It’s a strange job title, ‘Technology Co-ordinator’: it suggests that there is something to co-ordinate. However, in all too many schools the problem facing the post-holder is not co-ordinating the use of technology, but making it happen in the first place. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics you can employ.
But first, you need to understand economics. Not dollars and cents, but the economist’s way of looking at things. It might be obvious to you that using technology enhances learning, lightens the workload for teachers, and makes lessons more enjoyable for the kids. Maybe you have even found some research that ‘proves’ all that.
However, none of it will make much difference to the teacher, at least not on its own. The reason is all to do with what economists call ‘the margin’, and the easiest way to explain this is through an analogy.
When I need to buy washing powder, I have a choice. I can go to my local supermarket, or I can go to Costco, where I will save $10 per pack.
That’s a no-brainer, right?
Wrong! The gas will cost me $5, and the round trip will take an hour and a half. I may end up with more loose change in my pocket, but the actual (and hidden) costs of that trip are enormous, and certainly way out of proportion to the benefits.
In the same way, if a teacher has to spend hours plus a lot of effort finding and learning how to use some software that will raise her kids’ grades by half a percentage point, she may decide that the trade-off really isn’t worth it.
Bearing this in mind, the way forward becomes much clearer. Highlighting the potential benefits of using technology is necessary, but it isn’t enough. You have to lower the potential costs too. Here are some ways you can do so.
Make it easy to access
If teachers have to find the one person in the school who can provide them with the resources they need, who happens to work only three days a week, and who makes them sign a long disclaimer form first, they probably won’t bother with it. As far as possible, booking resources should be easy, seamless and virtual, so that a teacher can book the resource from anywhere, and from any device, including a smartphone.
Make it easy to use
Every resource should come with a quick-start guide, even something as ubiquitous as a camera. For instance, a common question concerns how to get the photos from the camera to the school network. Don’t assume that every teacher will know how to do that, especially if you have set up a special drive, say, for photos. A simple one page guide is all you need.
Make sure it works
In one school I joined, teachers weren’t using the technology for a very simple and excellent reason: the network would often breakdown without warning, sometimes in the middle of lessons so that the kids lost all their work. I brought someone in who discovered that a network cable in the wall cavity had broken. Once that was fixed, and teachers could see that the network was stable, they began to use it again.
Deal with faults quickly
If a printer stops printing, don’t give the teacher long technical explanations: that doesn’t help her or her students to get their work printed off. Just put in a different printer, or re-route the print jobs to another printer. You can deal with the underlying problem at a less pressured time.
Of course, that presupposes that teachers can report faults easily in the first place. A simple form, online, that goes straight to tech support is a very good idea.
Find great resources
Spend some time looking for and collating useful-looking resources, and make them easily available on the school’s website, network or intranet. That in itself will save teachers hours of time.
These 5 suggestions comprise what the economist calls ‘lowering the barriers to entry’. Basically, they lower the perceived costs to teachers of trying to implement technology in their classrooms. By doing so, you have tipped the balance in education technology’s favor.
Terry Freedman publishes the ICT & Computing in Education website and the Digital Education newsletter, and is the author of Education Conferences: Teachers’ guide to getting the most out of education conferences, available from Amazon.