It’s as good a time as any to talk about things that are scary. Hearing bumps in the night when you’re home alone. Or the dark, dusty walk into the basement of your childhood house. Maybe even the trip back to your room after a scary movie when you’re tasked with turning off all the lights before you turn in.
Creepy stuff. For many educators, new technology is actually something that’s a little scary. It’s alien. It reeks of change and uncertainty. Even new edtech lauded as being “intuitive” or “easy-to-use” can seem other-worldly if you haven’t gotten comfortable with it yet.
As any good horror film will teach us, all big bads have an Achilles heel. Here’s how we’d recommend facing your edtech fears.
The Fear: It Will Change My Teaching
Routine is nice. It’s comfortable and reliable. Edtech poses a threat to this comfort.
That’s good. To conquer the fear of change, we must stop looking at it as the enemy. Change is opportunity for growth and learning (probably something you’ve expressed to your students in one form or another).
Here is the fundamental truth of edtech: it can’t and won’t create learning gains alone. It’s not a silver bullet; it relies on supportive teaching and classroom culture to thrive.
Consider the aspects of your teaching that you feel are working really well - the ones you don’t want to compromise - and ask yourself how, if at all, edtech would alter these practices. Would learning gains be sorely impacted? Or would it just feel uncomfortable because it's new?
The Fear: It’s Unfamiliar
We so often fear the unknown; edtech is no exception.
To vanquish the fear of the unknown, we get to know it. We find ways to make edtech familiar and build up our comfort level brick by brick. For teachers, this often means experimenting with freemium programs outside of class or working with a pilot program at their school.
This suggestion isn’t to diminish the challenge of learning something new and different. To believe that all it takes to conquer one’s fear of edtech is a few hours after school is an oversimplification.
What we mean to suggest is that the unfamiliar can be made familiar. It’s difficult, but you can do difficult things, too. (Truth.)
Free Technology for Teachers is a site dedicated to online resources and platforms that don’t cost a dime to educators. Consider it your new edtech catalog. This weekend (All Hallow’s Eve, no less) challenge yourself to open two free accounts with programs that could support your teaching. Or tap a colleague to help you experiment with a platform they’ve previously recommended.
Aim to learn a few basic functions and possibly create something - a storyboard, an assignment, etc. Then check your comfort level again. With just a little more knowledge than you had before, hopefully it will all seem a touch less intimidating.
The Fear: I Will Feel or Look Stupid While Learning
This is legitimate. And again, not to oversimplify, but what is more foolish: asking a question your peers might already have the answer to or keeping yourself from learning so as to not seem uneducated?
You have nothing to prove, let’s remember that. No one can look truly foolish in the pursuit of learning and bettering themselves. Let this be your mantra.
"You have nothing to prove, let’s remember that. No one can look truly foolish in the pursuit of learning and bettering themselves. Let this be your mantra."
The educators who often fear looking stupid while learning about new edtech are often the ones who fail to realize they have great potential to self-teach and build confidence before learning alongside other, potentially tech-savvier peers.
Working alone is not the same as collaborating and learning from an expert. We don’t suggest that it’s any substitute. But if the fear is looking uneducated, brush up beforehand.
Here’s your challenge: try and answer one of your own edtech questions, and then enjoy the satisfaction of finding the answer unassisted.
We’re guessing most of the edtech platforms you’re using have tutorials and support centers. (We sure do.) Even for basic computer tasks - creating documents, navigating different operating systems - a quick Google of your question is likely to yield an answer or tutorial video.
Developing troubleshooting strategies you can execute before engaging colleagues is a way navigate a fear of looking uninformed. Just don’t let it be an excuse for not tapping the knowledge of peers and experts in your personal learning network.