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Tuesday
May252010

6 Possible Reasons Your Educational Technology is Underused

Does your computer lab look like this?

It's seen better days

Hopefully not! But how about metaphorically speaking? If your once-lovely shining new facilities are simply not being used by other teachers, perhaps one of the following is the reason why.

Teachers don't know what's available

Just because you do, don't assume everyone else does. Do you know what's available in the music rooms? When was the last time you took an inventory of the science area? It's not a bad idea to let people know what they can use. Set up a special area of the staff noticeboard, issue a half-termly newsletter, or make the occasional announcement in a staff meting. And definitely include the information in staff induction materials.

Teachers don't know how they could use it, or why they should

I think this is a matter of making suggestions to people, and asking their opinions. Something to avoid is coming across as if you know their subjects better than they do. That is pretty obnoxious, and almost guaranteed to trun people off working with you.

Teachers don't know what the kids know

It's a daunting prospect, thinking that before you can do what you actually want to do, you have to teach the kids how to do it. I'll give you an example of what I mean. Let's suppose I teach geography, and I want the kids to use a spreadsheet to generate a graph from some rainfall figures. I don't want to have to teach them how to do that, because that's just going to waste precious time from my point of view.

One thing I tried, and it worked really well, was to issue a bulletin at the end of each half-term stating what the students had been taught, and what they were going to be taught next. Once the staff knew that, to continue with the example, we'd covered how to make graphs, they were a lot more confident about using the facilities with their students.

Teachers lack confidence or competence

I've lumped these together because I think they amount to the same thing. At least,m they go hand in hand with each other. Improve your skills, and you're bound to become more confident.

So, make sure there is in-service training available, and classroom support if required.

The facilities are too difficult to book

I've already dealt with this problem in Removing the Barriers to Entry. Teachers are too busy to embark on a sort of obstacle course, so if it's hard to book a set of laptops or whatever, they probably won't.

The facilities are uninviting

They could be uninviting for all sorts of reasons. Old equipment, dirty keyboards, broken mice, or lots of posters telling you what is forbidden. Or they may be unreliable, or not fit for purpose in some other way (for example, laptops don't retain their charge for more than about an hour), or the computer labs may be too hot (a common complaint) or too noisy because of the air conditioning.

Perhaps in one of the computer labs only some of the workstations work — with the non-functioning ones still in place looking ugly and useless.

You'll need to look at the facilities with an objective eye, as I advocated in Carry Out a SWOT Analysis. That will help you identify the causes of the problem.

Conclusion

Unless you're incredibly unlucky, you should be able to make a significant increase in the use of the ed tech facilities in a relative short period of time. I know that quality is important, that it's not simply a question of numbers. But people can raise their game over time, so the important thing is to get them using the facilities to start with.

Also, if the facilities are constantly in use you will stand a much better chance of winning an argument for more funding to upgrade the facilities. In these hard-pressed times, that sort of consideration is more important than ever.

See the References for other useful articles on this topic.

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References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (8)

I cannot disagree with any of these points, Terry, but I'd like to add a few further suggestions;

Maybe your educational technology is underused because teachers have not included the use of ICT in their lesson plans? Perhaps a task of the edtech leader is to work with subject leaders to show how ICT can be used to support or extend the teaching of their subject?

Or maybe it's simply putting the kit into ICT suites that is a wrong approach. I've tried to cover this in a short post on my own blog, http://dougwoods.co.uk/blog/ict-out-of-sight-out-of-mind/

I'd also like to suggest that even if your educational technology is well used, in terms of time, the edtech leader needs to monitor who is using it and, perhaps more importantly, who is not. It could be that a fully populated timetable hides the fact that some subjects or individual teachers make less, or no, use of educational technology while others, perhaps, monopolise it.

Thanks, as ever, for a thoughtful, informative and insightful post.
May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Woods
Thanks for the comments, Doug. I'd agree with everything you say, except that I'm not sure about the lesson plans point from this point of view: If the technology isn't accessible, then why would teachers think about including it in lesson plans? In economic terms, I am coming at this from the supply side, whilst you're coming at it from the demand side. Both are necessary of course, IMO.

Thanks for reference to your article, with which I disagree! I'll leave a comment.
Good list T, my fave problem is that the information on the walls in computer rich spaces usually are dominated by what you MUST NOT do (no drinks in this room) rather than provocations for what you MIGHT do. Hardly encouraging!
May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Heppell
Thx, Stephen. Exactly! All too often, entering a computer-rich area is like walking into some sort of prison (the bars sometimes found on the windows are strangely appropriate).
I'm sorry, but I suggest that most of these are just excuses for teachers not using tech, aside from the last two - being the facilities booking and being uninviting ones. When it is stated 'teachers don't know' - they should now. It should be every teachers' responsibility to be up to speed with these capabilities. Sadly this is not the case.
May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Luke
Thx Paul. Well, I sympathise with your argument, but I htink we also need to deal with the situation as it is, not as we'd like it to be. :-)
@Terry i agree that teachers do believe in technology accessibility, otherwise they wouldn't incorporate it in their lesson plans. I think it's just that some of the more conservative teachers are not too comfortable with the recent technological breakthru that they lean back a bit.They might just need a little support to adapt to IC Technology.
@rita I agree -- but support in what form, and how much?

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