Monday, November 2, 2015

Factors Impacting Effective Technology Use: Greatest Obstacle

What do educators perceive as the greatest obstacle to advancing the use of digital resources in the classroom? This question has been posed thousands of times since the advent of the Apple II+ and Commodore 64 computers. The responses to this question have remained steadfast: Lack of Access, Lack of Time, Lack of Staff Development Opportunities, and Competing Priorities (e.g., statewide testing, new textbook adoptions).

As we move closer to the 40th year anniversary of the first Apple computer, will the trend continue? Let’s take a second look at these perceived obstacles.

Lack of Access: 
Back in the day, a popular trend was sizing up the technology landscape in schools in terms of publishing an annual student-to-computer ratio. Today, this approach would appear archaic given the ubiquitous digital access in schools and at home. However, having access may be one thing; having reliable and consistent access (i.e., internet delays) may be another obstacle that can potentially impact effective technology use.

Lack of Time:
Do teachers have more or less planning time than, say, the last generation of educators? Obviously, there is no definitive answer as every school system has its own policies. Yet, one might argue that given the emphasis on high stakes testing as well as increased federal, state, and local mandates impacting the classroom, the amount of quality planning time may have decreased over the years. How this plays out in terms of impacting the way digital tools are used in the classroom will, no doubt, influence future decisions regarding staff development.

Lack of Staff Development Opportunities
As Lee Atwater famously stated, “Perception is reality.” How do teachers perceive their access to quality professional development? Unlike the previous generation whose primary PD was face-to-face, today’s educational professionals have access to all forms of staff development including synchronous and asynchronous online courses, webinars, video-conferencing, and peer mentoring programs to name a few. The anytime, anywhere training mind-set is happening now, yet, what percentage of teachers in your district are taking advantage of these resources?

Competing Priorities
How frequently have we heard about competing priorities as the reason for not delving into the vast potential of digital learning to inspire and motivate students and elevate professional practice? Though many of these other priorities are completely justified, the broader question is when will there ever be a time when we don’t have competing priorities?

Converting potential barriers into opportunities is the driving force behind the next wave of data collection with the release of the 20th Anniversary edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey. Our hope is that the information collected will motivate a new breed of staff development planners to innovate how they provide professional development to their constituencies.

This blog post is the fifth in a series of fourteen online entries highlighting factors that impact the effective use of technology in today's classrooms. This series focuses on each of the research variables used to conduct comparative analyses as part of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey.