'Let’s Be Pirates,' or How to Support Reluctant Tech Users

By Katrina Stevens     Sep 12, 2013

'Let’s Be Pirates,' or How to Support Reluctant Tech Users

Whoosh! Strategies and resources to support reluctant tech teacherswere streaming at a rapid pace during Monday night’s #EdTechChat--approximately onetweet every two seconds to be exact. As one participant, Mike Smith(@_Mike_Sweet) wrote, “I’ve seen geysers that were slower flowing than#edtechchat tonight!”  Participants camefrom across the education spectrum and from around the US and abroad: classroomteachers, principals, district administrators, technology coaches and edtechcreators.

Here’s some of their collective wisdom for helping theirpeers become more comfortable with infusing technology:

Cultivate a Safe,Risk-Free Environment

Many participants emphasized the critical role cultureplayed at schools. In particular teachers need safe places to try newtechnology with their students. As a member of the @TaughtIt team shared: “Astudent of any age requires a safe and comfortable place to try, fail, &learn without fear of scrutiny.” Sharon LePage Plante, co-moderator of#EdTechChat, admits to her colleagues that even though “I am a tech person…techis scary to me too.” Reassuring teachers that even “techies” don’t know all ofthe answers can create a more open environment.

The need to foster a culture where it’s okay for bothteachers and students to fail is a recurring them in #EdTechChat conversations.Jonathan Werner (@MaineSchoolTech) tries to create this culture at his school:“One of the things I try to model most (often on purpose) is making mistakesand not knowing the answer to show it isn’t scary.”  Technology inevitably will not work exactly asplanned; the first time trying a new piece of technology it may not workperfectly, and that’s okay.

Another way to making professional development work forreluctant teachers is to make it just-in-time and able to be viewedindividually. Tara Linney (@TechTeacherT) likes to create “how-to videos thatare less than 5 minutes” and then “invites staff to follow up with her asneeded.” Teachers can watch these videoswhenever and wherever it’s convenient. For reluctant teachers, this also meansthey can watch them as many times as they need.  Shari Sloane (@ShariSloane) of#LadyGeeks is a big fan of this kind of approach. She wants to “flip PD” sothat teachers can “learn when they want!”

William Jenkins (@EdTech_Stories) alsoadvocates creating a "'lets-be-pirates’ counter-culturefor tech enthusiasts” so that “others will want to join the club.”  Look like you’re having so much fun thatothers want to join your edtech shenanigans!

Identify theObstacles

It’s important to identify the factors that make ateacher reluctant to try tech in their classrooms. Is it because of fear? Timepressures? Lack of knowledge of where to begin?  General resistance to change?  Identifying the obstacles shapes the approach.

Teachers need to understand the “why” of using specifictechnology, not just the "how," and the new tools must be tied to real classroom use. A broad proclamation to begin using more technology in theclassroom is nowhere near as effective as a teacher seeing how a particularprogram or device can help her own students learn more effectively.

One participant, @vandalgrad, pointed out that it’s also “important to separate ‘reluctantusers’ from teachers who aren't strong teachers. Tech won't solve the latter.” Unfortunately, in the same way technology canamplify an amazing teacher, it can also amplify a less effective teacher.

Keep It Focused on Students

One key strategy for nudging reluctant teachers to implementtechnology is to frame the conversation around how tech can help theirstudents. Erin Murphy (@MurphysMusings5) suggests that we“remind them that it is not about the tool, but about the new learning the toolprovides to their students.”  Whenteachers recognize that using technology supports their students achieving,they’re more willing to jump on board. A blanket statement like “you should startusing technology in your classroom” provides teachers with no context and notrue motivation.  Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt)confirmed, “I rarely want to learn anything I don’t think is meaningful oruseful.”

Ryan Horne (@ryanhorne00076) also recognizesthat “kids need to see teachers trying new things, making mistakes, and rollingwith it.”  Recognizing this truth can alsohelp sway teachers toward taking the risk of trying something new.

