Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Why don’t more teachers integrate technology more effectively?

I shared the following yesterday as a comment on one of my “Technology 4 Teachers” students’ blog posts. Her statement to which I was responding was, “Technology in classrooms today are too often dependent upon money, rather than the needs of the student.”

Money is always an excuse that is pulled out for technology not being integrated more in the classroom, and our schools definitely DO need more money. There are often bigger reasons for teachers not using technology and embracing its use in their classrooms, however, than money. Two books I have read and commend which highlight these reasons are “The Flickering Mind” by Todd Oppenheimer and “Oversold and Underused” by Larry Cuban. At a basic level, interactive technologies challenge many teachers’ conceptions of CONTROL in the classroom. While progressive educators commonly embrace the idea we need to differentiate learning opportunities for students and provide hands-on opportunities to “do” the curriculum rather than simply experience it passively, that is a much more challenging way to teach and lead your classroom than the “traditional” mode. We tend to teach as we were taught, and most teachers have very little experience as a student in a 1:1, blended, or otherwise technologically enhanced learning environment. One reason pre-service teacher education technology integration classes like ours are so important is that we need to help pre-service as well as in-service educators EXPERIENCE what effective and transformative technology integration can look, sound, and feel like. Hopefully we’ll do that together in this class this semester. If we don’t change our educators’ EXPERIENCES as students in the classroom, it will continue to be very difficult to change the ways educators LEAD in their classrooms.

facilitating student project work in a 1 to 1 learning environment
Image Attribution: Marco Torres

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14 responses to “Why don’t more teachers integrate technology more effectively?”

  1. Laura Beckham Avatar
    Laura Beckham

    Thanks for these thoughts and recommendations for a good read on the topic.

    As a provider of in-service & professional learning for teachers, I try to both push and reassure teachers of this very truth: teachers are being asked to teach in a way they never learned as students.

    Have this EVER happened before in centuries of teaching?

    Their discomfort is real and needs to be acknowledged — but then we must move them forward.

    Replicating a “child/student – adult/teacher” environment in the context of adult learning however, can be just as challenging. These are very different models.

    Looking forward to the books.


  2. Jeff Johnson Avatar
    Jeff Johnson

    There’s no shortage on new and effective ideas on using technology for learning and teaching. They’ve been publsihed online for years. With YouTube and similar resources, it’s easier to share ideas and discover what others are doing than ever.

    So, why do we still see word processing and “look-it-up-and-tell-me-back” activities as the most frequent use of our ever more powerful computers?

    1. Lack of consistent and targeted professional development (same old story here) – we still do a lot of one-size-fits-all and one-shot training. Contrast this with other professions.

    2. Lack of visionary leadership – as you, David Warlick, Scott McLeod and many others regularly point out, despite educators that are doing amazing, innovative, transforming activities with their students, we generally have a population of administrators and board members that just don’t get it. Look at the attendance at major edtech conferences – mostly teachers and edtech gurus, few superintendents, principals, and decision makers. This is, IMO, the most critical deficiency. How many school admins take the ISTE standards for themselves seriously? How many even know they exist?

    Until we change these two factors, I doubt that we’ll see any significant change. As Bernajean Porter says, when it’s optional, people will choose not to do it. So when does using technology as an learning tool (above LoTI level 1 ( become an expectation and something that happens routinely and transparently?

  3. Angie Avatar

    I would agree with Jeff.

    Time. Time is so hard to make. Professional development is a one shot deal and teachers are often expected to complete it on “their own time.” I understand that we need to be with the kids. I WANT to be with the kids. But I also want to be my best with the kids and try as I may I can’t always get there on my own. (And to be my best I do need a balance of work and personal life.)

    Then add a mix of apathy and sheer overload. Thank heavens for the teachers who care. Because there are a lot of them who are so afraid of trying something new that they remain paralyzed in the dark ages. Thank heavens for teachers who have to do the same amount of paperwork and get the same amount of pressure to “get every single child up to X level even though some of them are starting out three years behind and have no parental support at home” but still try. These teachers are the future of our educational system. Well. Them and the kids!

    Oh. And add administration who will not allow attendance at professional conferences and meetings. Even when I am willing to pay for them myself and use personal days. That’s always encouraging. And district technology decisions being made by people who have never set foot in a classroom. That helps, too.

    Eek. This sounds very negative. My apologies. A lot of great technology integration is happening. I just happened to read this at the end of a week with some setbacks. Thank heavens for electronic communities with which to share ideas and engage in discussions. There’s always next week.

  4. John Goldsmith Avatar


    To the above comments which are right on, I have this to add.

