Matthew Tullman is the Co-founder and President of digedu, a Chicago-based provider of digital education that works in partnership with 42 K-12 schools in 12 states.
His company recently undertook a survey of over 600 teachers and found that 50 percent feel they are inadequately trained in technology.
Here is a transcript of Matthew Tullman’s talk with Liz Willen, from The Hechinger Report.
Question: What has to change to help teachers become better trained in technology, and why does it matter so much?
Answer: Teachers are excited about the possibilities of technology, yet they are still limited by some of the realities – the lack of hardware, infrastructure and training. They have such amazing capabilities in their daily lives, and it’s like taking a step back once they get in the classroom. They need the hardware, the support and training to do what they know is possible. If you can get them comfortable and show them the why, you can get buy-in and they will be using the technology and accumulating the experience and working knowledge necessary. Technology is benefitting us in every aspect of our life, so we have to move toward meaningful use of it in the classroom.
Q: How can you address the technology gap in districts that don’t have the money to spend on it?
A: A thoughtful, holistic approach is the first step. It will require an idiosyncratic approach. Every district has different goals. I think the solution is to look at the budget and identify what are the goals are and what are we spending money on. If you look at consumables, workbooks, textbooks and a lot of the money we are spending on 1.0 tech, like interactive whiteboards, there are ways we can bridge the gap more quickly. It’s about reallocating what we are spending already.
Q: What’s the best way of working with teachers to help them get more comfortable using technology in the classroom?
A: There is a very thoughtful approach in Miami, where they are rolling out a three-year [technology] plan. In the first year, teachers explore, play, fail, experiment. In the second year they have a minimum requirement for usage. By the third year it’s a mandatory experiment. Play/learn is critical for the comfort gap. And the second step is support and that relates to training. What makes the biggest difference is letting [teachers] play and experiment with low risk scenarios. You can also build in a button that lets them talk to any former teach live. It’s a safety button. You can click on it and speak to someone fluent with [the technology] and identifying issues and instructional challenge. We also take students in every grade and train them to troubleshoot tech issues. In terms of fixing it and supporting teachers in classrooms, it’s incredibly effective.
Q: Are some teachers threatened by technology, and would they prefer to stick to traditional methods?
A: I don’t see that. It’s absolutely the case in that all of us knowledge workers are threatened. We all have to be thinking and growing and staying one step ahead of technology, but in many districts it’s the opposite. We aren’t to a point where we are graduating kids who have the skill sets and know-how and fluency to operate in a highly technological world. You can’t do that from a static textbook. We are a long way off from where we want to be. We have to equip students with know-how and skill. I don’t think tech itself will improve learning. It’s meaningful use of technology that can impact learning.
The article originally appeared on The Hechinger Report.