5 Ways To Support Teachers Skeptical Of Technology

The following article originally appeared on Edudemic.  See the original article here.

For some, the technology rich classroom is easy to justify. Once you have made the transition and seen the benefits, it is easy to weigh them against the potential risks and worries about the problems resulting from having a room full of devices.

For these “dive right in” types, the process makes a lot of sense. Give it a try and see what happens! These are the teachers who typically make up 1:1 and BYOD pilot programs and test groups. They are also the teachers who more often than not are going to lead professional development and share what they have learned.

scared of technology

However, the teachers to whom they will be presenting may not be so easily convinced that this change will be entirely positive. There are reasons that veteran teachers SHOULD be questioning new initiatives and putting them to the “This Too Shall Pass” acid test, crunching the numbers on whether investing in technology will be time well spent. It is part of the reality of being a teacher. As a result, once training begins, there can be problems.

As more schools move to a 1:1 or BYOD format, it becomes increasingly important to support teachers – all teachers – effectively make that transition and to support them in that process. Dismissing their concerns is rarely, if ever, the best answer. Here are a few helpful ways to help reluctant teachers make the transition while showing empathy and understanding.

1. Correctly identify their concern

For many teachers the greatest fear that looming changes hold is the loss of effectiveness. Veteran teachers have worked long and hard to craft a system that gets results. Once they find what works, they are right to embrace it. It is easy to misinterpret this as being uncooperative or dismissive, but understanding their viewpoint will help you to have the conversation in a more constructive and less judgmental way. Demonstrating clearly how technology will increase effectiveness is the single greatest way to win converts and give you common ground to stand on.

2. Listen

When teachers are struggling to implement technology or any other initiative in their classroom often what they need is a chance to talk about what they want to accomplish, and have an instructor guide them to possible solutions. Offering too many options too fast, minimizing the difficulty of the transition, or dismissing their concerns outright, only makes it more stressful. We often talk about how technology helps us to meet the needs of our students. We need to be clear on how it also meets the needs of the teachers.

3. Build on what they are already doing well

Often we make the mistake of asking teachers to implement technology to improve on a lesson or unit where they feel that they are not currently being effective. Suggest that teachers implement technology into a lesson that IS effective in order to show them how it can help them to be even more so. These units are often points of passion for the teachers where they have invested time to get successful results. Here teachers will not be constructing an entirely new unit from the ground-up, but seeing instead how technology can augment previous successes. It is a more forgiving entry point from which they can operate from a position of greater comfort.

4. Help them understand that simply using technology is not the same as APPROPRIATE and MEANINGFUL use

Supporting effective technology integration means more than just mandating its use. Much like teaching people how to drive, we should not be too overly excited just because people will get behind the wheel and spin around a parking lot. That is a great starting point, but it is just that. Setting the bar higher, discussing pedagogy and framework, makes it clear that there is educational value and weakens the image of technology as a faddish gimmick. Establishing a conversation that defines meaningful and appropriate use, and allowing teachers the professional time to share their practice with each, will help the entire school to grow and build upon each other’s successes.

5. Let them know the greater “Why?”

Change for change’s sake will never be as meaningful as change that is focused on achieving a shared goal or objective. If your school can effectively align your program with your school and community goals and values, accepting it will make a lot more sense. Too often new programs seem to undercut or debase previous initiatives, causing confusion or a sense of changing direction. (Part of this can be caused by dramatic unveilings and theatrical rollouts.) For teachers, this can seem like their work – and more importantly their time – have been lost. Demonstrating how technology initiatives are another part of a step towards the established goals of your school will help these teachers move past their initial sense of reluctance. Teachers may be more likely to move forward if they view this as the next step on a continuing journey, and not a new journey altogether.

4 thoughts on “5 Ways To Support Teachers Skeptical Of Technology

  1. Some terrific points here Shawn. You mention school goals and pedagogy shifts, I contend that there is tremendous value in developing a community of learning that includes the instructor. What about the students’ learning goals? Teachers should focus more on learning about their students while students demonstrate, or teach, their learning – most likely using technology, because this is what they know. This role reversal is my conceptualization of the “flipped classroom”. Great teachers don’t teach.
    http://www.edutopia.org/blog/great-teachers-do-not-teach-ben-johnson Many professions need to keep current and shift practice to increase effectiveness and efficiency. Education shouldn’t be any different. That is unless we want schools to become obsolete. So while I personally believe that instructional technologies are requisites to the times, it is more important to focus on the needs and goals of the learners – the technology will become naturally ingrained. Thanks for igniting the conversation.


    1. I agree that teachers need to teach less and foster “individual expressions of student learning” more. But who is the gatekeeper to that change? It begins with the individual classroom teacher. They need comfort and understanding of what the technology can do. I often suggest that as teachers “do we really need to understand the process by which a project was created in order to see that the student has mastered the objective.” The answer is no. The difficulty is in allowing students and their knowledge of technology to exceed that of the teacher. In my humble opinion that can be an issue of DOMINION and the teachers desire to control. This is a concept that takes time to abandon and SUPPORT for the veteran teacher who is undergoing it.

      The flipped model is just one effective way to use tech in the classroom. My one reservation with it is that when one uses the term “Flipped Classroom” they say it as if a conversion has taken place even though flipping is just one technique. (Would it be positive to say I have “lectured” my classroom or “Jigsawed” my classroom? No, because those are tools that are employed periodically, in a balanced way, when appropriate.) I love flipping lessons. Here is one I just made. http://goo.gl/1S4oT I use it as a tool to vary my classroom, be more effective with time and focus on more interactive classroom activities, but I fear that at some point overcommitment and misapplication of the model will lead to a class that lacks instructional variation.


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