Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency


It’s 2012. Technology suffuses everything around us. The Internet and Internet browsers have been pretty mainstream for at least a decade.

And yet, I continually run into significant numbers of educators who still don’t know how to work their Internet browser. They struggle with copying and pasting. They get confused just clicking between 2 or 3 different browser tabs. They don’t conceptually understand the difference between their browser’s Google search box and the box where they can actually type in the URL and get there directly. They have no idea that they can right-click on things like hyperlinks or images. And so on… [And this is just the Internet browser. I’m not even talking about individual software programs or online tools.]

What hope do these teachers have of providing meaningful, technology-rich learning experiences for their students? What hope do these leaders have of creating and adequately supporting powerful, technology-rich learning environments for students and staff? Little to none.

Is it even possible to get these educators to where they need to be? How are we going to do what we need to do for our kids when our current levels of technology fluency and understanding are so low?

Can you tell I’m really struggling with this lately?

[Guiding question: What can we do to build the internal capacity of both individual educators and school systems to be better learners and faster change agents?]

Image credit: Shutterstock

[cross-posted at Education Recoded]

87 Responses to “Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency”

  1. I have been struggling with this as well. I have teachers who, when I mention some new technology or a tool that they can use, will go off, learn it, and come up with even more creative things to do with it than I would. And then I have those, who, when asked whether they might be interested in exploring, say, etexts, say, no way. And these are the browser illiterate types. And then I have those who are in between. They struggle to learn, but they are willing. They’re not as facile with the tech, and they don’t quite spend as much time as they should figuring stuff out as they probably should.

    The issue for me is that the illiterate among our faculty have the potential to hold us back by vetoing initiatives and worse, by creating classrooms wher their students are at a disadvantage compared to peers who are in other teachers’ classes where they’re getting a rich experience with technology.

    I am not sure yet what to do about it. Mandates end up being met with a lot of grumbling and with meeting the mandate in name only. Professional development tends to attract only those who are already doing appropriate things with tech, what I see kind of happening is that new hires are putting inherent pressure on more senior teachers to adopt better practices or go (voluntarily or otherwise). So perhaps it’s in hiring practices that can move things forward.

    • I think you’re right. It’s tough (and not preferable) to mandate for existing staff. It can be done, and I think generally we need to do a much better job of making explicit our needs and expectations when it comes to technology. But maybe we can more easily hire for what we need (assuming the pool has what we need)…

    • Don’t you feel that somewhere along the way teachers stopped being learners? I don’t feel that learning “technology” is the issue, but learning in general. Shouldn’t all teachers be expert learners, and how can you be an expert learner if you are not well versed in how to leverage technology for that purpose? What if your doctor said “you know it is just to much work to stay current – we are going to do things like we did 20 years ago… you ok with that”

  2. I was helping one of my colleagues learn how to use his scanner the other day, and he said to me, “Matt, when I was first exposed to computers, it was the old system where if you typed the wrong thing, you could erase everything, and they really put the fear of God into us.” I think a lot of teacher’s resistance to new tech is based on this kind of fear.

  3. Struggling with [students’] lack of technology fluency

    It’s 2012. Technology suffuses everything around us. The Internet and Internet browsers have been pretty mainstream for at least a decade.

    And yet, I continually run into significant numbers of [students] who still don’t know how to work their Internet browser. They struggle with copying and pasting. They get confused just clicking between 2 or 3 different browser tabs. They don’t conceptually understand the difference between their browser’s Google search box and the box where they can actually type in the URL and get there directly. They have no idea that they can right-click on things like hyperlinks or images. And so on… [And this is just the Internet browser. I’m not even talking about individual software programs or online tools.]

    Is it even possible to get these [students] to where they need to be? How are we going to do what we need to do [to meet curriculum standards] when our current levels of technology fluency and understanding are so low?

    Can you tell I’m really struggling with this lately?

    1) My students often come to me with these inabilities, but I still show respect to them.
    2) Aren’t these educators your students?
    3) Tough’n up.

    • I think I’m pretty respectful. When I do PD work with educators, they state repeatedly that they appreciate my patience and how I effectively explain / show them things. But that doesn’t solve the bigger issue…

      Interesting twist to think about this for our students too. I’ll have to think on that a bit. Thanks.

      • Ry makes an important point, Scott, on two levels. First, I teach teens and adults at the community college level who fall into this technology illiteracy you describe. Many of them have not had access to these tools or even to the Internet on any regular basis (yes, there are still places like that in the US. I have students whose only access at home is still dial-up).

        Second, we should think of our peers as we do our students, who come to us with all levels of prior knowledge and experiences. My most rewarding work with teachers and technology happened when I was a lead teacher in a rural high school. I spent half-day teaching classes; other half working usually one-on-one or in small groups with teachers. Those were some of the most productive sessions, as I helped them explore tech use in what they felt was a safe environment (just as we try to provide in our classrooms)–with opportunity to fail and experiment. It will take much more of that type of interaction to bring more of our teachers and students into full tech literacy.

        • I wanted to reiterate your comment about working with teachers one-on-one and how infinitely more productive and meaningful this type of “training/teaching” can be. I have worked with staff for a number of years in learning and using technology, and since you are addressing an individual’s skill level, specific curricular and professional goals, and fear levels, success is imminent, especially if the teacher is open and willing to improve their own tech literacy.

