Three simple ways to help teachers be more productive with technology

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Most teachers that I meet want to incorporate technology to support and enhance student learning. One conversation particularly stuck in my mind when the teacher said:

“Yes, I would like to have my students be more creative with technology, I only wish I knew how to use it [technology] better myself.”

A number of teachers face the same problem in that they feel challenged by technology, so much so that it is actually making their working lives harder rather than easier. Take, for example, email. Without a doubt it has helped with communication but on the downside, if we do not know how to use email effectively such as create different folders to store mail, flag items for follow-up, place a signature on a message etc, the whole email thing can become rather overwhelming and frustrating for all concerned.

What we need is for teachers to enjoy working with technology by minimising the frustrations and allowing them to master at least the basics to function effectively in today’s school environments. There are three simple steps to help teachers become more productive with technology that schools can take:

  1. Provide support with the most commonly used applications. It is worth surveying your school to see which applications are most used by teachers and the varying levels of competency with each app. You can then prioritize needs and plan training to suit. Remember, differentiation is crucial to getting teachers to fully embrace learning with technology.
  2. Have a range of resources for teachers to go to. Build up a bank of videos, screenshots and tutorials that show teachers how to do particular things with certain applications. These resources could be created by staff in your own school or provide links to sites that offer tutorials e.g. MacMost, or curate resources and provide access to them on your school’s learning management system.
  3. Create a certification system to encourage competency and mastery. There are schools that subscribe to technology professional development providers e.g. Lynda.com and teachers are given the opportunity to or are required to take courses to improve their skills. These courses could be fully funded by a school or subsidized. If your budget does not stretch that far, then create your own certification system that teachers are able to put on their resume. When recruiting teachers it is very helpful to know the level of technology competence before making a decision to hire.

In some ways this all sounds a bit boring, as we do not get into how teachers can really make a difference in supporting students learning with technology and the excitement that comes with it. It does, however, do us good to be reminded of the fact that there are a number of things that teachers do not get training with. We assume a certain level of skill with email, Word, PowerPoint etc. Assumptions are dangerous and there are many teachers who would like to be more productive with these apps, so that they can be more productive elsewhere with improving student learning. I know that if improve my touch typing skills, then my opportunities to be more productive and useful will increase. What would your teachers like support with?

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