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How to Encourage Teachers to Use Technology

4 Min Read
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As educators, we can all appreciate the reality that resistance is a part of human nature. The lead pencil, for instance, was being used for a long time before it ever made its way into the hands of students. At seventy-five cents per dozen, pencils were much too expensive to use in schools. Even with the introduction of the eraser pencil-head around 1903— something that’s now in virtually every student’s hands—teachers feared that erasers would lead to careless writing. But of course, they’re now widely in use, and we know that’s not the case.

Knowing that we can anticipate change and that resistance to change is normal does not necessarily make it any easier. Here’s the question we must answer: How can we encourage teachers who are hesitant to use technology in their practice to take a leap into the wonders of the 21st-century classroom?

4 ways to encourage teachers to use technology

1. Provide training

Support staff with technology training, especially those who do not use it regularly in their personal or professional lives. Technology-centered professional development is critical to long-term success in this endeavor. The digital transformation of schools is already challenged by the ever-accelerating pace of new educational technologies and the ability to keep up with their implementation. But with the right support, teachers will be able to better adjust to using technology in the classroom.

Ideally, every school district should be equipped with instructional technologists, instructional designers, technical support faculty, web development assistants, and video production staff. Professional development resources will manifest themselves differently depending on your school’s situation, but it’s important to have highly-qualified staff available to help teachers with training and consulting.

2. Show data

It’s hard to argue with credible data that demonstrates how technology has improved learning—when teachers see that their colleagues are getting results in the form of higher test scores, increased enrollment, and student satisfaction, they’re more likely to adopt technology. Success stories show teachers that technology is worth using in the classroom to help their students learn.

Additionally, decision-makers need to recognize that teachers are on the front lines and know what’s best for their students—so they need ample opportunities to observe technology in the classroom.

3. Incentivize

In a perfect world, the motivation for implementing technology in the classroom would be entirely intrinsic. Sometimes, however, change needs a nudge. Nobody knows this better than teachers, which is why extrinsic rewards for students are occasionally used. Just as a teacher might ask themselves what they can offer their students to get them to change their behavior, school leaders can ask what they can offer to teachers to get them to dip their toes in the waters of new technology. The dangling carrot will be different for everyone, depending on their circumstances. Is it a financial incentive such as a stipend or a bump in their department budget? Could it be an extended release time or relief from an assigned duty that they dread? Or perhaps it’s a green light to attend that tech workshop they’ve been looking forward to over the past two years.

Administrators who know their faculty well will know precisely how to motivate them. Arguably the wisest decision is to offer an incentive that somehow directly relates to teaching. For example, you can reward teachers who are able to demonstrate that they’re using technology best practices as you begin rolling out these programs. This type of incentivizing may not be that difficult if a culture of rewarding excellent teaching is already in place.

4. Pay attention to consensus

Picture a newly hired teacher who comes from a tech-savvy school district in another state. She joins the team of five fifth-grade teachers, excited to put her background in technology to good use for the benefit of her new students. She soon realizes that only one of her new team members has a similar background of using iPads in the classroom. She receives pushback on iPad use from her other peers. The team isn’t on the same page about technology.

The culture of the department and the school must continuously be on the radar of school leaders. In this case, they must recognize the lack of consensus and intervene. Can the two teachers use iPads on a contingent basis and be allowed to demonstrate their success? Can the other teachers be given specialized training? Is a shift in teaching assignment necessary? The options are many, but the first step to success is having school leadership that is aware and recognizes the difference between healthy and unhealthy consensus.

There are many ways to encourage teachers

As we saw here, there are innumerable ways to encourage teachers to use technology in the classroom successfully. But of course, these things take time—not all teachers will be so quick to embrace technology. The bottom line is that all changes must be made with the best interest in mind. With proper training, relevant data, teacher incentives, and awareness, you can give your teachers the gentle nudge they need to explore technology use in the classroom.

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


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