    • Ry, I think the difference is that our students don’t control or slow down what the rest of their class is going to learn. When you have interested teachers who aren’t able to live up to their potential because some of their peers refuse to learn, that’s a problem.

    • Seeing students struggle with basic technology is a result of teachers not fully, and consistently, utilizing technology as a learning tool.

      I embrace teachers who struggle, but are willing. I have a relly hard time with teachers who struggle and are unwilling to learn. To me, these are two very different groups.

      What would we do if a said they really weren’t good at math so they’re not going to teach math. When the principal says they have to an they half-headtedly teach it (but not really), how would we handle that?

      Technology as a learning tool is as basic as math and reading.

  4. This option depends greatly on the age of the student (I’m at a K-12 school), but I suggest students from grades 5 or 6 and up be allowed to choose the tools they use and for the less proficient teacher to let them go. You need to keep in mind that most tech standards I’ve read talk about publishing, so let the kids go. When I was teaching 5th grade science I wanted to use Microsoft Telescope, but I just didn’t have the time to learn the program. So I asked some students if they would like to take some time to play with the program (which is the only way to learn) so we could use it. They did and then they ended up leading the training. It worked out for everybody. Those students are freshmen now, but they still talk about the day they taught the class. Another example occurred last year when we were working with Movie Maker. I’ve used the program plenty of times, but one of my seniors was a wizard with it. He was our starting QB and he published weekly highlights on YouTube! I asked him to help out.
    The basic issue isn’t about technology its about power. My purpose is to help them learn, not to teach. If that means I let a student lead, I lead, or we all learn together.
    Stop worrying so much about teaching and start thinking about learning.

    • “The basic issue isn’t about technology its about power. My purpose is to help them learn, not to teach. If that means I let a student lead, I lead, or we all learn together.
      Stop worrying so much about teaching and start thinking about learning.”

      You said it so well, Doug!! You are absolutely right about the power issue. When we think about all the information and learning tools that are out there we teachers seem like such a small piece of the puzzle; Especially if we think of ourselves as information deliverers.

      But that is not what we need to be today! We need to be facilitators that inspire our students to do more than they thought they could do. It is our job to push them to where they feel a bit uncomfortable and help them get over that obstacle.

      I loved your example about having the students learn the technology first! I actually did the same thing with Motion Detectors in my Physics class. I knew that they would be able to figure it out and I learned so much from them.

      In all honesty, sometimes I struggle with the loss of power in my classroom, because sometimes it translates into loss of control and management of the situation. But, I just chalk it up to growing pains and I’m learning a lot about how to let the kids go, but still keep things organized and manageable in the classroom.

  5. I think you will always find this split between the tech savvy and the tech novice and interestingly, it is not always generational. I have found that fear is a major factor in why some teachers don’t embrace technology. Fear of “breaking it”, fear of change, of feeling inadequate, it all plays into their reluctance. I have noticed FINALLY that after saying it over and over again, that they really won’t be able to break anything that can’t be fixed, that teachers are starting to play a little bit more.

    I think the real problem is that embracing technology requires a major mind shift in how you see yourself as an educator and quite frankly not everyone is a believer. We’re asking people who have spent their lives in front of the classroom imparting their knowledge to take a backseat and let the students drive their learning. Many people are thinking, “hang on I didn’t sign up for this!”

    I just keep praying that once they see the excitement of the students when they are truly engaged, they will step out of their comfort zone and start taking those tips you’ve been providing all along.

    My philosophy is just keep throwing things at them and eventually some of it will stick!

  6. I am struggling with the image you chose to accompany this post. It is often assumed that those of us who are older are the one who are not tech literate. I am 51 and probably the most tech literate person in my building and I am pretty good at it.

    Additionally, those that I have come across at a myriad of online tech conferences and seminars and the like, are more nearer my age than not. How do I know? I ask.

    • No offense or assumptions intended. Just a stock image. Sorry, Penny. I don’t make any age-based generalizations either. I find the differences to be much more related to proclivity to be a learner and take risks than anything else…

    • Hear hear! At age 66, I had the first Internet connection in my school – an old pre-286 PC that my middle-school-age son (now a 31 year-old QA techie) connected to a dedicated line I talked the school into providing for me. I made many mistakes using the technology especially in the early days. In the last five or so years, I learned to take a back seat to my young students as they increasingly surpassed me with skills and become as much mentor as teacher (a change I philosophically valued). However, I appreciate the struggle it is for older people who were not early adapters. Living in a youth oriented culture where aging makes one feel increasingly less and less visible, it can be hard to believe one’s contributions are still valued and/or worthwhile..

  7. But you did make an age-based generalization, as Ry tried to point out! You assumed that somehow teachers are older, that they are different than our students. Unless you’re implying that it is an educators job to become more technologically literate, as part of their professional development. Which if that’s the case, you need to state this explicitly.

    If you’re implying that there is a gap between “digital natives” (our students) and teachers, then Ry is right on.

    • Thanks, Jared.

