Technophobia is generally defined as fear or anxiety relating to technology. It is common among teachers and often results in a reluctance to adopt new practices. As teachers, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed. Like any other area for development, support should be available and you should be allowed to develop at your own pace. Here are my ten tips for overcoming technophobia in the classroom:
Remember the ‘why’
Just like our students, we are motivated to learn when we acknowledge the purpose and value. In 2017, I’m a great believer that denying students access to technology is doing them a disservice. Technology is a huge part of their lives and it isn’t going anywhere. Students need to be tech literate and, importantly, understand how to use it responsibly. Furthermore, technology has the potential to add huge value to learning. Granted, it isn’t always used in classrooms in the most purposeful ways, but we should aim to enhance our teaching with the opportunities that technology offers. Consider the 4 Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity) or use the SAMR model (below) to guide you as you integrate technology meaningfully.
Start at YouTube
YouTube is perhaps the best resource for anyone learning about technology, not just technophobic teachers. Whatever software you are learning about, there are probably short tutorial videos available on YouTube. Some will be short, briefly covering the main features, while others will go into more detail. Whatever your needs, I suggest starting here (as I always do). Simply search for what you need, as shown in the screenshot below. Putting aside five minutes to watch a tutorial video might be all the support you need. My favourite channels for these (that I have discovered so far) are iPadagogy, Teacher’s Tech and Dotto Tech.
Everything is simpler than it looks
No apps or websites that I use in the classroom are more complicated than Facebook. I’m not saying that Facebook is difficult, but I want to make the point that most teachers have, at some point, taken the time to figure out how it works and it became second nature. If you did that with Facebook, you can do it with apps and sites that are, on the whole, even simpler. Don’t be overwhelmed by technology tools that seem complicated because they’re probably not. Seesaw, for example, was specifically designed to be simple enough for kindergarten children. Developers generally aim to make their products as intuitive and user-friendly as possible.
Take baby steps
The technology available for classrooms is vast, growing and constantly evolving. Keeping up with it is a daunting task for even the most tech-savvy teacher. Don’t worry about that. Just remain focused on one or two essential apps for your school. For us, we have just adopted Seesaw for Schools and Google Classroom across the whole primary school. Having an in-depth understanding of these tools and how best to use them is more important than having a shallow familiarity with a vast amount of tech. As always in education, depth is more important than breadth.
Like I said, everyone has their weaknesses but we also have strengths that we can bring to a team. The best collaborative teams will call on each other for support in all areas of teaching. Technology integration is no different. Identify a colleague who can help you with your goals and reach out to them. Collaborative colleagues will be more than happy to support you in a non-judgemental way because you will no doubt be able to help them in another area. Set aside some regular time with them inside or outside the classroom. Get a feel for what they do with technology and the benefits that it has.
Let the students lead
Children learning from each other is powerful. Teachers learning from children is, too. These habits should be embedded in the classroom. The teacher does not need to be a technology expert. Even when I know how something works, I like to pass the responsibility to students because it’s good for them. Students in my class regularly share short demonstrations with each other about how things work (Apple TV is great for this).
Put learning first
You may not be an expert tech user, but you are an expert teacher. This is way more important. The students’ learning should always be the top consideration while tech is simply a tool that might enhance it. Sometimes technology is the best tool for the job, and sometimes it isn’t. Even if you lack confidence using technology, rest assured that your teaching expertise is what really matters. Trust yourself to make the best pedagogical choices and, if you feel technology would be beneficial, simply seek help with its implementation. Consider the quote below and take a look at the rest of David’s blog post.
“Classrooms don’t need tech geeks who can teach. We need teaching geeks who can use tech.”
David Geurin, Tech Geek or Teaching Geek?
Take online courses
Be masters of your own learning. There are so many online courses available around technology and many of them are free and self-paced. I recommended some in a previous blog post but I barely scratched the surface. There are countless others. These courses are a great way to add to your CV while providing the confidence and expertise that you need. Nowadays, PD is readily available so there’s no reason to wait.
I love this blog post by Mrs. McAlister. For an inspiring example of a self-confessed technophobe being a master of her own learning, click here.
Sometimes things go wrong… get over it!
A common reason not to adopt technology is that it sometimes goes wrong. True, but it goes right more often than not. We can’t use the occasional mishap as an excuse not to integrate technology. Besides, as professionals, we should be able to adapt and make last-minute changes to our lessons when necessary. Furthermore, most technical problems are due to our own mistakes and these are the moments that we learn from most. I have made many, many mistakes with technology integration but I don’t usually make the same mistake twice. I have learnt a lot along the way. Being willing to make mistakes and respond positively to them sets a positive example for students.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I once again recommend that teachers join Twitter. As the world’s biggest and best staff room, ideas and support are offered 24/7. Especially with regard to technology integration, there’s no better place to learn and grow. Twitter is one of the many sites that is simpler than it first seems. If you’re interested in giving it a go, see my Twitter induction guide.
I hope that my advice is helpful to you as you continue on your own journey with technology. What other advice would you offer? What have I missed? Please leave a comment below to keep the discussion going. As always, let me know if I can help you in any way.
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