4 Classroom Technology Fears & How to Conquer Them





Worst case scenario: You’re not totally comfortable with your classroom technology.


You’re standing in front of an impatient, adolescent audience during the last period of the day, pressing “Play” on a hilarious video you’ve selected to demonstrate the law of gravity. But nothing is happening. Let’s add another classroom technology fear factor: your administrator is in the room for an evaluation. Maybe it’s better to play it safe and rely on the pictures in the textbook or your trusty egg demonstration.


 

Fear and anxiety are major drivers in our world. In fact, they are affecting our students in larger proportions than ever before. Recent studies show that about 25 percent of teenagers have suffered from anxiety at some point. Acknowledging and conquering our fears have become all the more important. Overcome your fear of technology in the classroom and you can be a role model for your students as you show them how to accept imperfection and face reasonable risk.


Fear often arises from the unfamiliar, and technology is evolving so quickly it can be hard to stay fluent. Let’s tackle some big fear-based objections to incorporating classroom technology from an educator’s point-of-view, with a special lens on how they may be addressed and with your students’ help.

 

FEAR 1: It’s Just Too Complicated


Basis for Fear

A recent search for “educational technology tools” turned up over 72 million results, and a link on the first page boasted a list of 321 free technology tools for educators. With such a volume of options available, it’s no wonder that educators with any hesitation may be turned off. With mysterious names like Voki, Smilebox, and 19Pencils, each tool comes with its own flavor of quirks. Some require registration or access on your school network may be blocked, or they may be incompatible with something your district is already using. That’s a lot to digest.




Overcoming the Hurdle

Get recommendations from trusted sources: A great place to go for recommendations on technological tools might be right next door or down the hall. Your colleagues certainly have their favorites, and they’ve probably already undertaken the effort of figuring out what works well with the special limitations you may face at your site. You can also turn to your virtual PLNs. Almost every virtual community has discussion boards and messaging functions, so find your tribe according to subject, interest, or comfort level with technology.


Work with students: Your students likely have a set of go-to apps and are used to selecting tools for the best features and user experience. Have them apply their research and analytical skills to a review of tools for a particular instructional strategy. For instance, if you want to choose a tool for collaborative annotation, ask a student or committee to research and recommend the best one. They’ll become experts in the room and can help you use the selected technology at the appropriate time. Be sure to be explicit about the skills that are required for these tasks (e.g., compare/contrast, cost-benefit analysis, synthesis, presentation/communication). It will help them identify their own strengths and extrapolate them to other work.


 

FEAR 2: I Don’t Trust It to Work When I Need It


Basis for Fear

Time is tight, you need to teach bell-to-bell, and one glitch in the plan can throw off an entire period. Plus, it can be rattling to experience technical problems in the moment when you’re supposed to be teaching, which can make it harder to problem-solve effectively.


Overcoming the Hurdle

Plan to fail: Run a troubleshooting session before using a new classroom technology tool during an activity. Think about what could go wrong to derail the momentum. What if the screen is blank? Identify and secure connections ahead of time. What if the accessories don’t work? Make sure clickers and remotes have fresh batteries and are stored properly. What if buffering is unbearable? Download media you’ll be using in class, whenever possible, and delete it when the lesson is complete.


Work with students: Students will value being able to help you troubleshoot technical problems in class, so take a deep breath, admit defeat, and let your students be the lesson’s heroes. It is important for them to see you have a problem, identify it, and allow someone to help you fix it.


 

FEAR 3: My School Doesn’t Have Enough... Support, Equipment, Bandwidth, etc.


Basis for Fear

Most educators are short on time and resources. It can seem like too much to invest time and energy in learning about new technologies just to be disappointed when they are impossible to implement with your school’s limitations. If something is great, it may require registration, a subscription, individual tablets/clickers, or more bandwidth. If something is free, it may be blocked or have tiered plans that limit the functionality.

Overcoming the Hurdle

Take advantage of what you have: You probably have access to staff that would appreciate the opportunity to help you select tools for your instructional needs. Your media librarian, technology director, or instructional coach are great resources. You may also have access to services to which your district has subscribed, and those services should run smoothly within your district and classroom (and have customer service numbers where you can usually find enthusiastic support).

Work with students: Students may not have much power to help in this area immediately but, as you look to the future, it may make sense to advocate for a student technology representative or committee at your school or in your district. Some schools even have a tech team based in an elective course where students earn credit helping with technology throughout the school.


 

There are so many technological tools to choose from today for almost anything you want to do better. But “with technology” does not automatically mean better. In the classroom, aim to incorporate tools that positively impact learning, make assessment more accurate, and make everyone’s day more engaging. And take advantage of the opportunity to be fallible, afraid, and human in front and for the benefit of your students. Let them see you struggle, learn, accept help, and conquer your fear of classroom technology. It will serve them in class tomorrow and maybe even for the rest of their lives.


About the Author

Jeanette Edelstein is an educator dedicated to making learning more engaging for students of all ages. She has been a classroom teacher, curriculum designer, and program developer. She was a founding teacher and the gifted and talented coordinator at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts. Her curriculum projects include Hive Alive!, a collection of teaching resources about honey bees, Animal Planet Rescue, a disaster relief and educational vehicle that rescued over 1,000 animals, and CapsinSchool, an elementary curriculum based on the math and science of hockey.