Professional Development

Supporting teachers to go digital

Raquel Ribeiro

Raquel Ribeiro from Brazil is an English teacher, EdTech blogger, lecturer, and contributing author for Evolve, a new course by Cambridge University Press. In this blog Raquel shares the strategies she used when facing teacher colleagues with digital concerns, and offers suggestions about how your institution can help you integrate technology successfully.

The staffroom is usually the main place we teachers feel at ease to share our doubts and concerns with each other. My teacher colleagues usually come to me and share their worries when it comes to making use of digital and mobile learning tools in the classroom.

They usually refer to:

  • Concerns about time management
  • Feeling insecure about the app or site
  • Fear of deviating the focus from the lesson objective to the tool
  • What they can do if the app doesn’t work

 

I must tell you that these and other concerns are very valid, and while learning to integrate technology into my own teaching, I had to face those very things!

Strategy 1: Ask the right questions

It helps to approach your technology usage in a principled way. Every time there is something innovative to be integrated to the classes, I ask myself the following questions:

  • What’s the learning gain?
  • How can students benefit from using this tool or site?
  • Do I know enough of the basics to navigate through the app?
  • Can I integrate this tool later on in other moments of the course?

 

This final question is important. Ideally the answer is ‘yes’ so you don’t have to teach the mechanics of the app all the time. The focus will then increasingly be on the communicative task to be accomplished, not in getting to understand a different app each time.

Strategy 2: Ask the right people

Be prepared to learn from a more experienced peer in terms of using technology. Sometimes it’s a younger teacher who has a knack for technology – or it could be an older teacher! You’ll be surprised that stereotypes do not fit when it comes to loving technology.

Strategy 3: Work with your students

Briefly talk to your group of students and explain how you believe they can benefit from using an app or site in class. Also, give them some time to download it and understand how to use it.

Depending on how familiar your students are in terms of dealing with technology, encourage them to work in pairs or trios in the first time. This can help them work collaboratively to become confident in using the new tool.

Strategy 4: Ask for feedback from your learners

Listen to their impressions after using the app for the first time and in following occasions. Encourage them to notice how it contributes to their learning and use of the language they are studying.

The school’s role in implementing digital

As an individual teacher, you can only do so much on your own. Now let’s turn to the schools’ role in teacher development and training. When it comes to the use of technology, a positive attitude can make a world of difference. Why is this?

Teachers already have to deal with many demands, such as following the curriculum, classroom and discipline management, and dealing with paperwork and parents, to mention just a few. They may feel they don’t have time to invest in their own professional development and learning.

Support and encouragement

On the other hand, in order to be competitive in the field, schools are required to adjust fast. So, it makes sense for institutions to support and encourage their employees rather than imposing technology on them. Here are some suggestions from my own experience as a teacher trainer:

  • Diagnose the technology literacy level of your team, not to judge them, but to allow them to develop according to what is meaningful to their current stage. The Digital Teacher website has a comprehensive model to test digital skills.
  • Identify and collaborate with peer leaders who can be allies in this process. Hearing from a colleague who goes through a similar daily routine makes it easier to relate to new ideas.
  • Teachers will feel more inclined to try out new technology if there’s a safe environment to learn from their ‘mistakes’ and try again. As the innovators at Google say: ‘Fail, Fail fast, Fail better, Fail forward.’
  • Regularly keep your team of teachers informed of any CPD (Continuous Professional Development) opportunities available. Many teachers are busy and can’t keep up with the most current articles, videos and webinars. Careful coordination can make these possibilities reach the teachers in good time.
  • Promote a culture of information sharing, for instance quick meetings where every teacher shares something from their recent practice. Ask them to share something they’ve learned or a ‘mistake’ that they turned around.

 

Checklist for going digital

✔ When choosing a tool to integrate to the class, ask yourself: How can this add to the students’ learning?
✔ What are the basics I need to know about this tool?
✔ Is it something I’m going to use only once or can it be reused throughout the term?
✔ How much do I understand of my school’s stance on using technology in the classroom?
✔ In my school, who can be my go-to tech experts?
✔ Apart from what is offered by my school, are there any other CPD possibilities that I can benefit from?

Which of the suggestions above do you consider to be most important in your teaching context? Which ones might be more challenging? Let us know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this article, check out Raquel Ribeiro’s previous blog post about using mobiles in class to enhance student learning.


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