I recently gave a presentation at a technology institute in Washington, D.C., in which participants were asked to identify their difficulties integrating technology in their schools. One issue that surfaced repeatedly was getting teachers excited about using technology. I’d like to address this topic this month, because I think there is a direct link between teachers being excited about technology and the development of successful grant projects.
In several of my past columns, I have stressed the importance of developing strong project ideas before conducting research to locate potential funding sources. If the teachers in your school district are not familiar with current technology and what they can accomplish by using it in the classroom, it will be difficult for them to take an active role in developing a project and suggesting appropriate technology tools.
This could have two effects on the grant-seeking process: You will run the risk of designing projects that do not use current technology, and your grant proposals will not be competitive. Or, administrative staff will choose all of the technology without teacher input, which may lead to resistance and more fear about using technology in the classroom.
It may not be enough to have the district technology coordinator be familiar with what is currently available. Clearly, the technology coordinator should work collaboratively with teachers to choose technology that will assist them as they strive to improve student achievement, as well as help train teachers to use this technology. But the teachers themselves have the best sense of what will work in the classroom on a daily basis and how they can integrate the technology into the existing curriculum.
Although you can distribute printed information about technology and ask teachers to read about it, it seems unrealistic to expect teachers to become truly excited about technology unless they have the opportunity to see it firsthand, use it themselves, or talk to their colleagues and learn about their experiences in using the technology. So, here are some suggestions to make this happen:
- Invite vendors to come into the school and show teachers what they can do with different products. Try to give teachers ample time to use the products, ideally in their own classrooms for short periods of time, so they can decide which products best suit their needs. When looking at the same type of product–software, for example–it might be helpful to have a core group of teachers test the software for a few days, making note of its strengths and weaknesses and then reporting this information to the other teachers or staff members.
- Ask vendors if any nearby school districts are using their product. Call teachers at these other locations and ask them for an honest evaluation. You might want to invite them to come to your school to give a short presentation and to share their experiences using the technology in the classroom.
- Consider sending your teachers to technology conferences along with the technology coordinator. This will introduce them to the technology that is available and allow them to discuss technology with other teachers who are there to find out what does and doesn’t work well in the classroom. Again, having the opportunity to touch the technology will more likely spur creative thinking about how to use the technology back in the classroom.
Getting input and buy-in from project participants is an important component that often has a direct impact on the success of a grant project. Giving your teachers the opportunity to touch technology and get excited about it likely will result in projects that use technology in more meaningful ways and are more successfully carried out when grant funds are received.