Teacher Reluctance to Learn/Use Technology

01 Jun

I just read two posts by Tom Whitby entitled No Time, No Funds and Digital Pointers? and was motivated to write on the topic of teachers reluctance to use technology. If you’re unfamiliar with Tom Whitby it’s worth the time (yes, you have some) to read through his posts. He’s a huge educational technology advocate and an asset to new and established teachers. His blog is at My Island View and he can be followed on Twitter at @tomwhitby.

As someone whose job is to help others integrate technology into their classrooms, I spend a lot of time thinking about the best ways of doing so. Do you “plant the seed” and occasionally water? Or do you hold their hand at each step? I’m naturally the kind of person that likes to figure things out or make them more efficient, so I tend to favor the seed approach. Until recently, my assumption has been that if you give teachers tools they will use them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I think this is so cool. Everyone is going to love and use this.” Not so. Those that would be inclined to adopt new tools would probably do so anyway. And those who would not be so inclined are not going to with a simple introduction and periodic checking in.

This brings up a very common problem among many adults, fear of technology. And to be perfectly honest, and blunt, I don’t get it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say things like, “I’m computer illiterate” with complete comfort and no sense of embarrassment. Now, it’s one thing for adults who are not educators to cling to their techno-illiteracy and it’s quite another for teachers to do so.

First of all, teachers are supposed to be models for students. One of the most important qualities we hope to instill in our students is lifelong learning.  This does not stop once we get to something that plugs in. In fact, it may be more important to demonstrate a willingness to figure things out when it comes to technology. For better or worse, our world is relying on technology more each day. If we don’t attempt to figure out how to work all this stuff we, at worst, place a lot of trust in those that do and, at best, risk being left in the dust.

I wish I remembered where, but I once read a comment to the effect of “Most of us don’t know how our cars work and yet we’re perfectly comfortable driving them daily.” Nobody’s expecting teachers to be able to tear down and rebuild their computers. But if you refuse to learn how to use them to help your students, what message are you sending?

Really, what message are you sending?


Posted by on June 1, 2010 in Insights


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6 responses to “Teacher Reluctance to Learn/Use Technology

  1. Aaron Eyler

    June 1, 2010 at 1:36 am


    The key to getting teachers to use technology in their classroom is to provide them with value outside of their classroom. If teachers don’t see value then they will continue to avoid the issue.

    Look at the poor infusion of social media as an example:

    My question is always, “how do we provide value to teachers?” Otherwise, I feel like we will continually be dragging our feet.


  2. Phil Hart

    June 1, 2010 at 1:38 am

    In my experience, teachers have much in common with students. A few are strongly motivated to learn about such e-tools: they will learn almost regardless of what you do or do not do. At the other extreme, there are those who simply refuse to learn, and it does not matter how much effort you put in, you will get nowhere. (As an aside, such teachers remind me of the school “rejects” that I have seen in my classes.)

    Given your range of learners, could I suggest that an equally wide wide of delivery-of-learning techniques might be appropriate?

  3. Henrietta Miller

    June 15, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I hold techie brekkies for my fellow teachers to inspire and motivate them (I hope) however I also encourage them to come to my Wednesday morning homework club and join with students who are blogging. There we work together learning and problem solving. Teachers are gradually beginning to see themselves as learners too. They become less afraid to try new technologies in a supportive atmosphere and more interested in risk taking.

    • Al Tucker

      August 17, 2010 at 5:35 am

      Henrietta – you nailed it – the only component that is an absolute MUST is that teachers need to view themselves as still being learners. There are just too many avenues to learn technology now a days to not be able to both learn and use it – if for no other reason than to make the profession easier to practice! Having others to learn and share with makes the task easier.

  4. Adam Manternach

    June 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    I can see where you’re coming from. Part of my reflections, both during my ed courses and during student teaching, I’ve been most successful in presenting “value” when suggesting web2.0 tools.

    Suggesting possible uses or watching sample projects initiated competition between my cooperating teacher and myself (and later other teachers in the building) to find the next tool or build a better lesson with something we’d found.

    It all takes some time, but eventually the natural learning state will show itself. Even the most fearful or reluctant will come around (maybe not publicly, but secretively) and they will explore on their own.

  5. Matt Arguello

    June 21, 2010 at 1:18 am

    Thanks for your input everybody…

    @Aaron Right. I think that as tech savvy educators it is often difficult to keep in mind that others can’t find value in tools as easily as we can. In the same way we need to teach with our students’ perspective in mind, we need to keep our workmates’ in mind as well.

    @Phil This is something I struggle with. As a new teacher, I’m still mastering diversifying my instruction to kids. Adult learners are a whole other ball game that I have yet to master. One of my goals this summer is to brainstorm ideas for reaching teachers and, like Aaron mentioned, find ways to show them value.

    @Henrietta Great idea. I’ve done similar things a couple times with Tech Lunches. Clearly the key is to keep it going. I’d love to hear how you make it fun and interesting for them.

    @Adam I think you’re right. All this stuff takes time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of showing someone something you think is awesome, wait a couple days, and then wonder why s/he isn’t using it yet. I guess I’m impatient or get excited. Probably both.


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