Five Reasons Why We Aren't We Integrating Technology in School

I spent a couple of hours this weekend hopping in and out of the K12Online Chat Room and listening to all the reasons why we should integrate technology in the classroom.  Someone in the room proposed that if only every teacher in the world would watch just one session from the K12Online Conference, we could change the world.  I think that’s a bit of hyperbole (unless it’s my session that the teachers watch).

I’ve developed list of reasons why we’re not integrating technology in school.  At one point it was just a lady from Ireland in the chat room and myself and we talked about our respective schools.  I mentioned that I was often the only techie at my school and she said “me too.”  I told her we have a prescribed curriculum and she said “me too.”  So this list, naturally, is focused on the United States but I get the sense that it might apply other places too.

It’s not that I wish to be pessimistic.  However, unless we can come up with solutions to these problems, we’re not just going to be change the educational landscape.

  • Technology is expensive.
    The way we fund education, it is clear that education isn’t a priority.  It seems even less money makes its way to the classroom as much of it is funneled into central offices district bloat.  We can’t pay teachers enough and now we want computers in addition.  Not only is there a cost to buying computers there is also a hidden cost of tech support that districts must provide when putting computers in classrooms.
  • Technology is broken or unavailable.
  • Technology use isn’t tested.
    I’m not proposing we implement standardized computer-use testing.  However, let’s face it, if NCLB mandated such a test we’d all have computers.  As long as we want standardized test results from students we’re going to have standardized teaching that attempts to align with those tests.
  • Technology lessons often aren’t well planned.
    Student engagement isn’t enough.  I know of several great technology using teachers who are terrible teachers. They can get their computers to work during a lesson but they don’t seem to know the first thing about having a learning objective or know how to assess whether students have learned what they’re trying to teach.  The fact that students have fun is just peachy but it doesn’t justify the expense I’ve already talked about.  Technology use needs to be aligned with standards and the appropriate tool for the job—and not simply be based on the availability of particular equipment.  If you have limited equipment then you have to find a way to get that equipment to fit your lessons and not the other way around.
  • Fear of losing control.
    It’s not so much a fear of using the technology but a fear of allowing students to teach their teachers how to use that technology.  For the same reasons that teachers could never live without Xerox machines and worksheet companies stay in business, that inquiry and research, independent work time, and workshop are the least components of our prescribed curriculum, many teachers don’t want to risk giving up control to integrate technology.

Please add to my list and/or provide some solutions.

17 Responses to Five Reasons Why We Aren't We Integrating Technology in School

  1. In my kindergarten room, I have my own DVD’s and player, my own mp3 player for music, my own laptop, my own laser printer, my own projector for the laptop. I’d have my own smartboard if I had the money, but my wife gave me “the LOOK” when I mentioned it…….

    We are on our second fiscal year of budget cuts in our district due to the economy, with no end in sight.

  2. I know at my school the reason lies in the testing in English, Math, social studies and science along with passing the CAHSEE are more important than technology integration. Until scores rise and technology requirements exist, it will always take a backseat to the core subjects.

  3. Good list, Matt.
    I would also add: time to play with technology themselves. Too often, professional development means toss a concept into the crowd, expecting the idea to grab hold and become implemented in the classroom.
    But teachers need time and space to just play with technology, to test out the possibilities, and not be hemmed in by what the platform was designed “for” but what it possibly “might do” to enhance the curriculum.
    Kevin

  4. Some things I would add:

    1. Unclear expectations for technology integration (this is changing in Georgia as teacher observations will soon require technology components).

    2. On-going training and support – we use professional learning groups to support teams of teachers who are learning to use a self-selected technology application, we use a wiki and blog ot share ideas and offere feedback.

    3. Adminstrative support – if you don’t have the support of the school/district leadership, there is little chance for effective use and integration of technology

  5. I can’t help but think that techie teachers often scare off our non-techie colleagues. We need to be a little less like super teachers, and a little more like professionals trying out new tools along with our colleagues.

    There’s a little bit of an all-or-nothing vibe about tech integration. I think teachers feel that they are either super-techie or not, and there’s no middle ground to just be a great teacher that uses technology well.

    This post inspired me to clean up my own blog post that I’d been sitting on for a while. Thanks, Mathew.

  6. Time! Time to:
    * Learn the tools that are available.
    * Learn to integrate them in an effective way.
    * Mess up and try again.
    * Share our ideas with our colleagues.
    * Reflect on what is effective and what isn’t.
    * Develop a network of support/ideas.

    Is anyone going to hand us the time to do this? No, there are some who make it a priority. Does this mean that these people are better teachers? No, they have a natural interest in technology and/or see that their students have this interest. Is technology always the right tool? No, an effective teacher is an effective teacher.

  7. Nice list, Matthew. I can tell you that many of those are the same reasons I’ve heard repeatedly in my 20 years of tech-integration work. Sad to see that in 2 decades, the hurdles are the same.

    However, as I look at the list, I realize that those reasons could also be used as reasons why we shouldn’t use textbooks in a classroom. Why hasn’t that happened? I followed up on your thoughts in a post titled “Textbooks are Hard” at http://milobo.edublogs.org/2008/11/06/textbooks-are-hard/

  8. I can only say ‘amen’ to your list of reasons (or like your Irish friend would say, ‘me too’). In South Africa we can relate to all the reasons you are giving. In the Western Cape we have a very successful project where technology was provided to over 1000 schools (remember, in Africa we are not as richly resourced as you are!) but we find that the greatest challenge is to get teachers to integrate the technology into the curriculum delivery process. The teachers are the barriers to learner access to available technology, for the reasons you, and some of the other commenters listed.

