Making technology work in the classroom isn't always a simple proposition. Not all teachers possess the skills required to pull off a seamless technology lesson—particularly when the technology is less than cooperative. Some teachers aren't clear about the best way to integrate technology into their lessons.
Enter the technology coordinator. Technology coordinators have become the catch-all person for technology issues in most schools. Part teacher, part technical support resource, part decision maker, the technology coordinator is usually equipped with knowledge of both instruction and technology.
For the classroom teacher trying to integrate technology, this person can be pure gold. The trick is knowing when and how to best to make this relationship work for you.
While the age and quality of technology in the classroom varies widely from district to district, one thing is for certain, it is customized for the school environment.
Districts and schools put into place safeguards and specific software programs to tailor the classroom technology to the needs of both student and administration. For teachers who are accustomed to standard home computers, the school technology can seem limiting.
Couple customized computers and programs with widely varying technical skills and one will find that meeting every need within the school is a challenging task. The technology coordinator must keep in mind all of these variables when devising a program that works for all.
To assist your technology coordinator and get the most out of your technology options, consider the following.
Making Instruction Work
- Openly discuss your technical capabilities and limitations with your coordinator. Seek his or her direction for improving your skills.
- Organize a technology orientation for yourself and peers in your department. Invite your technology coordinator to be an active participant in the orientation.
- Respect the rules your technology coordinators put in place. Whether it is restricting downloads or loading new software, your technology coordinator understands the limitations of the network and rules that the school must adhere to. You should support his or her efforts in protecting your network and individual computers.
- Don't be arrogant or condescending to coordinators who may be younger or earlier in their career. Your coordinator has specific training for the position and deserves your respect.
In addition to simply making technology function the way you expect, integrating it as an effective learning tool is another challenge that all teachers face. Here, a positive working relationship with your coordinator can help. Consider the following:
Creating a Win-Win Situation
- Technology Consultation—Seek advice on novel applications of common software programs. Are there programs available that you may not know about? Can your tech coordinator teach you how to use the program or set you up with a tutorial?
- Team Teaching Opportunities—Collaborate on technology-driven projects that put learning content first, but are aided by the use of technology. Consider asking the coordinator to team teach a lesson with you.
- Class Web Sites—Create a class Web site with the assistance and support of your coordinator. You will need the coordinator's help in learning how to post new information to pages and to set-up the functions of the site. In this case, it is better to let your coordinator know what you are planning in advance, so that you can design a site that can be programmed and supported.
- Mid-Lesson Assistance—Agree on the circumstances upon which you can call the tech coordinator for help. Make sure you know how to reach your coordinator and what he or she can do to help you. Of course, it is always helpful to have a back-up plan to implement if the coordinator is not available to help you.
- Troubleshooting Guides—If your school or classroom doesn't already have one, collaborate with your tech coordinator to put together a one-page troubleshooting guide for teachers in your school. It should address common problems that teachers encounter when working with the school technology specifically.
As a teacher, you are required to learn how to integrate technology into your lessons on a regular basis. While there are certain risks involved in using technology, there are actions you can take to minimize time lost to technical challenges. Developing and sustaining a positive working relationship with the technology coordinator in your school can help you—and your students—be successful in this endeavor.
This article was contributed by Elizabeth Melville, an educational consultant and editor with Teaching Today.