I sent out the following survey to my colleagues about a week ago. Unfortunately, I was not able to get everyone’s summer contact information in time for this posting so I would say I got a sampling of about one quarter of our school staff in my responses. I plan to give everyone longer to respond so I can at least get a sampling of about half of the school staff when I present the findings to my colleagues in the fall.
To be honest, I had planned on sending a survey out to my colleagues without the prompting of this assignment sometime before school began. We do not have a designated Educational Technology coordinator in my K-8 building and have been implementing technology in a way that is coming from all sorts of different directions and sources perhaps lacking a unified vision because there is no one person to lead the way who is particularly focused on technology. I have been interested in jumping into the role of managing and helping to lead our technology integration efforts across the building. We have such a vast array of teaching styles, available technology, technology comfort levels and student needs that although we have many interested and motivated teachers, we struggle as a building to implement technology as a connected community and sometimes lack the realization that technology, pedagogy and content knowledge are interconnected.
My first question in my survey addressed how teachers are currently using technology in the classroom. Here is a summary of the responses:
This data shows that the most common purpose for using technology in the classroom is as a presentation tool or visual aide. This proves that teachers are comfortable using PowerPoints, other presentation tools and websites to visually support, organize and analyze new concepts for students. This is positive finding as Universal Design for Learning stresses the importance of allowing for multi-modal representations of information for learning and using technology as a form of visually displaying information does just that. The second highest data points regarding technology classroom use are as a research tool, for differentiation and for informal assessment. The data points that currently show no teacher use are using technology as an accessibility tool, note taking tool, flipped learning and formal assessment.
My second question addressed the issue of how do we implement technology more effectively in our school:
The response was overwhelming and it was to be expected in my opinion. Last year, we were thrown many different technologies with unique purposes, some required and expected, some suggested, some optional. I was very curious to find out what my colleagues thought. In response to this push for technology use, the trend teachers expressed was there needs to be a focus on one or two relevant technologies and that there needs to be ongoing training on those technologies. Along with this there needs to be explicit explanation as to exactly WHY the tool is valuable and how it can be tied with pedagogy and content to enhance learning and increase twenty first century skills. Teachers expressed frustration with the one and done trainings on technology tools that may or may not have been relevant to what or how they teach.
The third question related to the second and asked specifically what kinds of tangible courses of action could we take to improve technology integration for teachers:
Obviously there were many concerns about how we could be implementing technology more effectively in our school environment. We could sit and talk back and forth all year about the best way to integrate technology but actually accomplish nothing so for this question, I chose to have my colleagues pick something tangible that we can actually begin starting this fall. The overwhelming choice was something that I had heard my Twitter PLN discuss before, offering Tech Tuesdays before or after school where teachers vote on a technology tool each month that they would like to focus on and there is a learn, explore, create portion of the workshop where teachers have sessions once a week to play with the tool, troubleshoot and ask questions. It allows teachers who understand or are already familiar with the tech tool to attend the first session as learners and maybe attend the other sessions as mentors to teachers who are still learning and becoming familiar with the tool. Since we have not had very many collaboration opportunities related to technology tools, I think this plan of action might help teachers discover the value in working together on technology integration. My hope would be that it would eventually help to spur more collaborative efforts on other technology tools within content area groups or grade levels without the needing the formalities of “training sessions”.
Tech Tuesdays is something with my administration’s blessing and hopefully a few willing colleagues, I would like to begin in August. I think it will address many of our staff’s concerns about tech tool relevancy (they choose the topic and you do not need to go if it is not relevant to you) and time to master the tool (month long sessions).
The second highest response was attending technology conferences. This is an interesting response because we are blessed enough at our school to be able to! This year we had six teachers attend the MACUL conference and all teachers that attended were inspired in all sorts of ways to incorporate technology into their classes. Maybe an implication for next year is that we ask that one representative from each grade level attend MACUL and share out what they learned with their colleagues.
The last question addressed in this survey was asking about specific technology tools that teachers would like to receive training on:
As K-3 teachers are receiving 5-6 iPad minis for their literacy centers this year, they have obviously expressed an interest in being trained in how to use this new technology and applicable apps for use in the classroom. However, this particular question was lacking in results otherwise. Only one specific technology tool (Mimeo Board) was actually listed but it was suggested in the results that teachers are not really aware of what is available for them to use and how it is relevant to their students learning. Also, teachers expressed concern that the technology tools that they receive training on must be actually available to use in their classroom. For example, I know in my own experience, in certain parts of the building, wireless connectivity is slower or nonexistent. This results in some classrooms being able to easily use certain technologies and others attempting to use the same thing but are unable or it is not worth the effort to try to get it to work. If we are going meaningfully incorporate technology use, we must have the technical strategy and infrastructure to support it.
Although it was low on the response list, I still think it would be a great idea to compile a collaborative website of annotated technology tools that we can share amongst ourselves. It might take a while to catch on, but I find that if the resources are there for me and the correlations to my content or application to my classroom have already been made, I am much more motivated to try it out. I know that my colleagues share my concern of a general lack of time as a teacher and if there is a compiled list of resources out there it will eliminate some of the frustration of finding the time to sort through the seemingly endless amount of tech tools available.
I think sharing the findings from this survey will lead to some changes for more effective technology integration at our school. I am excited to share and take action with new solutions to get more of our teachers preparing our students with the twenty first century skills they will need for their future.