      You’re correct that I did make an age-based generalization that many of our educators, most of whom have been adults during the past decade, are still not fluent with fairly basic technology skills. And I think that’s to the detriment of our students and our society. I definitely think students should have these skills too (and in many cases they’re far ahead of the adults around them). But even if they don’t, it’s a bit harder to hold a 10-year-old ‘accountable’ (if that’s the term we want to use) for not being a more accomplished learner over the past decade.

      Of course it’s part of educators’ jobs to become more technologically literate. Our entire information landscape is technology-suffused. Knowledge work is technology-suffused. And we as educators are supposed to be doing knowledge work, preparing our students to do knowledge work, and preparing our students for a technology-suffused information landscape.

      So there’s some balance of personal responsibility and institutional responsibility necessary to get our educators’ technology-related knowledge, skills, and understanding more up to speed. I don’t know exactly what that balance is, but I know that the results of our individual and institutional technology learning so far are pretty unspectacular in most school systems.

  8. I too struggle with this and here is my approach.

    With students I make the expectation known well before they are enrolled (post-secondary T&I). They know that they will be using a variety of technologies, blogging, research and communication in a variety of ways. They may do this with traditional ‘desktops’ to their favorite mobile devise. Then of course I must model and encourage their use.

    With colleagues I generally cajole and encourage by modeling the same. This works for those who want it, not so much for those who do not.

    It is my opinion that it is difficult to teach the unwilling, and that is not my charge. I’ve plenty to do already. If you want it, here it is…and I will advocate for you. If you’re not ready now, maybe later. Maybe not.

    My opinion about how we approach technology is two fold and simple. It comes from within the faculty, in a grassroots movement, as innovation. Supported by administration, ALLOWED by IT (another issue completely) and embraced by that very faculty who hunger for innovation. Innovation that supports and demonstrates student learning for the good of the order.

    To often though we are caught up into the minutiae of the day-to-day questions of hardware, access, protocols, and egos. In the end my own myopic vision sees equipment stipends for BYOD’s, wide open high-speed wireless and remote access through the institutional firewall for secure data. As cold as it sounds, I do not see a place for the tech Luddite in this view. Right or wrong? No, it just is.

  9. An interesting post and set of comments. Scott’s frustration resonates with me, and I have no doubt that he is a patient and supportive colleague. Frankly however we have to start expecting better and raising the bar. I think that we could start by ensuring that institutions allow people to work on their own devices if they prefer to do so, the familiar is less worrying. No more excuses please, if you can bank online you can use technology 🙂

  10. Hey Scott, your thinking correlates with mine!Why did you use the pic of the old lady? I am 52 years old and am definitely into integrating tech in my room. It’s not just us old people you know! 🙂
    “Why I Don’t Use Technology: Anti-Tech Teachers Lament has No Standing!”

  11. Been there. After 6 years as a media specialist and 4 as an integrator, I struggle for the answer every day. When I left my last district I was helping wrap up iPad training and its burned into my memory the snarls on people’s faces that day. They were being given and trained on how to use roughly $2000 worth of equipment and some were down right hostile. My next shot at PD planning is flipped. Kristin Daniels up in MN is having a lot of success with that. Can’t keep doing the after school training or learning “event.”

  12. The main thing that frustrates me is the fact we wouldn’t let our students flatly reject the exposure to technology. But when teachers, who are not natives to technology, refuse to even try they feel justified. I have a crazy idea: let’s hold our teachers to the same measure as our students.

  13. I had this EXACT conversation just the other DECADE! I started doing ed tech consulting and professional development in 1995. This thread could have taken place any time since that date and nothing would have changed except the specific technologies.

    Until or unless the necessary technology proficiency is a prerequisite for a teaching certificate little will change.

  14. It’s an international problem, that’s for sure. What we’re doing to mitigate this phenomenon is;

    1. Creating support structures; e.g. tech-savvy teachers to support others. In one of my Academies, we have a Lead Teacher – Digital Pedagogies who has some non-contact time to work alongside (‘team teach’) colleagues to raise confidence and up-skill. This approach is founded on the perception that it is fear of failure which prevents many teachers from moving away from tried and tested methods. We also have an eLearning Support Service, as distinct from IT technical services, the job of which is to make teachers’ lives easier by creating resources, managing the Learning Platform, delivering training. Tech being ‘an extra thing to worry about’ needs to be removed as a barrier, to a certain extent

    2. Using colleague-led coaching trios. There is strong research evidence that the most effective technology CPD for teachers is that delivered by colleagues they respect, in contexts they understand, which sounds like plain common sense to me! Our coaching programme puts together trios of teachers that have at least one tech-savvy and one technophobe in them. We are running 3 cycles this year, each with a different foci, which follow the structure of Plan a lesson involving tech – Deliver it – Reflect on its impact, all done as a trio. We’ve had to make this a priority and point extra teacher time at the initiative.

    3. Ground-up pressure. Through a range of different, tiny actions, from leaders, colleagues and students, we’re trying to create a culture where saying ‘technology’s just not my thing’ is not acceptable in this profession. It wouldn’t be allowed in the medical world, the military, law enforcement, retail – it’s an essential skill, not a desirable one. We’re creating a Technology Teaching Passport of levelled skills, running inter-departmental innovation sharing events, making and promoting videos of good practice, teaching students to expect tech-enabled practice, sharing the ICT vision with staff repeatedly, praising the normal when it’s exhibited by the unwilling… I could go on for ages here.

