If you train us, we will use it

Workshop participant: What is that pen tool you were using?

Me: It’s a Wacom Intuit tablet — it lets me use my computer like my Smartboard.

Workshop participant: So you’re using Smartboard software?

Me: Yeah, I like it better than Powerpoint. It’s easier for drawing graphs.

Workshop participant: Oh that’s interesting. I’ve only ever used my Smartboard as a projector screen. … We’ve never had any training.

Sigh.

A single Smartboard costs more than $1,000. Why on earth would a school district pay to install this expensive device in this teacher’s room, but not pay to train the teacher using it? What is wrong here?

Really, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just part of a larger trend. Spend millions on technology; spend nothing on training to use it.

I recently completed a group research project comparing “Google v. Apple” in the education sector. One of our findings was that iPads are losing out to Chromebooks at least in part because teachers don’t know how to use them. (Chromebooks are more intuitive.)

In his dissertation research, Phu Vu (a grad student at Southern Illinois University) found that 62% of teachers in his study who had received 1-to-1 iPads in their classrooms never received training. None at all.

Vu referred to a “Trojan horse” approach to educational reform. Tech experts and school administrators believe that if you just bring in a new technology, improved education will follow. Like magic!

Thankfully, my school district does devote significant time to training us on new technology, even giving “tech expert” teachers stipends to help train the rest of us. But that’s not the case everywhere, even as more than 50% of districts nationwide have moved to 1-to-1 computing.

I can’t figure out if administrators believe that teachers will train themselves (for free!), or if they think the new technology is so intuitive that we don’t need training (it isn’t), or if they just don’t care whether we use it or not.

I do know that many teachers, especially older ones, find technology incredibly frustrating, and they won’t spend their own time and money to figure out how to use it. So $650 iPads sit on their carts; $1000 Smartboards function as projector screens; and new Makerspaces sit idle in media centers.

If we’re going to invest in technology, let’s at least invest in training the people who need to use it.

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