    First this phrase (I can’t remember where I saw it first), “When teachers ‘get it’, change happens in the classroom. When principals ‘get it’, change happens in a school. When superintendents ‘get it’, change happens in a district” (and so on).

    Secondly, this an anecdotal observation only and I’d love the time to follow-up with a comprehensive study (Doctoral dissertation?). I’d also love to hear what others think.

    My hypothesis – in those districts where technology integration has been successful, the leader of the technology dept has been an educator or someone with educational experience. In those districts where technology integration has not been successful or had little impact, the technology leader has not been an educator or had no educational experience.

    My rational – an educator, no matter what their role will always have some empathy/understanding for the situation and circumstances faced by their classroom brethren so, technology related decisions will have an pedigogical rational or at least have an educational perspective.

    Technology leaders with no educational experience will make decisions that make perfect sense from a technology perspective but absolutely no sense from a educational perspective.

    I know it’s not quite that black & white and there will be exceptions but I wonder what the mean, average or trend is?

    Your thoughts?

  5. Brett Dickerson Avatar
    Brett Dickerson

    Wes, thanks for another very good, thought-provoking post.

    After 14 good years of teaching in public schools, I have observed that money is always found for those expenditures that the board and their electors (the public) value the most, such as sports facilities, new offices, busses, and classrooms. I don’t believe that money is the true issue for their skittishness in allowing more tech. Instead, public school boards are far too interested in practicing the education version of “defensive medicine” where concerns about law suits and bad news media exposure drives all considerations of expanded use of technology. Usually, the first thoughts of admins involve questions like “What if a student finds a porn site and looks at it on a school computer?” “What if students set up a Socialist web site?” and other such mental hand-wringing. Perhaps as new board members, admins, and even a new voting public begin to fill those leadership roles, there will be an easing of fears about “tech gone wild”.

  6. paul shircliff Avatar
    paul shircliff

    unfortunately as someone already said, when it is optional people will opt out. Our union has been fighting the implementation of online grades because “our contract says grades have to be entered twice, once at midterm and once at quarter end”
    The biggest need for money is to hire more tech support staff, not buy hardware. Some teachers who want to try need help to integrate tech and need tech that works seemlessly. Without support staff, it won’t happen

  7. Ed Avatar

    Can we stop blaming the teachers for NOT using technology. If provided the opportunity, I have seen and I honestly believe that most teachers would learn to integrate various technologies to engage and accelerate teaching and learning. Most teachers are lifelong learners and most teachers take their jobs to heart.
    There is a HUGE digital divide in education between the haves and the have-nots. In my school and many urban school districts we do not have projectors, overhead projectors, graphing calculators. We have one “computer lab” for 400 students, which is used for a class room throughout the day with no support for student logins with no printers, no speakers, no headphones, no microphones, etc. This is not an isolated school.
    As a electrical engineer and software developer, I am VERY technical and know how to use most software and hardware to aid in classroom instruction, but there is only so much I can do with my one personal computer, my personal graphing calculator, my personal headset, my personal digital camera, my personal speakers, my personal USB flash drives (for students to use), my personal smart pen, my personal software, and other personal peripherals. On my salary I cannot afford a projector nor an interactive whiteboard. I have all the working components for a Wii-mote based Interactive whiteboard, but I do not have the expensive projector.
    So … please send me all your old equipment. I will pay for shipping. I will put it to great use within a week. I will even extend an open invite for you to come to any of my classes to see how I actively use it.
    I really think most teachers teach the way they were taught because they have nothing to work with.
    Oh I forgot to say, we are lucky to have one set of classroom textbooks which do NOT go home with any student.

    I participated in the previous 2 Educon [] non-conferences (2008 and 2009) in Philadelphia for all 3 days each at my own expense and time; including taking off personal days. I cannot see attending this year unless my school pays the increased registration fee and a professional development day … which will not likely happen.

  8. Ed Bujak Avatar
    Ed Bujak

    I am sorry if that last post sounded negative, but ….
    I agree with the comments made by others above. The vision has to come from the leaders and it comes from the top. as other have noted The administration (super, principal, curriculum directors, SpEd directors, athletic directors/coaches) will spend money they somehow find on activities and initiatives, but if no monies are allocate for academic pursuits then it says a lot! There are no funds for technology purchases, installation, maintenance, or training. Teaching is not about “using” technology, but it is unfortunate that education will be the same as it was before if we do not meet the students with the tools they use everyday.

  9. umbahli Avatar

    “As a provider of in-service & professional learning for teachers, I try to both push and reassure teachers of this very truth: teachers are being asked to teach in a way they never learned as students.

