Going 1:1, Part 2: Teacher Challenges

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The biggest challenge that I have heard teachers talk about is not having the time to not only learn the new technology, but to plan and implement it as well.  As educators, we all know that “teacher” is only one of many roles we play each day.  Besides the actual act of teaching, teachers must find the time to grade papers, input data into whatever system their district uses, make parent contacts, write lesson plans, and the list goes on and on.  Many teachers look at the technology integration as “just one more thing” on their plates.  I wish I could get teachers to understand that if they’d just spend a little time up front, their work loads would be greatly reduced.  The awesome thing about digital lessons and lessons that use digital tools is that once they’re created they’re there forever.  I can tell the teachers this until I’m blue in the face, but until next year, and the year after that rolls around and they’re not spending hours on content creation, they don’t necessarily see the value in it.
I’m only saying this because one of our veteran teachers said it.  “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks.”  I happen to believe this is a false statement, but I do recognize the older we get the harder it is to learn new things.  For our students, most technology is intuitive because they’ve grown up with it.  This generation is referred to as “Digital Natives” because they’ve been immersed in a technologically advanced world since they were born.  For many teachers, though, this is not the case.  Many teachers are actually afraid of technology because they think they’re going to break something or mess something up.  They are definitely not as willing as the students to step out and try something new.  They have this need to know everything about the technology before attempting to use it:  how does it work, what happens when you press this button, what happens if I delete something, etc.  We had the great opportunity to hear Kevin Honeycutt speak at the beginning of the year.  I think the greatest piece of advice he gave us was to not wait until we’re experts to try something with the iPads.  We tell our students all the time that you learn by making mistakes.  Sometimes it’s easier said than done, especially when it comes to a device that costs as much as an iPad or laptop does.
All schools have those teachers who inspire their students; who come in every day with new, innovative lesson plans, and who just ooze “awesome teacher”.  All schools also have those teachers who aren’t quite as adept as the others.  They may struggle with time management, classroom management, connecting with their students, engaging their students, and the list goes on and on.  I have found that adding a device to a struggling teacher’s classroom makes the whole situation worse.  There is then added pressure on the teacher to learn and implement something new when she/he may not even be capable of teaching the an engaging lesson that incorporates research-based teaching strategies while meeting state standards and objectives.  I know that a lot of people would say to just “get rid” of these teachers, but I feel that teaching is a calling.  The pay stinks, and for the most part, there is no respect for our profession.  No one in their right mind would go into teaching just because they need a job.  So it is my belief that we should give these struggling teachers all the support, resources, and encouragement we can.  However, adding a classroom set of devices simply might not be the best resource for a struggling teacher.
Our school is currently in its seventh month of 1:1 with iPads implementation.  The first month of school, the students were engaged, motivated, and totally into everything the teacher did and said because they were getting to use iPads.  They didn’t want to lose that privilege.  Teachers were amazed at how attentive the students were, and according to a tech survey I did, the vast majority of them felt that the iPads played a part in increased student engagement.  However, at this point in time, that “wow” factor has worn off.  Yes, using the iPads is still fun and preferable to paper and pencil, but the students just aren’t impressed by them anymore.  Teachers have now had to adjust to students acting how they did before the iPads.  Also, the students aren’t as wary of the consequences for misusing the iPads either.  Teachers are having to “police” more now.  By police, I mean they are having to check emails, photo rolls, and the settings to ensure students aren’t trying to get into the restrictions.  Fun times.
Finally, in addition to the 1:1 initiative, our teachers are implementing a new curriculum this year. Just like most other teachers in America, our state has shifted to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Math.  I get the feeling that our teachers just feel like they’re floundering sometimes with the new standards and the new technology.  Maybe it was too lofty of a goal to implement both this year.  Again, teachers’ time is limited by all of their responsibilities, and being able to focus on two huge changes at once is a challenge.  All of this said, the teachers I have worked with this year have maintained a positive attitude and a willingness to move past the frustrations that come along with learning and implementing new technologies and curriculums because they know that its in the best interest of the students.