  15. “They don’t conceptually understand the difference between their browser’s Google search box and the box where they can actually type in the URL and get there directly. ”
    As an educator, I can relate to this but only a little.
    Our IT provider updated our browser ( without consultation or informing us) and removed the Google search box. The URL line doubles as search and address box.
    This is only one example of IT being foisted upon us with no PD offered…..
    We are weary of this treatment and folk just disengage.
    Don’t blame us for others’ shortcomings.

    • @Nick: But is there not a certain amount of learning that adults can be expected to handle for themselves? Do we need to schedule an inservice workshop every time there’s a software update, or isn’t part of 21st century learning (for both adults and students) learning how to problem solve and figure some things out for yourself?

  16. Sue King (@sking58) Reply October 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm


    In some ways I share your frustration. I am even older than the person who took exception to the photo used and I also believe I am fairly tech literate and work hard to remain so. I just started working in a new school district and the level of technology use – for educational purposes, as well as basic operations – truly surprised me. More troubling, however, was the lack of any sense of urgency to change or anyone in a leadership capacity taking initiative to learn anything (beyond a feeling that we should let kids bring in their own technology from home if they have it as long as we can figure out how to shut off any access to the internet). However, in looking at the district and the financial challenges they have been facing, I am not sure I can fault the people within the district. If you work in a system where there is no leadership and no support and if the vast majority of your job responsibilities – which for the administrators in this district are extremely demanding and time-consuming – do not require you to know or use technology – what would compel you to do otherwise? And honestly, how would you have the time and energy? My bigger frustration lies with district, local school board, and state level leadership – or lack thereof. I am desperate to get some assistance in figuring out how I can help shape a plan for my district and be instrumental in providing our students with the type of educational experience they need for their futures, but finding that support is also not easy. I have lots of ideas and lots of questions, but am still working on where to get some help with the answers!

  17. I , too, find this frustrating as I believe in tech integration in education. I am finding that tech integration means having new computers for standardized tests and I want to scream. Tech integration is not an age issue for me as I see brand new teachers not “getting” the importance. It’s not about the technology, it’s about student learning integrating technology as I always say. In trying to understand why this is still an issue (I have also blogged about this), I have come to the conclusion that tech integration will not change until every student in every school in every district in the US has access to technology and teachers who understand how to step outside their personal comfort zone to change their pedagogy about what students need to learn in this 21sttogether century we are already 12done years into. It’s a conversation that needs to stay in the forefront. And yes, I am one of those “older” teachers who is more tech savvy than my colleagues at school. Thanks for the post and conversation.

  18. AHHH, this is the bain of my work week!

    I really wish that some of my colleges could move into the 1990’s.

    I work at a secondary school where there are a few of us that are doing some interesting things and pushing the limitations of the hard, and soft, ware around us. we have multiple classes that are fully equipped with tech gear, ipad or macbooks. Most of their classes they walk in and are expected to use the gear. But others they are told to put their Walkmen’s away…. Can you imagen?!?!

    I guess I am just venting… But as profesional and ‘life long learners’ it really seems that some of us have signed off and are just doing what they have done year after year for the last three decades… Hmm, but with teacher being disrespected in society and media over the last couple of decades can we blame them? …I struggle with this… Would I want my Own kids in their classrooms… My Own kids will be arriving at secondary school with Tablets and God help the teacher who tell them to put it away.

    Thanks for the post… I feel much better now…

  19. [ Spell-checked version! {dyslexic teacher, who has not learned to edit his work!… }]

    AHHH, this is the bane of my workweek!

    I really wish that some of my colleagues could move into the 1990′s.

    I work at a secondary school where there are a few of us that are doing some interesting things and pushing the limitations of the hard, and software around us. We have multiple classes that are fully equipped with tech gear, ipad or macbooks. Most of their classes they walk in and are expected to use the gear. But in others they are told to put their Walkmens away…. Can you imagine?!?!

    I guess I am just venting… But as profesional and ‘life long learner’ it really seems that some of us have signed off and are just doing what we have done year after year for the last three decades… Hmm .. . But with teachers being disrespected in society and media over the last couple of decades can we blame them? …I struggle with this… Would I want my own kids in their classrooms… My own children will be arriving at secondary school with Tablets and God help the teacher who tells them to put it away.

    Thanks for the post… and the opportunity to vent. I feel much better now…

  20. I feel your frustration, but could you find the support for those teachers with obvious lacking to explore, through inquiry, with their students? Not requiring the teacher to be the expert may reduce the anxiety and allow some pretty creative things to happen. Good luck and hopefully I can read about some positive results and how they came about.

  21. There are technophobes in all walks of life and across all ages. Sometimes the issue is lack of access or lack of time rather than inclination. To be fair to teachers, they are invariably time poor and under pressure to implement lots of changes aside from technology. And those changes keep on rolling on, so that teachers become quite cynical and disengaged. This is amplified where there is a perception that employing authorities and leaders are requiring such changes without providing adequate time and resources for this to happen. After a 38 year career as teacher and teacher librarian I have learnt this the hard away. Back in the 1990s I was involved in delivering some mass IT training that was supposed to bring all teachers to at least a basic level of competency. The enthusiasm of freshly trained teachers trying to practice what they had learnt was rapidly undermined when they had to fight over a couple of small computer labs. The system I taught in now largely expects teachers to pay for their own IT learning and to do it in their own time.
    Good teachers are good teachers regardless of their IT competency; they are the ones who know how to empower students and put them in charge of and engage with their own learning – even (amazingly) when that learning does not revolve around technology! I have also observed teachers using computers as ‘baby-sitters’ just as they use/d videos and DVDs in the past. Its less about mastering the technology and more about how that technology can be a tool for learning.

