12 Tips for training older teachers to use technology

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There is an assumption that persists in the educational community that more mature teachers are much more difficult and reluctant to be trained on the effective use of educational technology. To some degree, I think this assumption has been built on by the digital native vs digital immigrant myth. But as someone who has trained teachers of all ages all over the world I would say that, from my own experience, this hasn’t been the case.

What I have found to be the case is that more mature teachers are:

  • Less likely to lured by the shiny hardware and the seemingly wonderful claims made to go along with it.
  • More critical and sceptical about the way technology is used in the classroom.
  • Less confident when using various apps and websites and less likely to explore the different features.
  • More easily discouraged by failures.
  • Less familiar with various tools, applications and services that have become part of every-day life for younger users.
  • More likely to be able to see through “technology for technology’s sake” classroom applications.

So how should trainers approach the challenges of working with these teachers? Here are a few tips from my own experience of training older teachers to use technology…

Be sure of your ground pedagogically

So many edtech trainers are great with technology, but much less versed in educational theory and pedagogy. More mature teachers are more likely to have a stronger theoretical understanding, so be prepared to back up your ideas with sound pedagogical insights and try to relate your training back to theories of learning and pedagogical approaches.

Make sure training is hands on

Running through a list of tools and ideas in a presentation may have some value, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to the impact of giving teachers hands-on experience and the chance to actually work with the tech to create something.

Give solid examples of what you have done

Being able to speak from experience about how you have used tech with your own students will have far more impact than theoretical applications of “You could do blah blah blah with your students.” Sharing anecdotes of how you have used technology in your own classes, the challenges you have faced and how you have overcome or even been overcome by them can really lend credibility to your training.

Manage expectations

A positive attitude is great, but be prepared to also point out weaknesses, potential pitfalls and talk about your own failures. This might help your trainees avoid the same mistakes and stop them from becoming disillusioned.

Make time to experiment and explore

Don’t be tempted to cram in as many tools, techniques and activities as possible. Incorporate project time into your training so that teachers have the chance to go away and explore the things that interest them most and get their own perspective on how they can use them with students.

Back up technical training

Learning to use new tools is getting easier all the time, especially on mobile, but it’s still quite easy for teachers to forget which button to press or which link to follow. So back up any demonstrations with either an illustrated step-by-step guide or a video tutorial that teachers can come back to later.

Make their lives easier

Using technologies that can make what they already do a bit easier or a bit quicker is a great way to start. For example, I have a link to a tool that really quickly creates a cloze test activity. Sharing tools like this that start from what teachers already do can really help to get them on your side.

Do things that can’t be done

One of the most common remarks made by more mature teachers about technology is: “Well that’s fine, but you can do that without tech by …” If you can show examples of technology use that go beyond what is already possible in the classroom, then you are much more likely to get capture their enthusiasm. One example of this is the use of collaborative writing tools like PrimaryPad and its ability to track, record and show how students constructed text.

Solve classroom problems

Being able to spot a genuine classroom problem and show how technology can solve it can be very persuasive. One example of this is gist reading which can be very challenging to teach because students tend to ignore time limits. I show how using a free digital cue prompter can give teachers control of the text and push students to gist read at the speed the teacher chooses. Problem solved.

Plan with long term and short term goals

However inspiring your training session is, and however short or long it is, you should make sure that teachers leave it with a plan. SMART plans are great if you have time to work on them with the teachers. If you don’t have time to get them to create individual SMART plans, at least get them to think about the first step or the first technology application they will try in their classroom and what they will do with it.

Tech can be implemented in CPD

One of the reasons many mature teachers feel less confident with tech is because they often only use it in the classroom. Showing how technology can become part of their own self-guided CPD and professional practice, and helping them to build their PLN can really help to energise their technology use and make their development much more autonomous and long lasting.

Make sure everything works

I can’t emphasise this enough. Make sure you have updated all your plugins, browser versions, etc,and check the network and connectivity and make sure everything runs smoothly. Nothing puts teachers off more quickly than seeing the trainer fail.

Having read this list of tips you are likely to be thinking: “But all technology training should be like that!” Yes, you are right it should, but the truth is we are more likely to be able to get away with lower standards when working with teachers who are already more enthusiastic about tech. So the next time you walk into a training room and see a number of older teachers there, don’t groan with disappointment, but welcome the opportunity to test your skills and understanding with the most critical audience. If you can send them away motivated to use technology then you know you are on the right track.

Further reading on my blog


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