Our latest episode of Opportunity Thrives, a podcast where we are committed to better supporting the needs of today’s struggling secondary students through interviews with students, teachers, administrators, technologists and education influencers, we explore what teachers need most when it comes to adopting new digital curriculum programs.
Online learning has given rise to a spectrum of instructional models that redefine teaching and learning in the classroom. At one end, teachers use digital content to enhance teacher-led instruction and provide remediation. At the other, digital curriculum is leveraged to transform primary instruction and support innovative initial credit and credit recovery programs. When implemented thoughtfully, blending digital learning within the classroom, can be just as effective, or even more so, than face-to-face or online learning alone. However, for teachers, adding one more thing to their day job can feel overwhelming.
This episode considers what teachers need most when it comes to implementing a new online learning program within the classroom, including strategies administrators can implement to make adopting the new technology an easier process. Jason Mitchell is joined by Laura Lee, an editor and writer for Edutopia, and Shanise Goldsby, an assistant principal at Broadview Middle School in Burlington, North Carolina.
To help illustrate the challenge, Laura shared results from the Bill and Melinda Gates report, Teachers Know Best, which is a study of more than 3,100 teachers exploring how they use digital instructional tools in the classroom, their attitudes toward technology, whether they believe existing digital tools are effective, if they have access to the digital tools that teachers want and need, as well as the extent to which school leaders are providing and supporting these tools in classrooms.
What they found was not necessarily surprising. Only two percent of teachers surveyed say they don’t see the value of using technology for student learning, and almost all teachers surveyed (93 percent) now regularly use some form of digital tools to guide instruction. However, school environment and teacher choice continue to be barriers to adoption.
And although teachers don’t select most of the technology they use, they are still largely responsible for incorporating it into their teaching, which can be a challenge. Teachers are almost equally likely to report that they are on their own using digital technology and managing the data it generates as they are to say that their school has dedicated staff to support them in these areas (31 percent vs. 39 percent, respectively).
However, when teachers were involved in selecting the curriculum they used, 48 percent of the teachers focused on the most cost-effective option, 46 percent attached the greatest weight to ease of integration, and 38 percent put the greatest emphasis on the tools’ ability to help them tailor instruction.
Access remains a critical barrier to technology adoption. Nearly half of teachers (42 percent) say their students lack sufficient access to technology outside of the classroom, and more than a third (35 percent) say their schools lack adequate funding for technology. The majority of schools’ technology investments still focus on the sorts of tools typically used to facilitate whole-class or large-group instruction. Barriers to access keep more teachers from using digital tools than do all other challenges, including teachers’ approach to instruction, discomfort with technology, or availability and sufficiency of digital resources.
There is no doubt that online learning is a benefit to educators, but teachers need support in the adoption of these digital resources within the classroom to ensure they are their used effectively. When teachers are involved with the digital curriculum process from the beginning, they are more invested in using and maximizing the resources available. Shanise and her team have found that thoughtful planning is the key to effective programs, and lasting success requires integrating continuous evaluation. At Broadview Middle School, they have created three fundamental structures that support student and teacher success:
1) Foster an open school culture. If educators and staff feel like they can ask questions and provide input about their online learning program, they will be more willing to understand how to use the resources available to them.
2) Access to training. Good teachers love to teach; but the best educators enjoy the opportunity to learn on a constant basis. Teaching with digital resources means teachers need to constantly hone and refresh their skills on whatever program they may be using. Making professional development a daily activity can keep everyone up to speed.
3) Provide time and support for Professional Learning Communities. It’s important to create time for teachers to work together to analyze and improve their classroom practice to achieve better results for the students they serve. Create common planning periods to ensure that teachers within similar subject areas have a chance to collaborate, ask questions and understand best practices. Providing time for teachers to call on their colleagues to help them reflect on areas of concern, new ideas, materials, and strategies, can make a tremendous difference in their success with digital curriculum.
To hear more on this topic, listen to the full episode at: https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/e9i8l1. We would love to hear your feedback and suggestions on the show. Please click in the podcast notes to leave us a review, provide your input or send us questions. You can also reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.