Leadership key to edtech success
Natalie Burgess, Microsoft Ambassador, looks at what barriers teachers face when trying edtech in the classroom
As a Primary 3 teacher for a number of years in Scotland and now working as one of Microsoft’s UK Teacher Ambassadors, I have seen what makes schools successful in adopting new technology in the classroom and have more of an insight into what holds them back.
In my experience as a teacher and working with schools and local authorities, the biggest thing holding schools back from adopting technology in the classroom is more complex than it first seems. Teachers are very busy with growing workload and paperwork and sometimes there’s just no head space to even think about ‘something new’. As well as this, there may be teachers who are trying to be innovative in the classroom, however, the infrastructure in the school doesn’t cope with devices on the Wi-Fi, etc and can’t be upgraded due to lack of funding. This can become frustrating for teachers who are trying their best to be innovative, but the school environment isn’t set up effectively for it. Where I have seen the most success in adopting technology, the main difference that stands out to me is the Senior Management Team. When SMT are on board, using technology themselves, encouraging and rewarding staff when using it effectively, I have seen massive success. It must start from the top down and be seen as a priority in the school to give the pupils the skills they need for life, work and beyond.
Being busy as teachers it’s hard to stay up to date with all the latest tools out there. What I loved to do during my planning time was spend 10 minutes on the Microsoft Educator Community and take a quick course on how to create online stories using Sway or how to create videos using Office Mix, which I could also easily share with my colleagues too. I use Twitter on a professional level to learn from other educators around the world and see what’s new in government policy etc. This is where I found out about Digital Leaders and my journey with that began very successfully after a night on Twitter following #DLchat!
I do think that technology should be more integrated in teachers’ CPD and that is something that we are doing here in Scotland. I am working closely with Education Scotland to align the amazing range of online courses provided within the Microsoft Educator Community to the Curriculum for Excellence Experiences and Outcomes. This means that when teachers are going to tackle a new learning objective, they have courses at their fingertips to support them with the skills and knowledge they need to teach that outcome effectively.
I think that teachers can still operate effectively without knowing everything about technology. My suggestion to teachers is always find something that excites you and your pupils and have a go! It’s good to embrace that sometimes your pupils will know more than you – but that is great! Think of the confidence and skills they will gain being able to support you and others in the class. For Primary teachers, I always recommend starting with one topic. I started with integrating technology into my French lessons and then gained more knowledge and skills about what was working and what could be improved. Then, with more confidence, I began to integrate this into other curricular areas. For Secondary teachers, I always recommend starting with one class, and again growing their confidence and skills to then progress this with other classes, too. Take it a step at a time and enjoy learning and growing as an educator. Dedicate to lifelong learning and improvement, embrace a growth mindset and anything is possible in your classroom!