Sharon LePage Plante, co-moderator of#EdTechChat, advocates “putting tech in student hands because letting teacherssee how it can impact learning can be very encouraging” and motivating.  AlissaSmith (@CappiesCorner) goes further and suggests that teachers should lettheir students teach them: “Don’t think of your ego; think of how big it willmake theirs!”  Susan Bearden, anotherco-moderator of #EdTechChat, echoes this idea of involving students in teachingthe teachers. She loved that Dr. Roland Rios (@drrios) “has his students createscreencasts to show teachers how to use tech tools.”  Empower students to share their knowledge withteachers—everyone wins!

Step-by-Baby-Step

Start small. When teachers are reluctant or uncomfortableusing technology, they, like students, need support at their current level. TomMurray, the third co-moderator Monday night, argues that we should “teach adultslike you would kids. Differentiate, level, support, let them run, follow up,support, let them teach.”

Teachers need to know they don’t have to do it all at once.Jill Thompson (@Edu_Thompson) says of teachers that  “they think they have to know everything,which they don’t.”

Often hesitant teachers need one-on-one assistance to helpdevelop their confidence. Plante recommends that teacher leaders “pick one thingto meet a teacher’s needs, introduce it at their level, and take the timeneeded not to overwhelm them.”  Plante maintains that the “best resource for reluctant teachers is time…give your time,your patience and your ear.”  Accordingto Murray, “administrators can also schedule time for ‘reluctant users’ toobserve colleagues doing it well.”

Modeling

Teachers had a lot to say about the importance of modeling. Ifteachers are expected to use technology meaningfully, then they want their administrators andother teacher leaders to model this behavior.  Justin Staub (@DrStaubSTEM) proposed thatat the “next traditional PD, someone should start a hashtag for the event,project the stream and watch the PD experience multiply." Murray takes thisstrategy even further by inviting teachers to participate in a weekly Twitter Challenge atQuakertown. Jonathan Werner (@MaineSchoolTech) also shared a strategy headopted from David Warlick who “starts every talk with "Something I Didn't Know Yesterday" to modellifelong learning.” Now Werner does this with all of his presentations.

And if all else fails, according to Werner, there’s always “shamelessbribery!”

Want to catch the full #edtechchat stream? Check out the archives for afull transcript. 


'Let’s Be Pirates,' or How to Support Reluctant Tech Users

By Katrina Stevens     Sep 12, 2013

'Let’s Be Pirates,' or How to Support Reluctant Tech Users

Whoosh! Strategies and resources to support reluctant tech teacherswere streaming at a rapid pace during Monday night’s #EdTechChat--approximately onetweet every two seconds to be exact. As one participant, Mike Smith(@_Mike_Sweet) wrote, “I’ve seen geysers that were slower flowing than#edtechchat tonight!”  Participants camefrom across the education spectrum and from around the US and abroad: classroomteachers, principals, district administrators, technology coaches and edtechcreators.

Here’s some of their collective wisdom for helping theirpeers become more comfortable with infusing technology:

Cultivate a Safe,Risk-Free Environment

Many participants emphasized the critical role cultureplayed at schools. In particular teachers need safe places to try newtechnology with their students. As a member of the @TaughtIt team shared: “Astudent of any age requires a safe and comfortable place to try, fail, &learn without fear of scrutiny.” Sharon LePage Plante, co-moderator of#EdTechChat, admits to her colleagues that even though “I am a tech person…techis scary to me too.” Reassuring teachers that even “techies” don’t know all ofthe answers can create a more open environment.

The need to foster a culture where it’s okay for bothteachers and students to fail is a recurring them in #EdTechChat conversations.Jonathan Werner (@MaineSchoolTech) tries to create this culture at his school:“One of the things I try to model most (often on purpose) is making mistakesand not knowing the answer to show it isn’t scary.”  Technology inevitably will not work exactly asplanned; the first time trying a new piece of technology it may not workperfectly, and that’s okay.

Another way to making professional development work forreluctant teachers is to make it just-in-time and able to be viewedindividually. Tara Linney (@TechTeacherT) likes to create “how-to videos thatare less than 5 minutes” and then “invites staff to follow up with her asneeded.” Teachers can watch these videoswhenever and wherever it’s convenient. For reluctant teachers, this also meansthey can watch them as many times as they need.  Shari Sloane (@ShariSloane) of#LadyGeeks is a big fan of this kind of approach. She wants to “flip PD” sothat teachers can “learn when they want!”

