After reading through all the interviews, it seemed that similar issues were echoed throughout, which is particularly interesting as the experiences were not limited to one grade level, one district, or even one province. I am aware of teachers in the US that also have these issues so I think it would be fairly safe to say that these issues are education issues, not just teacher issues.
The first issue seemed to be that of time and training. Teachers interviewed seemed to agree that there is not enough time given to teachers to learn how to integrate technology purposefully into their classrooms. Many noted that anything they have learned has been on their own time and expense. One teacher in Jessica’s abstract said that she had incorporated technology through trial and error, and that you just had to jump right in. Most of the information around using technology came from collaborating or meeting with peers and colleagues to share information. One teacher noted that she did not have the time to explore programs that were beneficial to her program and relied on the information other teachers shared with her, and another online teacher said that she knew there were programs out there that would benefit her students but did not have the time to search them out and try them to make sure. In Stephanie’s interview of a recent student teacher, she noted that although there was some emphasis put on using technology in the classroom, they were not formally shown anything but were basically left to explore things on their own without any guidance or information. All of this means that teachers are expected to research and learn relevant technologies on their own time, without sufficient guidance as to what or how. This leaves a lot of teachers without enough knowledge and confidence to integrate technology in meaningful ways into their programs.
Another key point was the appropriate use of technology in the classroom. It was widely reiterated that technology should not be used just for the sake of using technology. It needs to be subject and grade appropriate, but should also enhance the learning of the students. In one interview there were two intermediate teachers who said that they integrated technology quite a lot in their classrooms, only for us to realize it was for watching videos or playing games. Although these are ways to use technology, it does not transform the learning of the student. This is not to say that this should never be done, but that other ways of integrating the technology should be used also. However, having said that, this issue seems to relate back to the time and training issue. Teachers are not given the time to collaborate with other teachers to find programs that will enhance their subject, nor are they given the training on specific software to allow them to use it for more than a large viewing screen or a basic research tool.
The last issue which seemed to resonate with each interview was the frustration that came with the devices themselves. There were many instances where teachers were frustrated with the lack of band width for a whole class to use devices simultaneously, unreliable wifi with slow uploads and downloads, computers or chrome books that crashed frequently or were not charged sufficiently to use them. Many teachers still have to sign out equipment to use it making it awkward to use it seamlessly during the day. With the entire school sharing the devices the upkeep was difficult with many devices being broken, screens scratched, keys missing, and the like. There is also the issue of things going wrong and being unable to troubleshoot to fix them. Waiting for IT to fix an issue could take hours, if not days, depending on the issue and where the IT is located. I have to put in a ticket and wait for the IT department at the board to rank it, then put it in a cue to be dealt with. Some teachers can trouble shoot their issues, but at the expense of losing the class who are left waiting while it is being fixed. The lack of devices also seems to be a standard issue. Some schools have adopted a BYOD policy allowing students to bring their own devices to use, but this comes with its own set of issues such as inappropriate use in the classroom. This takes us back to time and training on how to teach students to use technology responsibly in a classroom setting.
Technology in the classroom is not going away, it is only changing, and we have to change with it. This requires appropriate time and training for all teachers to be able to confidently integrate technology into their classrooms to transform learning. and the infrastructure to support them in their efforts.
Thank you Anne for your insights and analysis. We have had a few interesting ways that training has emerged, from the video case example of the elementary preservice teacher education slowmation video to the interview exemplars (eg. 30 minute training session in a class after school initiated by a teacher). Some of these efforts at training are emergent and contextual. As a class, what are some ways that your district or school is creating an opportunity for training and does this training include training specific to math or science?
Well, I think this is one of my biggest issues. There is little to no formal technology training offered in our Board. All that is offered is on our own time and at our own expense. The Board is focused a lot on improving mathematics as a result of very poor EQAO scores, but this does not include a technology focus at all, and are generally offered to the math leads at the school. There are some STEAM initiatives offered by the Board which are open to anyone, however, these are a one time event where the teacher attends one full day and two half day meetings and then it is done. It reminds me a lot of the teachers being shown the technology, given some time to explore it, and that is the end of it. There is no follow up to see how it is going or if the teachers have had any difficulties using the technology. Many of the teachers do not pursue the opportunities because they know they will not have the support or the time to continue with it afterwards. I do believe that there is a mindset that we need to change in order to make learning and understanding technology a priority.