My role at my high school is as a special education co-teacher. Due to my unique situation, I have taught in nearly every content area. My experiences with the obstacles of integrating technology have been the same across all content areas. I find that there are three main obstacles:
There are only a limited number of computers available at my school. The labs book up quickly so it can be difficult to schedule the appropriate amount of time needed. Teachers will sometimes have to fight over lab time. This means that sometimes the lab just isn’t available when it would be convenient to incorporate a certain technology into a lesson. Sometimes, when the lab is available, the amount of time is limited and assignments have to be rushed. This means the technology is not being utilized to it’s fullest capabilities.
The digital divide also is a very real thing where I work. Some students have smart phones, tablets, and high speed internet available at home. Some students do not have access to any. Other students sometimes have a working phone, computer or internet, but due to their financial situations, they go through periods where it is not available. This also creates a gap in the students’ abilities to utilize the technology. Students that have regular access are much more well-versed on how to use the technology. This does sometimes make it challenging to require students to use technology outside of school.
My district is a “walled garden”. Many useful sites are blocked. In addition, there is a strictly enforced, “no cell phone” rule in place through the entire school day. This means that when I do have access to a computer lab, many of the activities I would like to do are not possible.
Also, all core classes are mandated by administration to have common unit assessments. The assessments are also traditional tests. One of the great benefits of technology is the use of projects in representing and assessing learning. However, if a common unit test is required, it does not allow room for the level of creative project based learning that I would prefer.
3. Student resistance
While most students do enjoy using technology, they are also very much accustomed to the idea of direct instruction. When teachers move away from “giving” the students the information and instead require the students to discover/research the information on their own, it is often met with resistance. Students may complain about the difficulty or insist they just would prefer the teacher gives them the information they need. Students will sometimes not be self-directed enough to keep themselves on task and on target so it leaves the teacher with the dilemma of moving ahead despite some students not having had the proper exposure or slowing down the pace of class to allow all students to finish. In doing the latter, it results in less material being covered. Based on common standards and common assessments, teachers are obligated to start and end at certain points. It is much easier to keep pace when the teacher is directing the majority of the teaching.
The most feasible, realistic solution is district wide education and professional development. Teachers and administrators should be trained on how to use technology. If they can understand the benefits, they may be more apt to revise policies. Administrators may loosen up restrictions. Department chairs may be more willing to drop some common standard tests for project based assessments. I believe that the benefit and power of technology is self-evident. It is just a matter of exposing administrators and educators to it’s full potential.