William Jenkins (@EdTech_Stories) alsoadvocates creating a "'lets-be-pirates’ counter-culturefor tech enthusiasts” so that “others will want to join the club.”  Look like you’re having so much fun thatothers want to join your edtech shenanigans!

Identify theObstacles

It’s important to identify the factors that make ateacher reluctant to try tech in their classrooms. Is it because of fear? Timepressures? Lack of knowledge of where to begin?  General resistance to change?  Identifying the obstacles shapes the approach.

Teachers need to understand the “why” of using specifictechnology, not just the "how," and the new tools must be tied to real classroom use. A broad proclamation to begin using more technology in theclassroom is nowhere near as effective as a teacher seeing how a particularprogram or device can help her own students learn more effectively.

One participant, @vandalgrad, pointed out that it’s also “important to separate ‘reluctantusers’ from teachers who aren't strong teachers. Tech won't solve the latter.” Unfortunately, in the same way technology canamplify an amazing teacher, it can also amplify a less effective teacher.

Keep It Focused on Students

One key strategy for nudging reluctant teachers to implementtechnology is to frame the conversation around how tech can help theirstudents. Erin Murphy (@MurphysMusings5) suggests that we“remind them that it is not about the tool, but about the new learning the toolprovides to their students.”  Whenteachers recognize that using technology supports their students achieving,they’re more willing to jump on board. A blanket statement like “you should startusing technology in your classroom” provides teachers with no context and notrue motivation.  Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt)confirmed, “I rarely want to learn anything I don’t think is meaningful oruseful.”

Ryan Horne (@ryanhorne00076) also recognizesthat “kids need to see teachers trying new things, making mistakes, and rollingwith it.”  Recognizing this truth can alsohelp sway teachers toward taking the risk of trying something new.

Sharon LePage Plante, co-moderator of#EdTechChat, advocates “putting tech in student hands because letting teacherssee how it can impact learning can be very encouraging” and motivating.  AlissaSmith (@CappiesCorner) goes further and suggests that teachers should lettheir students teach them: “Don’t think of your ego; think of how big it willmake theirs!”  Susan Bearden, anotherco-moderator of #EdTechChat, echoes this idea of involving students in teachingthe teachers. She loved that Dr. Roland Rios (@drrios) “has his students createscreencasts to show teachers how to use tech tools.”  Empower students to share their knowledge withteachers—everyone wins!

Step-by-Baby-Step

Start small. When teachers are reluctant or uncomfortableusing technology, they, like students, need support at their current level. TomMurray, the third co-moderator Monday night, argues that we should “teach adultslike you would kids. Differentiate, level, support, let them run, follow up,support, let them teach.”

Teachers need to know they don’t have to do it all at once.Jill Thompson (@Edu_Thompson) says of teachers that  “they think they have to know everything,which they don’t.”

Often hesitant teachers need one-on-one assistance to helpdevelop their confidence. Plante recommends that teacher leaders “pick one thingto meet a teacher’s needs, introduce it at their level, and take the timeneeded not to overwhelm them.”  Plante maintains that the “best resource for reluctant teachers is time…give your time,your patience and your ear.”  Accordingto Murray, “administrators can also schedule time for ‘reluctant users’ toobserve colleagues doing it well.”

Modeling

Teachers had a lot to say about the importance of modeling. Ifteachers are expected to use technology meaningfully, then they want their administrators andother teacher leaders to model this behavior.  Justin Staub (@DrStaubSTEM) proposed thatat the “next traditional PD, someone should start a hashtag for the event,project the stream and watch the PD experience multiply." Murray takes thisstrategy even further by inviting teachers to participate in a weekly Twitter Challenge atQuakertown. Jonathan Werner (@MaineSchoolTech) also shared a strategy headopted from David Warlick who “starts every talk with "Something I Didn't Know Yesterday" to modellifelong learning.” Now Werner does this with all of his presentations.

And if all else fails, according to Werner, there’s always “shamelessbribery!”

Want to catch the full #edtechchat stream? Check out the archives for afull transcript. 


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