Learning management systems, homework websites such as Haiku, parent connection portals like ParentLocker and Moodle, and content programs like MathXL or Amplify take an investment of time and energy before successful implementation of the technology in the classroom.
Undoubtedly, it takes time to familiarize oneself with new programs and what they can do, how they are used, and what role they are to play in teaching. Teachers have been working diligently to catch up to the digital age, taking professional development classes, watching tutorials, connecting with colleagues and just using the “new stuff”. The response from students and parents has been overwhelmingly positive with the integration of ed-tech into the classroom, and teachers have been seeing improvements as well.
Without a doubt, teachers appreciate sites like Turnitin, which cuts down on plagiarism in record time. However, adding mobile technology to this mix has created a whole different dimension; one that teachers are, frankly, hesitant to embrace - and often with good reason.
From a teachers’ perspective, technology is a useful tool – as long as there are boundaries. Most classroom applications come with a teacher’s dashboard – they can see who is logged in, what work they are doing, whether they completed their assignments, etc. Even when using tablet computers in the classroom, students enter a virtual classroom where the teacher is in control of the activity. By allowing students to work on their individual phones, the fear is that all semblance of control will be lost and that teachers might have no way of knowing whether a student is working on task.
One of the most basic criteria in a successful classroom is called “classroom management” – that is to say, how well the teacher coordinates the activity during the lesson. Are the students on task? Are they engaged? Do they know what to do? Are they behaving? Many fear that removing the reins from a teacher’s hands and allowing students to break off into individual workstations to work on their phones, the ability to control the classroom will be fractured.
Many wonder, what is the point of these educational mobile apps, if teachers are unable to use them because of these fears? Thankfully, internet access at school has evolved immensely and has sophisticated filter systems, meaning students can only access appropriate learning material, and can’t veer off onto social media sites. Effective classroom management can also provide a learning environment where there is a trust system between student and teacher with things like student learning contracts. In a learning contract, the teacher spells out expectations for conduct, and the student, parent, and teacher all sign it. This provides a level of professionalism that students are responsive to because it makes them feel respected.
Setting clear and defined expectations in the classroom is one of the best ways to ensure that students are adhering to acceptable behavioral standards. Most importantly, though, when ed-tech software is used effectively in the classroom, students are excited to use it, and have no desire to stray from the activity. Such as, in the new Voki app, kids are able to design their own avatar and use a virtual version of themselves to create topical presentations. Engaging ed-tech apps like this one keep kids interested and eager to participate in lessons.
There are good reasons why teachers are afraid of mobile technology – and not all of it is from a general sense of technophobia. However, once these concerns are addressed, teachers will likely be happy to embrace mobile technology and add it to their arsenal. Administrators who encourage their teachers to allow mobile app use in the classroom will meet less resistance when companies who create the mobile apps address these hesitations head on, and provide solutions to combat common teacher fears.
About the Author:
Na’ama Y. Rosenberg is a former educator and school administrator, and is currently the Director of Content Development at Voki, an EdTech tool that allows teachers and students to create their very own digital talking avatar.