  22. A few here have alluded to the importance of leadership in this issue, but no one has come out explicitly and stated that so often teachers received mixed messages. They are told to fear social media, yet “integrate” technology. They are told to be “innovative”, yet workshops and in-services revolve primarily around standards, accountability, assessment, security, and other such topics. They are told to use the many tools of technology around us, yet are told they can only use district-sanctioned tools that may often limit more than liberate. They often see their leaders as technologically struggling… and take some comfort in that. They are told Wikipedia is bad – even evil. District filters are often seen and experienced as barriers to learning, not protective hedges. Teachers can’t be trusted with the ability to discern a useful website from a harmful one. IT departments hoard resources because teachers haven’t had sufficient “training” to be trusted with them. Factions arise in schools where there are clearly identifiable “geeky tech lords” and “the rest of us”.
    If the healthy encouragement, support, and yes, even pressure, is not to come from our educational leadership, then it had best come from our peers… showering us with the really great things that they are doing, and, in a way, exhorting (and even convicting?) those who are still able to close their door and carry on as they did a decade or more ago. But, this too must have support from leadership to happen in a healthy manner.

    Finally, I think much of this is in reality an “aside” in all that we as teachers do… because we just have so much to do. If the learning/konwledge culture has indeed changed today, then it needs to be evident within the four walls of our buildings, not just outside of them.

    • I think you’ve got a great point here. One problem I see a lot is that we send our teachers out to workshops where they are shown by leaders who often have left the classroom to make money on the lecture circuit or have little to no classroom experience at all. Our teachers will get all excited when they are show a new piece of technology. On the car ride home, they’ll come up with all sorts of ways they can integrate it into their curriculum. Then they’ll get to school the next day and find out it’s blocked by our content filter. Nothing kills the motivation to learn and grow more than having great ideas that can’t be fulfilled because of inflexible bureaucratic rules and regulations.

      I think the fault lies with both the presenters who need a better sense of what most teachers have available to them and the leadership in the district who are often too quick to block content.

      • The fault is owned by the individual. There will always be roadblocks – poor leadership, stringent IT, bad presenters, etc… These are all excuses. If leaders aren’t pushing you, push yourself. If IT is blocking you, advocate for change. Simply saying, “Ugh, it’s blocked.” is taking the easy road out of not really wanting to change. As the adage goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. 🙂

        • While I agree with you, this only works with teachers who are already skilled, informed and passionate about supporting meaningful learning with new tools… and who do this for themselves outside of this context we call school. For those who just aren’t there yet, they need help.

        • Spoken as someone who has obviously never planned a lesson, checked it on student accounts on Friday, then had it blocked Monday morning (“We updated the filter over the weekend”) or started a class project one day to have it fail for some of the students the next. Yes, both of those have happened to me. Also add in finding a good website, asking to have it whitelisted and being told “No” or taking over a week to unblock it. Some of us continue to bang our heads into that wall, but I would not blame anyone who prefers to avoid having their lessons sabotaged.

          • Oh yes, and how about having all of the student and teacher files on the network lost, and the backups were either not made or corrupt… 3 times in 5 years. Nice when you’re doing Project Based lessons and the students lose literally months worth of work.

  23. Dan, I respectfully agree and disagree with your asserting that the fault is owned by the individual. What you said is true of teachers, but it is also true of administrators, legislators, parents, and students.

    Everyone is uttering “Ugh…” There is plenty of blame to go around and at the same time, no one is to blame. Rather than assigning blame, we but we are all responsible.

    I have always said that educators (teachers AND administrators) are as resistant to change as a hog-tied cow is resistant to standing up. However, freeing a hog-tied cow is a lot easier than freeing a hog-tied educational system.

  24. This is hardly just a teacher issue. Frequent any tech-centric forum and you’ll hear these complaints are endemic to EVERY field, from nuclear physics to graphic arts.

    In education, the answer is to free up the tech people to make tech available to the faculty and to provide training, free up the faculty to allow them to develop these new resources since few want to take a wild-ass chance on a curriculum revamp with merit-pay and test scores on the line and with parents and administrators questioning a new way of teaching and tech-gurus and bloggers and educational researchers consistently being contradictory as to the value and efficacy of these new (or rehashed) ideas, and free up the money to let this all happen.

    We aren’t asking for much.

  25. Had an incident crop up this week, which, unfortunately, showed how un-fluent my school’s administration is. Kept referring to the use of students’ using Instagram as “online behavior.” It made their denial of mobile technology use even more evident when none had ever used — nor even installed — the app on their celllphones. Not very encouraging to see them trying to control a situation to which they have no access.
    But it’s reality.

