This is an edited version of an article originally published on: Al Kingsley
One of the biggest barriers to the successful use of technology in education is the issue of teacher confidence. There are so many ways in which the modern classroom can make best use of technology however many teachers vote with their feet and choose not to use technology.
If Ofsted were to call and say they were going to inspect the school tomorrow would you as a classroom teacher be less or more likely to use the technology you had planned to?
There are lots of reasons why teachers may lack confidence in using technology. It could be due to some of the reasons highlighted in the diagram below. The more confident teachers become about their ability to use technology the more they will use it. The more they use it the better they will become. It stands to reason.
The thing is, the confidence isn’t always about their own abilities. Sometimes it’s to do with other issues such as confidence in the ability that the technology will work. Sometimes it’s because teachers are concerned about losing precious time around the curriculum. If you are a teacher who doesn’t regularly have access to technology in the classroom then the chances are that you will be either taking your pupils to a computer lab or you will have booked ‘the laptop trolley’.
The Computer Lab and Laptop Trolley experience
A significant part of my teaching career saw me working in a computer lab. In lots of the schools I worked in I was involved in the creation of a number of these types of rooms. One of the difficulties of teaching in a room where pupils have a screen and a keyboard in front of them is that immediately there is a barrier between you and the child. The ‘form factor’ of pupils having a screen in front of them means that as a teacher you’re often going to be in a position where you are unable to see the screens of your pupils. Your teacher 6th sense always piques and your seating arrangements in a computer lab will be an intricate weaving of where you can still see the screens of pupils you know have the potential to go off-task and your usual seating plan rules. You’ll pace the room while they are working just to make sure everyone is on task all of the time.
Classroom management in a computer lab is completely different to when pupils have their books, devices, equipment, all facing flat on the surface of their desk. There is also a much lower propensity of opportunity for the student to go off task. If you’ve got ‘the laptop trolley’, then when they are out, your teacher 6th sense goes into overdrive as you concern yourself about the activity of your pupils on the devices when you can’t see what they’re doing.
A case for change
Despite there being many promises of working successfully with EdTech in a learning environment to improve outcomes and to support learning often this isn’t the case. We know that without the right attitude and approach to pupil use of technology, the learning returns on investment in technology might not reap the benefits you hoped for. Even when you might have a BYOD policy that you’re promoting, if you couple the above behaviour and classroom management issues with teachers lacking in confidence around their uncertainty about what children are doing; teachers often choose to ask pupils to keep their devices in their bags.
A significant number of schools that I work with have started using Apple’s Classroom app – an app which allows you to see all of your pupil devices on your screen, open apps on their iPads, lock them into an app, so forth and so on. It’s a really handy tool if you are using iPads and I’ve written more about that here if you want to learn more.
The reality is however that most schools don’t just use iPads. In fact even in 1-1 iPad schools I’ve worked in some of which are Apple Distinguished Schools, we’ve still had PC suites, access to Macs, Chromebooks and other devices too. As highlighted already teacher confidence with technology is key to its use and integration. If you have got lots of different tools available to pupils then whilst Apple’s Classroom app is great; teachers don’t want to have to learn how to use that and the equivalents for every other tool that pupils might use. Add to that what to do when the pupils bring in their own devices in a BYOD scheme and it becomes an even bigger concern for teachers.
What to do
One of the best ways to help give teachers confidence with using technology in the classroom is for them to be able to have some control over what the pupils are doing and being able to see that too. Teachers have lots of classroom management strategies up their sleeve such as different learning stations, seating plans, rewards and sanctions, extension resources, so they need a classroom management strategy for the use of technology in the room. A tool such as NetSupport School is a dedicated classroom management solution which works across every platform. It has dedicated assessment, collaboration and most importantly, monitoring and control features.
Using this tool in your classroom would mean that teachers will be able to see what is on any of the screens of pupils in the classroom just on their screen. Teachers can click or tap onto the screen of any of the pupils and see the content more clearly. Teachers can even interact with that student quietly via a message to get them back on track without disrupting the flow of the lesson. Pupils can message you too if they are stuck. And it works across a broad spectrum of devices. From Macs to Windows Tablet or Desktop, iPads, Android, Linux… it is super helpful.
Added to the classroom management features as mentioned above there are a number of significantly helpful assessment for learning tools which teachers can use to check understanding really quickly. Want to run an exit ticket with your class? Not a problem. Want to poll your pupils to check understanding? It’s all there. You can even share your screen directly with pupils within the class.
To sum up
Whatever school you are in you will have a significant amount of technology within the boundaries of your school. As a school leader you will want to get a return for your investment in that technology. It could be a return in terms of more focused pupils, better access to learning materials, improved learning outcomes or collaboration. Whatever your goal, you want to make it work; you want to make it happen.
When it comes to making IT have the impact you want, unfortunately the technology itself isn’t a magic bullet. Careful thinking about the issues raised above will most likely lead you to wanting a solution that brings teacher confidence and can improve learning outcomes in the classroom. I’m not someone who likes to leave his success to chance, so why not take a look at NetSupport School?
Author: Mark Anderson, ICT Evangelist