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Voices: Why teachers need tech training

Sherida Peterson, head of academic achievement at HOPE Online Learning Academy, says teachers should not be afraid to use technology to teach.

The federal National Education Technology Plan, encouraging the use of computers, the internet, digital devices and learning software in schools, is now 2 years old, and while many studies tout the positive effects of technology on classrooms and students, some teachers remain reticent to embrace it. There is still a large contingent of teachers who reject technology because they see it as an adversary – something that could replace them – instead of an ally.

Sarah Oden, a student at Monte Vista Online Academy, uses a headset and microphone for French class. File photo.

Sarah Oden, a student at Monte Vista Online Academy, uses a headset and microphone for French class. File photo.

The rising popularity of blended learning and online education models in K-12 has meant more inclusion of technology in the classroom, and fueled concern among some teachers about the future of their profession. But rising demands for and use of technology does not mean that the need for quality instruction is decreasing. Rather, quality instruction by skilled and devoted teachers is as important as ever to student learning.

In today’s society, we don’t need fewer teachers; we need great teachers willing to adapt their teaching philosophies to include technology.

Additionally, adopting technology does not equate to good teaching. The deficiencies of unprepared and under-skilled teachers when teaching in a blended and online learning model are often magnified. Bringing technology into the classroom is all about understanding how to effectively use the tool.

The key to getting teachers on board with technology in the classroom is through changing the way they learn to teach. The benefits of technology should be woven into college-level curriculum, and schools and districts must treat teaching as an ever-progressing craft and promote professional development programs for their teachers. These changes will not only help teachers adapt more quickly to the changing classroom, but will also benefit students. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assessment in 2007 reported that teachers who receive an average of 49 hours of professional development can boost their students’ achievement in math, science, reading and language arts by about 21 percentile points. (Read the report here).

Teachers are and will remain the single largest influencers on student achievement. Technological advances will never supplant them in that role. It is the responsibility of administrators and teacher educators to provide teachers the training they need to embrace technology as a tool, particularly for targeting student instruction by identifying students’ individual needs and areas for growth. That is what’s vital to the success of our teachers – and our students.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.