Teachers Need Training:

A Brief Analysis Of The Failure Of The Technological Movement In Classrooms

by John Loeser and Joel Price

A fourth grade teacher in a small elementary school just outside of Philadelphia, PA once said "Five years ago, `they' decided that every classroom should have a television. In September, every classroom had a television -- nobody used it. Recently, `they' decided that every classroom should have a computer. In September, every classroom had a computer -- nobody uses it. Do you want to know why nobody uses it? Nobody knows how!" New teachers and experienced teachers are facing the dilemna of how to integrate technology into their classrooms. While we recognize that the issue of technology use in the classroom is a problem in all reaches of education, we feel that elementary educators are particularly affected because of the wide range of technological uses possible in an elementary classroom.

Critics of the recent technology movement in classrooms have been quick to point out that the one major obstacle to the successful use of computers is that teachers are not adequately trained to implement their use. In a recent article in the New York Times, Pamela Mendels cites the CEO Forum on Education and Technology report as stating that "a number of recent studies [have] found [that] many teachers do not know how to put the new gadgetry to good use. One study, for example, reported that only 20 percent of teachers said they felt very well prepared to integrate technology into the classroom. Another noted that only half of the 50 states require computer training as a condition of teacher licensing" (Citation). In addition, she indicates that the situation is exacerbated by the fact that college teaching programs rarely, if ever, provide the necessary training for teachers. Furthermore, some college teaching programs provide irrelevant and time-consuming sessions which circumvent the important aspects of technology in the classroom. How can teachers be expected to use technology when they lack the training to do so? There are many uses for computers in the classroom but teachers are simply unaware of these possibilities. Therefore, computers sit around in the classroom collecting dust when they should be tapped as a valuable resource.

Teachers may have lessons that would greatly benefit from the use of an interactive technologically-based classroom experience. It is no surprise that students are more fascinated by a television or a computer than they are by a lecture or worksheet. Yet teachers continue to rely on traditional methods because they lack the knowledge to teach a meaningful lesson with a technological supplement. They may have the creative "ideas," but as Pamela Rups states, "they need certain skills in order to implement their plans" (The Journal, March 1999, p. 67). She further illustrates that "a few hardy individuals will lead the way on their own, but most need instruction and encouragement to get started, and a media facility and support staff to keep them going" (The Journal, March 1999, p. 67). Therefore, not only do teachers need adequate training, they also need a network of support within their individual schools to maintain and extend their technological knowledge base.

Elementary school teachers are particularly affected by this issue because their students are less independent than high school students. Most high school teachers can assign web-based research projects and reasonably expect their students to complete the task without the need for direct technological instruction. Elementary school teachers, however, need to provide their students with more assistance and demonstrations, which in turn require more explicit teacher technology training. Furthermore, elementary school teachers need to provide students with a broader range of computer resources, from "edutainment" to interactive websites to DVDs. To do this, teachers need to be confident in their own abilities to use these resources before they can effectively model their use for their students. It all boils down to a single concept: teachers need training.

We are not saying that training programs do not exist for teachers. There are a few cutting edge programs that attempt to address the problem that we have explained. Programs such as the University of Northern Iowa's "Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers To Use Technology" and Western Michigan University's "Enhancing Teaching With Technology" provide this type of training for teachers. However, these two programs only assist a small percentage of teachers, and if we expect every child to be technologically proficient, we must increase the availability of these training programs to both novice and experienced teachers.

In conclusion, that fourth grade teacher from just outside Philadelphia cannot be expected to effectively use technology in his classroom without adequate training. The technology industry is pushing to have technology in the classroom more now than ever before. School administrations seem to blindly believe that if technology is simply present in the classroom, it will be used properly. However, as we have discussed, current findings indicate that if teachers are not trained to use technology in the classroom, the technology will become nothing more than a ever-present fixture that is never used to its full potential.
Bibliography and Related Information:

Fleck, R. and McQueen, T. "An Evaluation of Alternative Technology-Based Instructional Formats." The Journal, Vol. 26, No. 11, June 1999, pp. 108-118.

Hartley, J. "Effective Pedagogies For Managing Collaborative Learning In On-line Learning Environments." Educational Technology and Society 2 (2), 1999.

Lerner, M. "The Current State Of Technology and Education: How Computers Are Used In K-12 and Brown University Classrooms."

Mendels, P. "Report Calls For Teacher Training In Technology." The New York Times, February 24, 1999.

Mendels, P. "Focus Shifts To Effectiveness of Education Technology." The New York Times, July 14, 1999.

Mendels, P. "Project Trains Teachers To Use Technology." The New York Times, September 15, 1999.

Rups, P. "Training Instructors In New Technologies." The Journal, Vol. 26, No. 8, March 1999, pp. 67-69.

Created 12/01/99

back to my homepage