Monday, September 29, 2014

Want Teachers to Incorporate Technology? Enlist "Bob"

Classroom practices are most profoundly changed by peer-to-peer interactions -- not by top-down directives. 

One of the most frequent questions I get from school administrators is: "How can I get my teachers to use technology?" (Interestingly, I often hear from classroom teachers who ask: "How can I get my administrators to use technology?")

The issue is complicated and has more to do with tech attitude, than tech aptitude. Educators wear many "faces of fear" when it comes to technology. For some, it's discomfort with the technology itself. For others, it's the unease that technology elicits. Many wear both faces and more. Factor in that schools are highly conservative institutions and it's no surprise that changing educator practices is daunting. 

In an eSchool News editorial I write that classroom practices are most acutely and profoundly changed by peer-to-peer interactions over a sustained period. It's those informal exchanges between educators during the day, and formal peer-to-peer instruction during the year, that can prompt real and lasting instructional change.  Top-down administrative directives simply don’t change beliefs, often provoke resentment, and rarely change teacher practice. Once the door shuts, it's a teacher's classroom and they'll teach how they see fit.   

So, administrators need to identify and enlist respected members of the faculty who can influence their peers. Educators like "Bob." Bob is a veteran member of the faculty and not necessarily tech-savvy. But Bob is not intransigent, either. He is not opposed to using technology, but is skeptical and has reservations and anxieties.

Enlist Bobs and you can influence an entire faculty. Like Bob, most teachers are somewhere in the middle of the tech-integration spectrum. They're not completely opposed to technology, but they're not tech evangelists either. They need to go in steps and be reassured. Put a tech-loving-twenty-something colleague in front of these teachers and you'll see anxiety and apprehension in their eyes. But, put Bob in front of them and you'll get reactions like, "Well, if Bob is willing/can do it, then maybe I will/can." Enlist a few Bobs and you have stepping stones that lead teachers to new insights, burgeoning confidence and the eventual realization of a tech-infused project.