Helping Our Seasoned Colleagues to Overcome Their Technology Reluctance

Why are so many of our seasoned colleagues reluctant to use technology with their students?  Is it the fear of leaving their comfort zones and taking risks?  What are the roadblocks, and how can we help clear them?

Perhaps the roadblocks are…

  1. …reluctance to change their methodologies.  Why change what works?
    Assure success in the “reluctant instructors” (RI)  first efforts so they can see first-hand the excitement on the students’ faces when given the opportunity to learn in a new and  different way –
    using technology.  Good instructors enjoy adding to their “bag of tricks.”
  2. …no time and too much work.  Life is already too busy.
    Help the RI choose an easy-to-use tool such as iClickers in conjunction with a multiple choice or true/false exercise from a book.  One successful teaching with technology experience will stimulate the desire for another one. Success breeds success.
  3. …fear of looking unsure of themselves or foolish in front of their students who may know even more than they, the teachers, do about  technology.
    Have the RI observe another instructor calling on a student to demonstrate his/her computer knowledge and problem-solving skills in the classroom.  Seeing the “fearful” situation modeled as well as the pride on the face of the “student rescuer” may alleviate some of the fear of acknowledging that a student may know more about technology than we do.  I like to have student assistants from the class who I know are strong in technology demonstrate the “how-tos” and be on hand to answer their classmates’ technology questions.  It is a positive experience for everyone.    For those students who are strong in technology, using what they enjoy to learn English adds to their enjoyment of my class and their learning of English!  For those students who are weak in technology and out of their learning comfort zone, using the strong students as assistants means more help for them.  This is definitely a win-win situation for the students and the instructor!
  4. …fear of the technology going down, not knowing how to fix it and no readily available tech support.
    Make sure the RI know how to access Information Technology (IT) assistance, and, if at all possible, have another teacher or support person on standby in case of a technological emergency particularly during that first teaching experience.  Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, explain the need for always having a backup plan if the technology does go down during a lesson.  Make sure the RI realize that f the technology goes down due to a glitch in the system,  it is beyond the their control and not something they did.   Explain that pulling out a backup plan due to a technology failure will become as natural for the seasoned instructor as revamping a  lesson on the spot when students don’t understand a concept.    We’ve all had to “regroup” and pull out alternate approaches,  and we usually come out of those classes feeling quite good about our ability to do so!  This will be no different.  Explain that this situation will help us model for our students how to deal with difficult  or uncomfortable situations in the learning process, and having the opportunity to model intelligent, mature, and creative behaviors for our students is never a bad thing.  We can make those moments teachable moments as well!
  5. …fear of students asking questions regarding the technology and not knowing the answers.
    I always tell my students that no one knows everything, and there is no shame in not knowing an answer.  The sign of educated person isn’t that s/he knows everything, but rather that s/he knows how to find the answers. Make sure your RI understand that as far as technology is concerned as well.  Give them these two sentences:  “I don’t really know how to answer that.  I’ll have to investigate it and get back to you on it tomorrow.”    Tell them that if that situation arises to consult with you, another colleague who uses technology, or IT.  Make sure they know that they are all part of a team.  They can then bring the answer back to  the students the next day and explain the process they used for finding the answer.  This is modeling the investigative process for our students and teaching them not to be put off by their own learning frustrations.  We’re not just giving them a fish, we’re teaching them to fish!
  6. …lack of information regarding what technologies are available for them to use-not having information at their fingertips.
    Dedicate some faculty meeting time to sharing information—a veritable show-and-tell.   Have someone demonstrate how to search the Internet for specific information.  Make it a simple task such as finding an image of a vocabulary item.  This will help the RI to become comfortable with the process of searching  for and finding something they can use in the classroom.  This is a critical first step.
    Next have a colleague demonstrate the exciting use of a technology that could be used for all/most levels of English proficiency with simple modifications.  Find out if that faculty member would be willing to serve as a consultant to others interested in learning to use that technology.

    Another equally beneficial idea is to incorporate the technology in the meeting process.  Require use of a certain technology as part of the face-to-meeting.  Then discuss how that technology could be used in the classroom as well. Consider using it as part of a virtual discussion after the meeting in order to complete a task. This will give everyone more experience with it before using it in the classroom.
  7. …no time to research best practices in their discipline-not having information or resources available at their fingertips to know if a certain technology is appropriate for what they want to teach.
    See #6.  Additionally, have a central information board (online and off-) of “new finds” in technology.  Make sure everyone has access to it.  Have proponents of technology help to spread the information and be willing to demonstrate its use when asked.  Invite colleagues to observe your classroom when you are using the technology.
  8. …no access to enough computers for all the students-many students, few computers.
    Tell the RI to pair up the students based on their knowledge of computers.  Pair a weak student with a strong one so they can learn from each other.  The student with weak technology skills will learn something about the computers from his/her partner, and the student with strong computer skills will improve his/her English by giving explanations in English!  Make sure, however, that the weaker student also gets time to work on the computer.
  9. …no time to access the computer room to make sure the technologies work prior to taking their students there.
    This is a real problem on my campus.  Perhaps for the instructors’ debut lesson with technology, they could trade rooms with other teachers where they can have access to the computers prior to teaching.  It really is important to get on both the teacher’s and the student computers before teaching a lesson.  Certain programs may be blocked, cookies may need to be enabled, or other difficulties may arise due to the network being used.  What works on a computer at home doesn’t mean it will work at school.   It is critical to know what to expect of the system before demonstrating the program to 25 eager students.  Hearing from IT that it should work is not enough.  I have learned that the hard way.
  10. …having so little background in technology that they’re sure they’re way too far behind to ever catch up and won’t even be able to understand the directions.  No one wants to lose face.
    “Fearful” or “reluctant” teachers need to make successful baby steps in order to gain confidence in themselves and their ability to teach using technology.  Giving these RI the opportunities to learn about and utilize easy-to-use sites such as Google, YouTube, SlideShare, Quia, and many ESL grammar, listeningreading, and vocabulary sites should help them take those first steps.  Teaming the reluctant instructor with a more technologically savvy instructor may be helpful as long as that latter doesn’t enable the former.  This teaming should also be seen as a teaching/learning opportunity for both.  Peer coaching, which was just instituted at our college, allows for just that in lieu of having yearly administrative observations.  It is a gentle nudge we give ourselves and each other as colleagues to share information and learn something new in a non-threatening way with a colleague of choice.

Does everyone need to use technology in their classroom?  No, of course not.  Does everyone need to drive a car?  No, of course not.  But, both make our lives so much easier and so much richer, why would anyone choose not to?

If no one ever took risks,
Michelangelo would have
painted on the Sistine floor.”– Neil Simon

For more ideas on how to incorporate technology in your classroom, visit  Interesting Ways by @Tom Barrett.

3 Responses

  1. So nice to talk to you on Skype! Thanks so much for taking the time to help me out with my ed tech project, it was so much fun!

  2. Also love the blog! Great idea that picture of “the Scream” would be me when I started this class!

  3. It was my pleasure, Louise! I enjoyed meeting you via Skype and wish you all the best in your soon-to-be ESL career. Skype me anytime I can help you with anything–or just to say hello!

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