Imagine that you give some students the following assignment: Take a number of rubber bands and tie them to a wagon, then try to pull the wagon across a room. In order to pull the wagon, the rubber bands need to be pulled tight, but if the student pulls too hard or too fast, the rubber bands will break.
You can apply this same concept to tech-resistant educators in the classroom. If we want to move teachers from one side of the room (hating technology) to the other side of the room (tech hero), we have to “stretch” them—but not too hard or too fast.
I’ve always believed that most new teaching initiatives don’t need high levels of accountability. If teachers have a good support system, are properly trained, and discover that the tool is worth using, they will come to rely on the tool and love having it in their classroom. For example, I can’t imagine taking Interactive Projectors out of my teachers’ rooms at this point. I don’t need to have rules to make sure they use them—they know how powerful the tool is and wouldn’t want to teach without it.
But the question is, how do we get teachers there—from tech hater to tech champion? Here are some concepts and ideas to help “tech stretch” our less-than-enthusiastic teachers.
- Let them play: Remember playing Solitaire on the early Windows OS in the 90s? (If you are young, maybe you don’t!) Microsoft didn’t want everyone to become a master gamer; they wanted everyone to be fluent with a mouse. It was a fun way to learn a brand-new skill, and new tech tools are no different. Teachers who use tablets need to play on them, become comfortable with a touch screen, and learn how to take advantage of all the bells and whistles. This can be a great first step for teachers who believe they “hate” technology.
- Give them support: Once teachers have had some time to play—the more they resist technology, the longer this will take—it is time to offer them support. This is most effective when it takes place in a “Learning On Demand” environment, where support is available the moment when the learning takes place. The beginning of the year training won’t stick for the reluctant tech learner when they need it in November. The point at which the Mimio Assessment System needs to be set up or apps need downloading is the moment of learning for the reluctant learner. Partner teachers, tech integrationists, or online curriculum support should be easy to access when help is needed.
- Praise the good: If a resistant educator does make an attempt to branch out, be sure to celebrate it! This doesn’t necessarily need to be public, but you should recognize the risk that was taken in some way. At this point, the rubber band has been stretched with some success, so you can’t quit pulling now!
- Accountability for change: When transitioning to a new device or curriculum, it helps to have certain competency levels aligned to a timeline in order to outline the minimum expectation for progressive change. For example, at the end of three months, every teacher will have the student log in to the system. At the end of the next three months, every student will complete three assignments. These outcomes need to be observable, attainable, and necessary skills for success. Most teachers will be well ahead of the timeline, but the minimum standards will keep at least some tension on the rubber band throughout the year.
- Remove the scaffolds: As the year progresses and implementation is expected, it may be time to remove the old options the teacher has been using. For example, unplug the printer if it is time to move to Google Classroom. There is a risk in this—the teacher’s attitude toward technology may become more negative, but this may be the push (or pull) needed to take the next step toward embracing technology.
- Listen to them: Although it is listed last, this may be the most important step. Ask teachers why they don’t like technology and try to pinpoint exactly what it is they are against. There will be as many answers as there are people, but this is a starting point for managing the change and adjusting the attitude.
The other important point to keep in mind is that—as Dr. Rick DuFour preaches—attitude follows behavior. Changing attitudes over time is a difficult task and requires building a relationship and good communication. If tech leaders take the approach that we need to focus on changing the behaviors of other teachers, this process will be more fruitful. Attitudes will change after the behaviors change.
Every member of the educational community has a role to play. We need to help each other, build each other up, and support our ongoing learning. Inspire the teacher next to you to become better!
Want to make sure your educators have the online support they need when transitioning to a more tech-focused classroom? Provide them valuable resources, such as an online educator community that has interactive lesson for almost every grade and subject level, or online training that they can use when they really need it.