  26. I’m about (in January) to teach a group of teacher candidates in their last year before becoming teachers. I’m going to start on my first day of class with this post to see their perspectives on what you are talking about here. Should give me a good idea of their level of infusion readiness by the conversation. To add my 2cents worth I think infusion is happening in our school because I encourage people to try things, help them figure things out, and its ok if it isn’t perfect or if it bombs. Teachers need me as principal to keep the system out of their way so they can be innovative without fear

  27. JudyArzt (@JudyArzt) Reply October 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    At times, Schools of Education are blamed for not preparing pre-service teacher candidates or even teachers returning to school for master’s programs or others attending graduate school to get certified. Recently, I was told our Concentration in Educational Technology Program, part of our master’s in education, might be eliminated because graduate students were afraid of technology. I find this a Catch-22. Schools blame Schools of Ed for not preparing teachers, but when we try, there is also resistance from the candidates themselves. These candidates are of all age brackets. The fear of tech still persists. Yes, there are candidates with an interest, but these are not the very same ones characterized in the original blog post. On the other hand, how many states require teacher candidates to take a sequence of courses with some technology infusion? Maybe, it is time to require for state certification that candidates not just pass the standard certification exams, but also demonstrate their skills with using an array of tech tools for the purposes of creation, curating, and so forth.

  28. Really people?? It’s not about the stock photo, and it’s not about students. It’s about teachers who are not equipped to do their job and serve their students. For the life of me, I don’t understand how you can work in a service field, and not keep up with developments in your area of expertise…

    Scott, I’m watching our admin hire people (of all ages) who are not the least bit interested in supporting the curriculum with technology, because they don’t see the value in it themselves. Until they make this a requirement for hiring, and schools maintain tech standards for teachers, I’m not sure how we will get there.

    Age does play into it, but can be overcome. I’ll be 49 next month, and I’ve seen resistance from all ages, and seen older teachers jump in with both feet when they see how it will benefit their students. I do think that programs like Powerful Learning Practice go a long way toward driving the shift and bringing about change.

    I understand that it’s tough and that for some the learning curve is HUGE – But those who are dedicated to the art and craft of teaching (and that should be all of us) should be making the effort. Period.

    • I’m with you, Patti (obviously, given my original post). But I’m also cognizant of Deming’s work around successful organizations. When do we hold individuals accountable and when do we blame the systems in which they’re embedded?

    • Agreed Patti,
      I have copped all kinds of grief as a principal for insisting potential staff can apply ONLY in electronic form for teaching positions. For me though if you can’t attach a pdf to an email (or at least have the initiative to find someone who can!!) do we want you in front of the kids in our school. I don’t!

    • @Patti, I think a big part of this is that the curriculum itself, in most places, treats technology as an optional supplement, something to be used if the teacher feels like it and if there is extra time after the mandatory direct instruction is finished. Look at most formal curriculum documents: technology is a separate column, apart from resources and materials.

      I think this may only start to change significantly when districts write their curriculums with the assumption that technology will be an integral part of both the classroom and instruction.

  29. Scott, the answer to your question is that the individuals blame the institution, the institution blames the individuals and, in the UK, Ofsted blame them both!

  30. Scott, have been struggling with this for a long time. Here is my response to this:

  31. This is a significant and critical problem across a number of countries. Too many teachers have sub-standard technology skills (or a complete lack thereof) and they are falling further behind as they continue to apply many and varied avoidance strategies to stay away from technology. I tend to think of this unwillingness to learn as being the real problem. We don’t get treated with leeches when we visit a doctor because they are obliged to upskill and retrain regularly so they use the latest technologies and treatment methods. Teachers need to do the same – learn, adapt and modify your practice in line with national (and global) developments.

    Technology is obviously not valued by these people. It’s also highly probable that their school leaders are not valuing technology and that there is not significant performance expectations coming from those leaders. Leaders need to use technology and demand change from these luddite teachers.

    I’ve recently had a blogging project for an educational division vetoed because it was too confronting for teachers and was demanding technology skills too far removed from their current level of knowledge. This is scary. How long do the rest of us have to wait? Should I stop developing my knowledge and skills so that these people don’t feel upset because I know more about ICT than they do?

    Reading some of the comments above about age being a factor… Sometimes it is as demonstrated by my mother who elected to retire rather than have to learn to use computers. However I encounter teachers of all ages (on a daily basis) who do not have basic technology literacies.

    Imagine if a teacher was not very good at teaching reading so they just refused to include it in their classroom program. “I don’t do ICT” should not be acceptable in current society. It should be met with the same level of disdain as a teacher saying, “I don’t do reading.” Technology is no optional.

    • Your ending paragraph summarizes it very nicely for me. Refusing to integrate any other skill (reading, writing, etc.) would just flat out not be permitted. But, because many upper level admins, and principals, have not been convinced of benefits of tech integration yet, educators can continue to avoid it altogether. No other industry has been able to so easily refuse the use of tech within their field.

  32. First off I know enough to know I don’t have the answers but as our districts sole tech integration teacher I live by two things.

    1) I tell teachers to not act like the students that frustrate them. The worst thing a student can do is not ask. If teachers have a question they have to be willing to ask, I can’t help what I don’t know. If they are struggling they cannot get frustrated & shut down, they must ask. It’s my job to challenge & teach them what they don’t know, it is their job to ask!

