One of the major obstacles for integrating technology into education, as a whole, is simply the attitudes, fears, and misconceptions educators have about it and their lack of training using technology (Brown et al., 2001). Many students embrace the technology because they are either fearless in their approach (and simply do not know any better) or they are familiar with modern technology and expect the experience to be user-friendly. They are the so-called ‘digital natives’. However, it is easy to disregard that in order to integrate technology tools in learning, educators of all ages and backgrounds must themselves learn to use the tools and embrace pedagogical change driven by modern technology (Botner, 2002). As adults, there is an expectation that educators will simply see the need for students to use tech tools and they will commit themselves to it for the better of their students. The problem is this assumes that the educators believe in technology integration in the first place. Despite having access to these tools in their classrooms and through the world wide web, many educators are reluctant to commit to learning how to use the tools themselves let alone to teach their students how to use them. Be it a philosophical reluctance or simply a lack of knowledge and skills, the result is that many students coming through the education system in 2017 are still not using as much technology as they should in order to prepare them for an increasingly technology reliant future. For the students who attend schools in low-income areas, this becomes an even more serious issue.
The educators at theNAT had inherited many digital tech tools from previous educators. The classroom is equipped with twin Promethean boards for interactive presentations, a set of Mac computers for video production, and a set of iPad Minis for a variety of uses including apps, photography and online research. The classroom also has a set of student response clickers for quizzes and checking for understanding. Of the museum classrooms at the School in the Park program, it is one of the most ‘tech heavy’. However, this would be meaningless if the educators had no interest in utilizing the tech tools available to them. The museum has invested in the technology but the expectation is for students to see first hand examples of artifacts and exhibitions within the museum rather than sit and stare at screens in the classroom. Understanding that the museum’s mission takes precedence over the use of tech for tech’s sake, the educators do see the need for students to use these tools and more importantly they understand that these tools can be utilized by students to increase efficiency. In some cases using modern tech tools can enable them to create projects, like videos, slideshows etc, which they otherwise would not be able to make at all. Knowing this, the museum educators at theNAT have even higher expectations of their students and they consider tech integration seamless in the learning environment.
If the educators had been reluctant to use the tools available to them, like so many classroom teachers are, then the expensive tech would have gone unused and the students would have spent less time practicing 21st century skills. One possible solution could be professional development training. By this I do not mean drill and practice tutorials which focus on the details of how to do something using technology. Instead, I am referring to the kind of professional development seminars which address the educators’ approach to pedagogy in general. As adults, teachers can take it upon themselves to learn the details of how to do something but it is far more important to help them understand why to use these tools in the first place. PD sessions that provide educators with an opportunity to voice their concerns and put words to their fears will also provide opportunities to debunk misconceptions and bring a community of educators together to discuss a topic (educational technology) which they might not typically discuss. When educators get together and compare their experiences they might find that just because their attempts to use technology have not gone well, does not mean that is the case for their peers. For this process to be successful, it is vital that educators feel a sense of buy-in. Rather than simply being told to use technology and school administrators making purchases for their classrooms on their behalf, educators need an opportunity to discuss what is holding them back and have their concerns met with practical consideration.
Bitner, N., & J., (2002). Integrating Technology into the Classroom: Eight keys to success. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education
Brown, M., Higgins, K., & Hartley, K. (2001). Teachers and Technology Equity. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(4), 32-39.
Roblyer, M. (2016) Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson College Div.