How many times have teachers sat through a professional development session guided by a Powerpoint presentation or lecture instructing them on how Powerpoint presentations and lectures are not the best way for people to learn?

We expect our students to learn differently from the way that adults learn, and while there are some differences (mostly in regard to motivation), the best practices associated with teaching students aren’t much different than those for how to best teach our teachers.

We need to approach supporting and training our teachers with the same sense of empathy and understanding that we use when supporting and teaching our students. Empowerment, engagement (including gamification), scaffolding, chunking, student choice, differentiation/accessibility, and hands-on learning or PBL are all concepts that work well for adults, too.

Granted, however, the daily life of adults is very different than the daily life of students, and oftentimes their busy schedules and frequent traveling may leave little room for training. It can understandably be quite challenging to cram certain scaffolded or PBL activities into a 1-hour training block, for example.

I am dedicated to continually finding new ways to bridge the gap between instructional best practices and the time and locations that teachers actually have access to. This is one of the many reasons I am attracted to integrating blended learning (and online learning) in training programs for teachers.

Online training programs allow teachers to learn on their own time/schedule and in any location they want (home, office, public transportation, etc.). One of my initiatives has been to build an EdTech training portal for teachers with free online training modules for which teachers could receive “digital badges” and/or certificates of completion (to show off their knowledge):

Teachers are committed to becoming lifelong learners, especially if they wish to stay abreast of new developments, advancements to technology, and updates to the best practices in their field. For this reason, as EdTech specialists and trainers, if we want to best support our students, professional development for teachers should be financially, physically, and instructionally accessible.

(Image Source)


I firmly believe in educational technology that puts people (i.e., the students and teachers) first. What does this mean?

I've often seen others stereotype teachers, particularly older teachers, as being timid around technology. Often this is done with negative connotations: "They just don't want to adapt to the times." "They're just not technologically savvy." "It's just hard for them to understand."

And I can't help but think that the image of technology in schools likely contributes to this stereotype. Teachers may picture the technology department staff in a back office, generally unseen, unless it's to pop in and out of a classroom to address some hardware issue, seemingly disinterested in the teacher's and students' agenda, making teachers feel inadequate by overwhelming them with unfamiliar technology-lingo, before fleeing back into the depths of their office until the next technology glitch summons them out again.

With this cold and somewhat condescending image of the technology department's role in schools, it's no wonder that many teachers are hesitant about technology integration in their classroom, frequently viewing it as more of a threat of invasion from outside, disinterested "techy" folk than as the support role to their instructional agenda that it is supposed to be.


This is why I believe in technology integration with a human face. Years of working in customer service and freelancing (as a web designer and developer) for clients prior to my work in education has taught me the importance of providing technology support with empathy or "a human element."

This means approaching those who need your help with sympathy and understanding, listening to them, empowering them (i.e., having them go through the process of troubleshooting and fixing issues along with you), and never talking above them (i.e., speaking to them in terms they would understand with less esoteric technical jargon). You want those you are offering to support to leave the whole experience feeling good about it (and empowered), because ultimately you want to encourage them to return for more support if they need it.

No good comes from unaddressed technical issues that are left to stew in the dark, and if staff try to avoid a second negative experience associated with seeking tech support, this is often just what happens.

The number of times I’ve experienced teachers apologizing to me for merely asking me to do my job to support them with their tech issues is concerning to me: "Sorry to bother you, Miss Moeller." "Sorry, I couldn't figure it out on my own." "Oh, it's working now. Sorry I wasted your time." And the worst—but sadly all too common—statement: "Sorry, I'm just stupid with this kind of stuff."

Teachers aren't stupid. We don't hire stupid teachers. And the fact that they would so commonly regard themselves in such a way in regards to technology makes a worrisome statement about how we frequently go about our methods of integrating technology and offering technology support to our teachers. It tells a tale of teachers leaving technology support experiences not only with a lack of empowerment, but with almost a sense of embarrassment and shame, which does not bode well for successful technology implementation in the long run.

(Image Source)


Too often those of us in technology, perhaps to justify our jobs or prove our abilities, rely on putting the "technology first" in educational settings. This happens too with those of us in educational administration: Often wowed by the “bells and whistles” of various technology products or wanting to make our schools "21st century,” we may make attempts to integrate technology just for technology's sake. But when we do this, we often forget to ask the most important questions first: Do the teachers or students even want this?they told us or is it something we are telling them?

I am honored to support teachers, because I know I am supporting those who are out there “in the trenches” every day doing everything it takes to support our students. Listening to and responding to the experiences and needs of those who are seeing and doing the work firsthand should always come before our own interpretation of what we think they need.

So it seems that technology integrations should be done in this order: The teachers or students express a problem or an interest in a technology, and then a technology-based solution is devised to address the issue in response. In a field that is as human-driven as education, you would think this would be innately how things are done. Yet I am surprised by how frequently technology integrations are done in this order: Administrators or technology experts (much like myself) first obtain a technology and then retroactively try to convince teachers and students why they should want to use it.

This results in often expensive and time-consuming "cheerleading" campaigns for technology integrations, which entails attempts to promote or market a technology and convince teachers and students why they should want it. And when teachers or students still show disinterest in the technologies we provide them, we often resort to assuming that the issue is simply a failure of their abilities or competencies with technology (i.e., "They just don't know how to use it"). This, then, frequently results in even more expensive and time-consuming, mandatory training and/or orientation campaigns that are forced upon staff or students, which often serves to further sour their impressions of technology as an "invasion" or unnecessary nuisance to their everyday work (the exact opposite of what it's supposed to do). Overall, this process all too often results in "uphill battle" technology integration campaigns that are doomed to fail.

It's important to remember that getting teacher input at the start equals better teacher buy-in at the end. When teachers have a say or a voice in the technology solutions that are presented to them and feel that their concerns and interests are being listened to, technology integration campaigns go much more smoothly. When technology implementations are run as a “response to a problem,” it is more obvious to staff that the technology is serving a purpose that’s meaningful to them. This tends to result in staff being much more willing to adopt the technology solution and to be responsive to training.

Granted, there are times when technology integrations have to be brought about through "top-down" initiatives that are simply unavoidable (due to state laws and security concerns, for example). When this happens, it is important to be open with staff and take time to explain the “why” (i.e., the reasons behind the technology initiative), versus focusing solely on the “what/how” (i.e., what the technology is and how to use it). Staff tend to be more receptive to training under such circumstances when they are kept in the loop of what’s going on.

At the end of the day, though, we must remember that we are committed to our students and teachers first—not to our technology purchases. Sometimes we may need to recognize a mistake and cut contracts to start over again. It can be painful at the time, but ultimately less expensive and time-consuming in the long run.

This is why I believe in human-centered technology integrations. While the specific technologies and products that we implement often change and can generally be learned by anyone very quickly, knowing how to plan and work with people is ultimately what leads to successful, long-term implementations.

In any situation, teachers should always feel in control of the technology they use. I want to make them innovators of technology implementation in their classroom, not merely "users" of technology. To do this, teachers need to feel empowered with technology. This is why incorporating teacher voice and choice is so important to successful technology rollouts. Remember to reinforce the "support" role that technology is intended to provide for teachers and their own ideas. And of course, never make teachers feel "stupid."

(Image Source)