    2) Be patient 🙂

  33. Scott,

    I feel your pain!

    I have a thought to work through this issue. We talk about differentiated instruction for student, I believe the same needs to hold true for technology professional development. I would envision using your strong technology savy teachers to assist teaching mini-courses.

    One of the districts I worked in used this approach. The tech savy teachers were paid a stipend to teach other teachers software programs. The teachers had the opportunity to sign up for sessions. It was well received.

    I had a friend mention on facebook that he used to make fun of his Dad for not being able to program his VCR, and he talks about needing assistance to set up his new iPad. Technology has a way of passing us by if we don’t use it!

  34. Scott,
    There are many reasons for tech issues. The connectivity in some buildings is in the 1950’s. Professional Development is 1 person in front of 100 – “just watch me” because we don’t have the bandwidth for you all to follow along. Data is not used to plan the PD. Many don’t ask for help. (and how would they know of the possibilities?) Some were yelled at by the last tech director. And one factor not often mentioned – FEAR! Fear of looking silly, stupid, or dumb. Fear of public humiliation – “How can you not know that?”

    One solution might be to allow teachers to form their own support group. When they meet collaboratively every week, each teacher must share 1 positive tech experience! Change the culture!

  35. This is a classic example of when teachers want students to be life long learners, but they are not pratising the same mantra. They just want it fixed or done for them. Would they except the same attitude from their students? Bring on the professional standards!

  36. Scott, I always say this issue is simply tied to FUD = Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. Until all three of those issues are addressed, as each relates to uses of ‘new’ technologies across the curriculum, nothing will change. Some educators overcome FUD quickly, some over time, some never at all. Now we need those who do overcome FUD to take a colleague under their wing for a year, or more, to help move them along. Some will just not get it and they’ve long missed the train.

  37. I couldn’t agree more! Check out a similar post on my blog:

  38. I think we will always have a ‘range’ of staff/student abilities and interests with technology just as we will with all others areas of life or work. We ask students to respect the range of abilities among their peers so we must also do this.
    The question is more about the effectiveness of teachers to meet the needs of students in ways that address a school’s expectations and beliefs. If the school expects students to learn with and about technology, then it follows that staff must be able to do this. A commitment to technology is a big budget item, it therefore needs to be treated seriously and schools need to ensure parents and students get value for their money (the money would be better spent on other things if the staff/school are not really committed to it).
    Also, teachers don’t tend to be very mobile in their careers and therefore just continue to work in schools that don’t match their own beliefs or approaches to teaching. My experience suggests most leaders are ill-equipped to deal with this situation. This is where a lot of the tension can arise.
    Ultimately, schools need to adopt more effective ways of ensuring their teachers can deliver what the school wants and the students need (not just technology). While this is not an easy thing to do, I guess it can be managed by looking at setting clear expectations for staff, having a Performance Management system to review staff and set development plans, collaborative teaching to allow staff to learn together and from one another, a focus continuous professional development (not just workshops), and accepting the harsh reality that if teachers can’t do the job they are employed to do then they should not be employed. If a teacher could not teach students to read, write, add, subtract, etc, then I think the discussion would be more straight forward. Technology doesn’t usually seem to be held in the same regard as the ‘traditional’ aspects of teaching.
    I guess what I am saying is there is not single solution or quick fix, but the answer lies with better leadership and management of schools to ensure they are effective places for learning.

  39. It is time to get real! It is not the skills that is lacking, it is the “propose” to learning and productivity that needs to be addressed.

    Education needs to define the role of technology in education.
    How does technology related to the job?
    How does technology relate to learning?
    How does technology related to __________Fill in the blank).

    Until we answer that questions, you will ALWAYS have teacher who can and can not.

    This is the challenge of the 21st century classroom. Defining… purpose.

  40. It is time to get real! It is not the skills that is lacking, it is the “propose” to learning and productivity that needs to be addressed.

    Education needs to define the role of technology in education.
    How does technology related to the job?
    How does technology relate to learning?
    How does technology related to __________Fill in the blank).

    Until we answer that questions, you will ALWAYS have teacher who can and can not.

    This is the challenge of the 21st century classroom. Defining… purpose.

  41. Teachers are often willing, but stymied by the limits of their district’s infrastructure, access, and vision. There are web tools actively blocked from adults by adults in my district. Our desktop computers are so old that even our browsers are no longer updatable or supported. At school, I have no access to Dropbox, limited access to Evernote, limited access to Diigo, and limited access to YouTube. We have an IT staff of three for the entire district, and the wireless password is a closely guarded secret. Even the assistant principal doesn’t have “clearance” for that kind of access on her school-issued iPad. My colleagues don’t know how to use technology because they lack the will or are wallowing in fear. They simply don’t see the point in investing the time and energy into learning how to use tools that don’t exist for our district.

  42. The lack of fluency extends beyond K12 schools. It’s also situated in teacher education programs (I work in one such program), which perpetuates and perhaps exacerbates the problem. The preservice teachers that we prepare are typically comfortable with technology, in general, but that does not mean they know how to use it to effectively enhance student learning. As teacher education faculty, it is our responsibility (in my opinion) to teach them how to do so.

