I have noticed throughout my career that there are two types of teachers: The first are those that embrace technological change, run with the new, try everything that crosses their screen. The second are those that think that using the internet to research and Word to present an assignment is using technology effectively in their classroom (if they do that much).
Some of these teachers are new to the classroom and have had little experience with technology through their schooling. Many of the teachers that do not actively use technology as part of their teaching pedagogy started teaching when I was in primary school or
before. I am not that old. My cousins got a Vic 20 when I was about 10 years old and I was so excited when my parents purchased a Commodore 64. BBC’s were the height of technology in the classroom in grade 6 and we all went to the AV room to watch Behind The News every Tuesday at 11:30 live on the ABC. Back then computers were pretty unstable. You needed to have some basic programming skills to get the most out of the software. The user manuals took longer to read than the program took to run and if you pressed the wrong button you lost everything. Printouts were always dot-matrix and looked pretty horrible.
Do not get me wrong, some teachers who are more experienced will take to technology like a dog will chase a bone. But for some reason, many will not. When talking to them about the reasons why they do not use technology in their classrooms I get answers such as…
“What if I press the wrong button?”
“I do not know what to do.”
“I might break the computer.”
Back when many of us were introduced to computers they broke pretty easily and had lengthy manuals. You never just pushed a button to see what it did as you may wipe the hard drive. Now computers are pretty bomb proof. The programs are pretty stable and many even back themselves up. Microsoft products do not even come with a manual as they are pretty intuitive and are designed to be ‘played with’.
I have been to professional development training sessions where these same technophobes are saying how wonderful the program, idea or task is but then they go back to their classrooms and do the same old thing. So what is the main difference between teachers that do use technology and those who don’t? I think that these, very good teachers, have lost the ability, or are scared to play. It is not their unwillingness to incorporate technology but the fear that they were taught when computers were new about ‘breaking’ the computer.
So what can we do to help people lose this fear?
Start with something that is pretty bomb proof. Something that links in with what computer skills they already have. My choice would be OneNote. You can do amazing things at a very basic level. Most teachers have some word processing skills and this is easily transferable from Word to OneNote. Attack their fear head on. Challenge them to crash the program in 15 minutes or less. You can not be scared of achieving the task set. Tell them they need to press every button and see what it does. Some people may still find this a bit hard so get them to work in pairs, with another person as hesitant to use technology in the classroom as they are. We know they will not break the computer. They will get lost, so show then how to get back to where they need to be with as few steps as possible but reward getting lost with lollies or small prizes. This will help to change their feelings about not wanting to push the wrong button.
Ribbon Hero 2 is also a good way to add a fun element for office 2007 and 2010 version. Read more here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/education/archive/2012/02/15/ribbon-hero-2-free-software-for-teachers-in-february.aspx .