An Investment in Teachers’ Skills is an Investment in Digital Technology Use
Author: James Rujimora
As COVID-19 continues to affect our society, specifically our education systems, teachers are increasingly asked to integrate digital technology in the classroom. The merits of technology and its inclusion into our education systems have marked benefits and consequences. Researchers believe some benefits include opening new avenues for social inclusion and supporting flexible teaching and learning processes. On the flip side, there are also issues related to inequity and inequality related to bandwidth, stable internet connection, and other home-related responsibilities that might alter both teachers' and students’ learning.
A recent study published in, Teacher and Teacher Education, highlighted ways in which technology can integrate better into classrooms and what skills are necessary to make this integration seamless. Specifically, the authors investigated how a total of 410 teachers from German public secondary schools applied digital technology within the classroom and how technology supported student learning activities. Although the study was completed in Germany, it has implications for supporting pre- and in-service teachers in the United States. The following are a couple of lessons learned from the study:
Teachers need basic digital skills
It is imperative for teachers to have a baseline skillset of digital skills. On a macro level, these are best defined as the ability to effectively respond to and participate digitally in economic, social, and cultural life. On a micro level, this looks like understanding computer use, being able to search, access, evaluate, and manage information, and produce information, as well as communicating and exchanging information. These skills serve as the foundation for teachers in two ways:
- The capacity for teachers to use technology within their classroom is reliant on their own basic digital skills;
- Foundational knowledge helps to foster their student’s basic digital skills.
Educators and administrators can support teachers by hosting technology workshops on the basics of computer use and applications to help them familiarize themselves with technology, and also gain confidence in their digital abilities. It is not surprising that teachers who are more familiar with, and confident in, their use of technology are more likely to integrate technology in the classrooms.
Teachers need technology-related teaching skills
Beyond basic digital skills, another distinct skill for teachers to use technology within their classroom involves technology-related teaching skills. These skills involve the integration of basic teaching pedagogy with technology use. The technology-related teaching skill set involves the ability to plan, implement, evaluate, and share technology-related teaching scenarios. In practice, planning includes the skills to plan out evidence-based use of technology. Implementation includes a teachers’ ability to diagnose and enhance a student’s learning process. Evaluation involves the collection of data about learning processes. And finally, sharing technology-related teaching scenarios boils down to documenting and communicating scenarios and employing existing scenarios by others. Schools can provide resources and support for teachers to network, create brainstorming groups with other teachers, and build a culture of sharing ideas.
Because of COVID-19, many schools have transitioned to a variety of different learning models (e.g., in-person, online, hybrid). One lesson learned is that simply equipping schools with digital technology doesn’t increase frequency or use of technology by students or teachers. Introducing a variety of digital technologies, without support of effective pedagogy, doesn’t help either. What needs to happen moving forward is equipping schools with teachers that know how to leverage technology to implement effective instructional practices. Teachers need resources and tools available to them for developing basic digital and technology-related skills. As the researchers recommend, including digital technology training, specifically related to technology-related teaching skills in teacher education and continuing education may increase constructive student learning, teacher self-efficacy, and confidence with digital technology.
CIDDL provides resources and tools for integrating technology and effective pedagogies to support learning for both educators and students. Please visit our resource webpage for more resources and sign up for the updates from CIDDL.