September 3, 2020
With COVID-19 forcing rapid tech adoption in schools, it can be hard for teachers to get on board with digital tools fast enough to keep the learning flowing.
In many school districts, it falls to the IT team to act as instructional technology staff, helping teachers adopt technology for remote education.
As an IT professional, you now have to instruct, guide, and support faculty with varying levels of tech-savvy as they pivot to new tools. Here is a list of tactics you can leverage to help teachers get on board with new tech.
Because technology staff support the entire district, it can be challenging to coordinate schedules and be available when teachers need you.
Send out an email setting expectations for your team’s availability and the channels teachers can use to reach you. How do teachers submit an IT ticket? Where should they go if they need technical support in the middle of a live video-class session?
Set up a shared calendar for the IT team that faculty can see. This calendar can display scheduled workshops, virtual ‘IT office hours’ for support, and time blocks for meetings. This way, all teachers in your district will know when your team is available.
With social distancing guidelines, you’ll have to show teachers how to use new tools remotely. Employ video conferencing to host instructional workshops, tutorial videos, and interactive Q&A sessions that teachers can attend from home.
Make the recording button your best friend. Record any video workshops or instructional sessions, so teachers who are unable to attend or have technical issues can download and watch the recordings later. Save recorded tutorials and workshops, and email them out to all faculty. This can help reduce requests for your team to repeat lessons.
Platforms for communication and video conferencing include:
Teachers who are accustomed to being an expert in their own lesson material may be thrown off when faced with an unfamiliar learning management system (LMS), or new video conferencing tool. Refrain from diving headfirst into all the nitty gritty features of a tool. Front-loading too much information can cause users to become anxious, or tune out; and they’ll be less likely to retain any of the information.
Start simple. Show teachers how to drag and drop a homework assignment into the system. Walk them through hosting a video conference, and how to mute participants. Give them the essentials to get started, then let them dive in. As they explore the tool, they’ll have relevant questions, and some may even navigate the deeper features themselves.
Remember, your job isn’t to transition the entire classroom learning experience to a digital format in one workshop. It’s about helping faculty feel comfortable navigating tech. The more empowered your teachers feel, the more they’ll attempt to troubleshoot their questions before coming to you — giving them more independence and freeing up IT for bigger questions.
Just like students benefit from study groups, teachers can help each other learn new technologies. Some teachers will pick up new tech faster than others. Consider appointing these staff to help their colleagues get up to speed.
Set up an online forum, community board, Slack channel, or Facebook group dedicated to school technology. Invite all faculty to join the online group, where they can ask and answer questions and support each other in navigating issues. There are also bigger online groups open to teachers, such as Global Educator Collective and Online Teaching Tips for the Plague-Averse.
This takes some pressure off of IT’s shoulders, as teachers can help each other solve easier issues and frequently asked questions — leaving the IT team available to step in for heavier technical issues.
In addition to leveraging video, provide written documentation for teachers to reference. Create FAQ pages, guides, and ‘cheat-sheets’ of tips for each platform. Host all written resources on an intranet or webpage where you can direct teachers when they need help.
List reputable third-party professional development sites, tutorials from the tech creators, and training programs. Direct faculty to the Tech against Coronavirus website, which lists an array of digital tools that teachers may find helpful. Make it as easy as possible for teachers to find resources.
With the sudden pivot to remote learning, teachers may feel a loss of control over their lesson material and class environment. Remind faculty that they don’t have to perfectly recreate the in-person classroom experience using technology. The learning experience will change, and that’s okay.
Highlight the benefits of each digital tool. Encourage them to leverage the tech to do what it does well, rather than trying to force it to fit the model of in-classroom learning. This may mean getting creative and flexing their lesson plans.
Gently encourage teachers to focus on what’s within their control: the attitude they bring to each class session, the mindset with which they approach technology, and the atmosphere of learning that they cultivate in their classes.
As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, it’s normal for everyone involved to feel anxiety about the situation — perhaps more so in parents, faculty, and other adults than in students.
Your teachers are human beings with families of their own, potential health concerns, and the stress of changing their entire routine. On top of this, they may be fielding questions and concerns from uneasy parents who are closed-minded toward remote learning.
You may get repetitive questions. You may hear from teachers who seem unnecessarily stressed or panicked. Do your best to remain calm and patient; this will help them feel more calm and secure. Remind teachers that you’re here to help, and that we are all doing our best to continue educating students.
Digital tools cannot perfectly replicate the in-classroom environment; but that doesn’t mean they can’t support unique and inspiring learning experiences in new ways.
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