum creator SAM Labs found that 82 percent of teachers think students who use technology in the K-12 classroom are better prepared for the future.
But for school IT managers, technology in the classroom can bring implementation challenges. Staples Director of Educational Technology Lisa Taylor has observed many K-12 implementations and shares her advice for solving the most common challenges.
Challenge: Making Sure Technology Gets Used in the Classroom
Despite teacher enthusiasm for technology in schools, the tools provided by IT departments sometimes go under-utilized in the classroom. Taylor says the solution is to keep in close and open communication with teachers.
“Every school has a mode of communication that the teachers prefer, whether it’s an internal platform, a regular meeting or another tool,” she explains. “An important success factor is to utilize the best communication mode for your audience.”
Once you have the right channel, let teachers know what educational technology tools are being considered, so they can give input into how they would use them. This on-the-ground view can shape rollout and training processes.
In addition to asking for teacher input, spend a bit of time in the classroom. This experience will help you flag technology features that can support the curriculum.
“If you visit a science class studying the solar system, for example, recommend a virtual reality feature of a new technology that a teacher may not know about,” explains Taylor. “This provides students the immersive experience of outer space.”
Challenge: Accessing Adequate Training
More than three-quarters of teachers feel they have not received the necessary training to use technology in the classroom, according to the SAM Labs report. When teachers aren’t fully trained, technology use and student learning can suffer.
Taylor suggests calling on your suppliers’ expertise. They can be a great resource for initial trainings and periodic refreshers.
“Ask your suppliers how they can help with training,” she explains. “They may either have a successful approach from working with other schools or be able to refer you to another resource.”
Training teachers on educational technology is ongoing and should be multifaceted, with components of both live and self-guided options.
Taylor recommends getting buy-in from the top by notifying your district superintendent or school principal of what is required for teachers to fully understand a new technology. Any teacher training and related resources should be included in communications regarding the purchase of technology for a school.
Challenge: Monitoring the Use of Educational Technology
Once technology in the classroom has been rolled out, IT managers get the best results when they gather feedback on what went well and any areas for improvement.
“Setting up online surveys or using an internal network message board typically works really well to gather this type of information,” Taylor says. “When looking at what teachers are saying, you can get an idea of how the technology is being used by teachers and students, and where improvements are needed.”
If you receive negative feedback on educational technology, go into the classroom to assess the issue. This effort can help you determine if the problem is the technology, training or another problem.
Challenge: Staying Current on Educational Technology
Technology in schools is continually evolving, and staying current is not easy for busy IT managers. To get the most bang for your research buck, Taylor recommends attending events and conferences.
She acknowledges that these take time, but these events are focused on educational technology and are packed with information. For national shows, Taylor mentions conferences held by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC). State and local shows can also be a good resource.
She also recommends message boards like Spiceworks, which connect IT managers in a peer forum.
The more you understand the classroom experience, the easier your job will be and the greater resource you will be to the educators and students you serve. A hands-on approach may take more time initially, but the systems and relationships you build will continue to pay off over time.