Solutions entice teachers to technology

A continuing problem for the instructional technologists and professional development specialists is how to entice teachers to use technology.

A recent discussion on the Foreign Language Teaching Forum suggests the answer lies in the time-honored sales principle: Sell solutions.

The discussion began with one frustrated teacher’s cry for help:

I’m being eaten alive by resentment at the number of missing assignments many of my students have and am wondering how you manage “extra copies” of things. In many cases, I have given a student third and fourth copies of things that they lose. I’m feeling like I am the only one being  responsible for these students’ success.

How do you handle this?

That’s a real, honest-to-goodness teacher problem—especially the resentment part.

A couple of respondents suggested low-tech solutions that reduced the teacher frustration but didn’t do much to make students responsible. The majority, however, suggested posting material online. That’s where the discussion got interesting.

One respondent said he put all his materials into Goggle docs, linked to them in his lesson plans, and made students responsible for downloading extra copies. If they lacked home computers, they could use school computers on their lunch hour.

“How do students access something in Google docs?”  someone asked.

A teacher from the Virtual Community School of Ohio explained that by setting the Google doc share settings to “anyone with the link” a teacher could let anyone with the link view and download the document, but not make changes to it. To illustrate, she shared a link to one of the documents she had online.  The link was a 109-character hodgepodge of characters.

The teacher who wanted to know how to use Google docs responded, “OK, I tried it.  It’s a very long link, though.  How do I share THAT?  I  need a web site or a blog or something on which to post the link?”

The Virtual Community School teacher replied that link could be shortened using a link shortener like TinyURL to a size that could be handwritten on paper or board.

This discussion suggests three take-aways:

  1. Because a teacher isn’t using a technology doesn’t mean she’s unwilling to use it.
  2. Teachers want solutions to their current problems.
  3. Informal sharing between teachers is a change agent.