    Have this EVER happened before in centuries of teaching?”

    Yes! Technology may be evolving at a faster rate. But hasn’t communication technology? Going back to the early days of telephones, film strips, slides, movies, TELEVISION, people have had to incorporate new ways of communicating and feared that students will stop learning. It seems a great teacher is someone who helps a student negotiate the time and place where they exist?! In my experience much more interesting and profitable for the teacher too. If a dialogue model is applied to teaching different generations can teach each other!

  10. Shelley Owen Avatar

    These are all excellent points and quite true from my perspective as an ed tech coordinator for my small school. I have been working with teachers to integrate technology in the classroom and in the computer lab for over 10 years. During this time, very little has changed within my district in terms of technology use; but a lot of great things have happened at my school. This is because my school has chosen to hire me for full time ed tech support.

    Despite the fact that our school’s technology program has been praised and written about in the local newspapers, parents have approached board members with support of the program, our students have won Digital Voice Awards, our API scores are soaring above the rest, and I provide training (for free on my own time) to nearly all the other schools in the district, the powers that be still don’t get it. Our parent organizations have had to buy and support all our hardware and software; I’m paid from the school’s ever shrinking site budget; and all the while, the district’s own technology dept. budget is tapped for other purposes and getting smaller by the minute. Technology remains an optional add-on without support from the district administrators OR the teachers’ union. If the district wanted to support the use of technology in the classroom they would hire ed tech coordinators for each school site. With the added support, teachers would feel more comfortable allowing changes to their contract requiring the use of educational technologies.

    In the face of all our successes and all evidence in support of ICT education coming from our school, administrators and the school board remain blind to the very real and pressing urgency to bring education into the 21st century.

  11. Lesley Edwards Avatar

    Great comments! In my district we have been offering training sessions for administrators only in an informal setting giving them some inspiration and practical tips. We try to give them practical suggestions that will tie into the way they as administrators might benefit from using a variety of online tools.
    For instance:
    – Google docs forms for polling parents or the student body quickly
    – Twitter, showing them how it can be an effective way to get a message out quickly or showcase their school. We also provided them with a short starter-set of inspirational people to follow and build their own PLNs
    – Facebook pages as another good way to reach students and showcase school events.
    – RSS feeds, with a starter-set of quality educators and administrators to follow.
    – How to access professional journals through the online databases the district subscribes too.

    By offering them their own place to learn they are less intimidated, more likely to ask questions and able to start using and feeling comfortable with the tools.

    We’ve had two sessions so far with very positive feedback and requests for more. Admin. need mentors too!

  12. Cynthia Avatar

    I appreciate this conversation. I am currently taking a course entitled “Learning and Teaching with Technology” with exactly this goal in mind, but I am facing head on the lack of support from the district to go in this direction. During the summer our board saw fit to remove our working computers with the promise that we would get a mobile lab. So for the first 4 months of school this year we had no student access to computers at all, with the first month of that not even teachers had access to any. So now our school is trying to learn this new system with impending standardized testing (that needs to be done online) within the next 2 weeks. There are a few district Tech guys who are working as hard as they can, but there’s only so many hours in a day. So I am offering my services to the staff as a “problem shooter” and coordinator for our new lab. Has anyone else taken this on? What are some effective ways of going about this? Where do I start in helping staff think about ways to integrate technology into their teaching?

  13. Dave Avatar

    Some teachers are just scared of technology or don’t know how to really integrate it into their classroom. The other problem is training is limited with almost no follow up or even assistance to them once they get back to their classroom.

    As for money, outside of a computer, lcd projector and speakers, I haven’t spent any money on technology in my room and yet I am able to do so much with my students. Hardware costs can also be kept low with smart purchasing decisions and even buying refurbed equipment.

    Here are some ideas on helping teachers get started with technology –

  14. Andrew B. Watt Avatar

    I concur that it’s about CONTROL in the classroom.

    A colleague of mine runs a digital multimedia program in the ninth grade. Her students used to rave about the program. Yesterday, two of her students got the boot to the deans’ office.

    I admit, I haven’t heard her side of the story yet. But both boys complained that they weren’t allowed to do anything. One was told he couldn’t sit where he wanted, use the programs he wanted, or work on the project he wanted to do — a project he claimed she’d already given her permission for him to do. The other said she told him to give up on a project he was working on, because he wasn’t doing it “professionally enough.”

    Both students were angry. Maybe the teacher was angry too; I don’t know. But I do know that this isn’t the way to win students over.