Schools across the globe are going through a growth spurt of sorts, which is both painful and unavoidable. I’m talking, of course, about technology integration. Maybe your class is using a COW (Computer on Wheels) cart once a week or maybe every student in your school is suddenly holding an iPad and administrators are throwing around the dreaded phrase “going paperless.” Whatever the level of technology integration, we all seem to be in some state of transition toward new technology at any given time. The painful truth, though, is that no matter how many professional development sessions we receive or how many tools we are given, many adults struggle to adapt to new technology. We approach the new school year fully aware that our students will hack the media and turn it to their own deviant uses before we as teachers even learn to turn the device on. The solution to this problem is simple. It’s time to take a page from our students’ playbook. We need to jump quickly over the hurdles of trepidation, fear, and distrust, in order to come out ahead in the technology race.
Beat the Fear of New Technology
Not unlike the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief, all people (not just adults) go through a series of predictable reactions when confronted with new technology. Knowing that these stages are the same for everyone and that it’s not just you against the world, you can start to move through the stages more quickly. You can learn to follow the lead of your students and turn fear into excitement and ultimately, acceptance.
Stage 1- Denial
As teachers, we work hard to hone our craft. Year to year we make small adjustments to the curriculum, our lesson plans, and our classroom management systems in order to maximize our efficacy. Therefore, it can feel like a real shock when administrators declare an abrupt and sweeping change, such as a paperless classes, and 1:1 technology integration (where each student works on a device, whether it is a computer, tablet, or even their phone). Many teachers will experience an automatic response to the news. The general reaction is “This is never going to work!”
It turns out this is a normal reaction toward new technology. Even children, who seem flexible and enthusiastic about every new wave of technological development, go through an initial uncertainty. The key to successful technology adoption is to accept that you will feel frustrated and scared. It is normal. Simply acknowledging your fear can help you move through this phase more quickly. The last thing you want is to let the fear take over and for paralysis to set in. It’s OK to say “I’m freaked out and I don’t like this.” But don’t stop there. Move past the fear and try the technology.
Stage 2- Bargaining
“They can put this in my classroom, but they can’t make me use it!” Maybe you’ll tell yourself that you will learn the bare minimum. You’ll use the technology during a principal’s observation of your class, or you’ll use it in the first week of school and then put it away and go back to your regular, proven, routines. Bargaining isn’t actually a bad thing in this situation. It can smooth the pathway toward actually using the new device. Even technology enthusiasts will say “I’ll try using this but if it doesn’t work for me, I’m not going to pursue it.” As a teacher, tell yourself that you will give the technology a try. If you don’t like it, you can use it as minimally as possible, but you will at least be giving yourself permission to try it out without a heavy feeling of risk.
Stage 3- Experimentation
This is the key stage to successful technology adoption. It’s the figurative turning point for your mindset as a technology user. Once you allow yourself permission to experiment with the technology and actually begin clicking through it (whether it is a new device such as an iPad or a new website like Edmodo.com) it is through experimentation that we really overcome our fears.
While experimenting with the new technology you may hit a roadblock. Your frustration may spike, your fear may flare up again, but don’t let that stop you. Trust that you will not damage the device just by clicking around on it. You can always reboot, restart, or reload. Look for a help button, user guide, or even YouTube tutorial videos that can help you overcome these roadblocks. As you experiment, keep an open mind and look for anything interesting or helpful to you.
Stage 4- Excitement
More often than not, experimentation with a new tool will lead teachers to become excited about the application for their classroom. Teachers are by their very nature creative and innovative people. We always look at materials with an eye for differentiation and adaptation for our students. It is likely that you will begin to think of ways this new tool will fit into your lessons while you are experimenting with it. Conversations with other teachers are key to ironing out the details and paving the way toward actual application in your class. Research the technology online and read teacher blogs and reviews to get to know the product even better and see how others are applying it effectively in their classes.
Stage 5- Acceptance
The faster you can move yourself through the previous stages, the sooner you will feel confident using the new technology. Acceptance means you are ready to write this technology into your lesson plans, maximize its usefulness, and truly get the most out of this initiative for the benefit of your students.
Everyone moves through the stages of technology adoption at their own rate. However being aware that you will feel an initial push-back, you can move past your fears toward a productive level of exploration and acceptance more quickly. As teachers, we don’t always have control over new educational reforms or program initiatives in our school, but the one thing we can control is how we react to these changes. By moving past the fear we can spend our energy in more productive ways. Good luck with whatever your school has planned for the coming year. You can handle it. Even if you’re “going paperless”!