    The trouble is that majority of our faculty do not know about, demonstrate or model how technology can be used for learning and instruction to our preservice teachers. Instead, they rely on the “edtech people” for this. To them, technology is a silo; it is isolated from content and pedagogy. I’m afraid that this dated model does not exist at my university only; it is a common model present in many teacher education programs. From my perspective, we are not then serving K12 education in the most effective manner.

    I am curious to know what some of you K12 educators think of the newer teachers who have recently entered the profession. How do they compare with more experienced teachers? Also, what do you think Teacher Ed programs can do better or differently to better prepare the preservice teachers?

  43. This is an amazing discussion for a future teacher to read!

    I was unsure about what to expect with regards to future colleagues and their desire to incorporate technology into their classroom. Sounds like the majority of people here are working in the digital age, but consider themselves the minority in their environments.

    In my certification prep I believe we are being well trained to incorporate tech into our classrooms, and I think we’ll be ready to help those non-digital natives along (student, teacher, etc). The problem, as many of you have discussed, is not getting the horse to water, but getting him to drink.

    How do you encourage someone that is generally unwilling to try something new to be that risk-taker?

  44. I am spending more and more time dealing with the same issue. Does the fear with technology go back to the saying, “if you break it, you buy it?” I am not sure, but what I do know there are many people willing to take on the challenge of learning. The people willing to learn are in their 70’s or 80’s.

    Have we missed the boat? Can we find the reason some people are risk-takers? Are our current students risk-takers or spoon-feeders?

  45. This is a late reply to this thread to insert this new thought…

    In most occupations “keeping current” is an essential ingredient for success, especially in the world of 2012. In a business setting, learning new technology is non-negotiable. Imagine an office worker who does not know Windows? If you don’t maintain your skills you get passed by (for promotions and opportunities) and perhaps even lose your job. You are in a free market job economy – for your livelihood.

    The Teachers Unions (and other government structures) have seen to it that there is no market economy in the teaching profession. What is the incentive to learn? I have a job for life. I have a funded pension. I’m happy where I am. What will learning all this new technology do for me? The union guarantees me my salary increases not my performance.

    Indeed a majority of educators (51% ?) are self motivated and learn new skills because they want to; but for the large minority out there this issue will persist and get even worse because there just isn’t any incentive to improve. Doesn’t anyone get that?

    The schools are the way they are today, unchanged for decades, because of the strong and persistent unions that provide no incentives for improvements. Make it a market economy for teachers; their pay will INCREASE, outdated teachers will get weeded out; and you will see a transformation in Education like no other.

    There is a silver bullet here but the “status quo” of union led educators prevents it from being fired.

  46. A well thought out plan for utilizing technology must include training. Not everyone takes to it naturally. Utilizing technology in the educational environment must be designed as a complete package, with proper training, internet support ( bandwidth, judicious filtering) current tools, appropriate curriculum resources and a 3-5 year plan/replenishing cycle. A mandate to provide teachers with tech training should be seen as a positive. It will relinquish fear and give give those that need it more confidence to use it. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Too often institutions jump at buying the latest tools only to have them sit in a corner because there was no plan. How much money has been wasted on tech tools that have collected dust and are now outdated?
    Those teachers that need the help should have some support. Everyone has a different set of strengths. A good leader recognizes that and helps fill in the gaps for all teachers reporting to them.

  47. Scott’s frustration resonates with me, and I have no doubt that he is a patient and supportive colleague. Frankly however we have to start expecting better and raising the bar. I think that we could start by ensuring that institutions allow people to work on their own devices if they prefer to do so, the familiar is less worrying.

  48. One issue is money and power. Some Principals have hijacked the legitimate technology staff’s responsibilities, because they care not about students and appropriate technology, but what they will gain from it. I designed a relational database and entered all computers and printers (including laser printer toner cartridge numbers in stock), by make, model, serial numbers, academy/teacher/room # assigned to. Once a principal discovered the power to manage the technology in house, I was denied access to purchase orders of incoming technology. My last act was to discover a $30,000 color printer delivered and set up in a library with 10 Dell III’s. Bill of lading was in Japanese, no way to track it in school district inventory system. I removed key parts that might get “lost” and let the word out that any administrator with that in the building was going to be asked some interesting questions. It quickly disappeared, unfortunately with out the lose parts securely locked in my workshop, and locked yet again in a parts closet. As lead tech, surprising no one asked my about those missing parts before removing the printer. But a lot more was lost without the ability to track, and the pathetic system the school district rolled out didn’t even track make, model, or serial numbers – let alone who was responsible for what. Another reason SDP is so deep in hole financially.

  49. I’m currently working as a “Technology Integration Specialist” for an independent school in the northeast, but I have also worked in public schools as a classroom teacher and as an educational consultant. Regardless of where I am, I’ve found the most reliable indicator in teachers’ ability to effectively integrate technology into their practice (or willingness to learn how) has more to do with their view of themselves and their role as teacher more than anything else. I’ve had the most success with educators who view teaching as a craft, something to constantly improve at, and view themselves as learners first are the most open to (and effective at) technology integration. I’ve also found this approach to teaching carries over into other aspects not directly related to technology at all – these same teachers also tend to be the most open to incorporating art, music, and cross-curricular connections into their pedagogy.

    Effective technology use begins with attitude and philosophy first, specific technology training second.

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