    The one I would like to add is the role of the principal (school manager, lead teacher, or whatever this person is called). When the principal has bought into the concept of using technology as a curriculum delivery tool, and is a good manager/leader who encourages (and enforces) the use of these tools, the results are far better. Our major problem lies with apathetic principals.

    Our second problem is teacher attitude. The efforts to train them to become ICT-competent is reasonably successful – but to affect a paradigm shift (that technology is a wonderful teaching and learning tool) … that is a different matter.

  9. I took the liberty of referring to this posting on my blog.

  10. And the ridiculous thing in my school lately is that there are more and more components of our core areas that are technology based. As in -put the kid on a computer to do reading, language arts testing, or math, Envisions math and Voyager Learning both have online components. I don’t have enough computers, and I don’t have enough access to the lab. Oh, besides the fact that my kids can’t read or type……….

  11. Some incredibly valid points here. Really the only real answers I see are time, money and support. In the meantime it’s all about finding the ways around these blockers – it’s an exercise in creativity.

  12. One reason/excuse I hear is, “I would like to use technology, but I just don’t have the time for all of that.”

    I always respond with two points: 1. Students deserve teachers that take the time to do all they can to improve instruction. 2. Using technology significantly saves time, once it is implemented.

    I agree with Mobbsey’s point, “It’s all about finding the ways around blockers.”

  13. I agree with many of your points. Techies are usually few and far between. But as an administrator who is a techie I encourage technology use and to the best of our budget provide and support use. I see the last item on the list as the starting point of why the integration of technology in the classroom is slow. I see the two biggest issues are one, teachers lack of familiarity of technology use, in general. And two, the shift of teaching that may not look like the way the majority of us learned. Both of these require a whole new skills set for teachers. And I don’t believe that they don’t want to learn, there just isn’t enough time with all of the prescribed instructional material and assessing.

  14. Around here, I think it’s mostly cost. By the time you figure in how much for peripherals and software, even a relatively inexpensive computer – isn’t!

  15. I am a third year teacher. Unlike most of my colleagues, I feel somewhat comfortable using technology. I absolutely love my new Smartboard. The thing that discourages me from using technology, is my own frustration over spending half of my teaching time trouble shooting. I can honestly see why teachers do not integrate technology into their lessons.

    It’s like having a 2 million dollar CNC machine in your garage. And your adminstration wants you to teach with it!

    I love using technology but if you are not familiar with how it works and what you can do with it then how can you use it to teach with.

  16. Of all the many reasons, the two biggest problems are: 1) many teachers are still afraid of technology and can’t maintain computers/printers/Internet working in there classrooms. Many can’t even connect the keyboard, mouse, monitor cable, power cable and network cable properly. They don’t call HelpDesk to fix the equipments and just let them sit and collect dust for years and complaint about the computers are too old and slow or not working. Many teachers let students play games and abuse the equipments. Many teachers and students do not use the equipments with respect. Drink and food are spilled on the keyboards and tables or they put computers under the sun and next to the heater. Network switch boxes and cables are tangling on floor and being kicked around. Also many teachers are not trained properly in technology and they model wrong concepts and usages for students. Some examples that bother me a lot: teachers refer to the computer system unit as CPU; have students creating one page per file; have students sharing network passwords and even their teacher accounts with special privileges.
    2) Improper student altitude: many students treat the computers as entertainment and game machines because that is what they do at home or in elementary classrooms. Students are looking for fun and speed but not thinking, especially high order thinking.

  17. In my school, and in many others nearby, the greatest problem seems to be that the teachers do not want to spend time on their own with a manual or a For Dummies book. They are always insisting on “we need training” – for even the simplest things.

    Sometimes, admittedly, the cry is used to short-circuit some really dumb initiatives from the administration by raising a big enough stink that the new ed-fad of the week is avoided on a temporary basis.

    I’m a technology geek who also LOVES blackboards – I’ve got five of them, covering two of the walls. It is awesome for math class. I enjoy using a SmartBoard, but it’s not essential. So I’ve resisted buying one for my room on the rather limited budget the math department has. I’ve played with the idea, though. Borrowed the mobile one from the lab fairly regularly.

    The science teacher across the hall, on the other hand, bought a huge one (84″ diagonal) and it’s still leaning against the file cabinet in the corner! After nearly a year!

    Why? Because he spends so much time on his lesson plans – almost three hours a day – and he has no time to learn how to use it (his claim). Now this guy has been teaching for years and is in his third year at this school – how is it possible to spend that much time on lesson plans alone? Beats me. When I asked him, he said “I need training in how to use it!”

    Now, how much time would it really take to learn? Maybe a few hours to get the basics and start a few files. 30 minutes one day each week to “learn something new”. You’re off and running.

    I offered to help him but he refused. So I asked if I could set the Board up in my room, to get some use out of it until he needed it. To my total surprise, he agreed.

    I’m thinking “I’ll get it running and working and then show him how to use it and move it back” but I have a feeling I’ll get to keep it for a while.

    But this mind-set of never wanting to try something new, of being afraid to use technology, to thinking “I’m overwhelmed and can’t deal with this” – this is something I just can’t understand.

    Are we teachers really that “stupid” that we can’t learn something new without a consultant guiding our every step?

    I sometimes think so.

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