Education is at something of a crossroads right now. As the world becomes more high-tech, schools are trying to keep pace, embedding more software and technology into their curricula to better prepare students for the future. And yet, educators’ attitudes toward this shift remain somewhat split.
Many teachers have embraced the use of technology in their courses. They’ve found novel ways to leverage it and have reported largely positive results. And yet, some educators remain resistant to EdTech. Others have been unable to incorporate it into their curricula, often due to factors outside their control.
Let’s dive deeper into this divide. We’ll start by looking at how some teachers are making the most of available teaching and learning technologies. Then we’ll look at why some educators remain reluctant (or unable) to embrace these technologies – and why they may eventually have to anyway.
How Teachers Use Technology
As mentioned, not all educators are resistant to incorporating technology into their curricula. In fact, a study by Promethean found that almost 60% of teachers claim that: “they are constantly striving to innovate by using technology as a tool for education.”
One of the biggest uses these teachers have found for technology is to increase student engagement. Educators are using social media to keep students up to date and make themselves available to those who need help. Learning Management Systems (LMS) allow educators to consolidate digital course materials, syllabi, and other important information and resources where their students can access them easily from any device.
Digital textbooks and assistive technologies are making courses more accessible. Some eReading tools, such as Kivuto’s Texidium Reader, allow students to share notes and teachers to provide instructions and feedback digitally, directly within assigned reading material. Digital success tools that alert educators to when a student’s progress starts to decline are particularly useful to teachers who take advantage of them, a recent report by EDUCAUSE discovered.
This is all in addition to the increasing amount of software used in classrooms, to prepare students for their careers of choice. Because education is far from the only industry growing more high-tech. The workforce students are preparing to enter is as well, so most students will need at least some level of proficiency with certain software and technology in order to succeed.
Why Some Teachers Don’t
Not all educators have boarded the EdTech bandwagon. Though EDUCAUSE’s report indicates that teachers tend to find technology useful when they use it, it also found that many of them don’t use it.
Some educators may be reluctant to embrace EdTech out of simple preference. A University of San Francisco study found that many teachers in higher education: “use methods based on certain principles from what they have been exposed to, or by how they were taught, influencing the way they teach their own students.” In other words, educators – like everyone – can be creatures of habit.
However, most educators who refrain from using EdTech don’t do so out of stubbornness or technophobia. In fact, Promethean’s research found that most educators believe that tech can help them do their jobs – in theory. The biggest barriers to reaping these benefits lie largely outside of these educators’ control.
Educators are notoriously overworked. Community college instructors and K-12 teachers are responsible for very large numbers of classes and students. University professors often have to balance teaching and research responsibilities, both of which can be quite demanding. Many overburdened educators must wonder where they’re supposed to find time to familiarize themselves with new high-tech tools.
Lack of training is another barrier. Only 16.5% of educators surveyed by Promethean believe they’ve received adequate EdTech training. They lack the expertise to use available tools, and they often aren’t even told what tools are available. This may reflect a failure by academic institutions to include educators in strategic planning. Time and budget constraints play large roles as well. Whatever the reason, the end result is the same. If an educator doesn’t know that a tool exists or how to use it, they can’t bring the benefits of that tech to their classroom.
What Can Be Done
Educators should make an effort to embed technology in their curricula where possible. It provides new ways to engage and interact with students, monitor academic progress, distribute digital resources, and make courses more accessible. It’s also increasingly expected by both students and employers. Keeping education low-tech does no one any good.
For teachers who lack the time to learn new tech, EdTech magazine recommends starting simple, with tools they already use in day-to-day life, like social media. Educators who remain resistant out of principle or preference probably won’t be able to hold out forever. Because as the world becomes more tech-oriented, the pressure to include technology in their teaching will grow, not go away.
Of course, educators can’t be expected to bring this shift about on their own. School leaders need to show initiative in encouraging them to take advantage of available tools. Institutions need to find space in their budgets to provide adequate training on those tools. IT staff need to work around educators’ busy schedules to provide that training. At a minimum, all educators should be made aware of what tools are available so they’ll have the option to take advantage of them should they choose.