Providing Needed Support for Our Teachers
For a recent assignment, I was asked to consider the strengths, needs and weaknesses of teachers today regarding technology and instructional skills. The following are the major areas in which I feel teachers need to (and deserve to) be trained:
- Technology Tools for Differentiation – Differentiation of content and curriculum is an area of instruction that is currently receiving a lot of attention in many districts. It is an area where teachers feel out of the loop and unprepared to address these issues with their own students. They feel that they lack the training, support and tools in order to accommodate this now evaluation-worthy initiative. There are an infinite number of ways to differentiate content that live through technology, and our teachers need to be brought up to speed on these resources including Google Apps, the proper use of an LMS (such as Schoology), web-based apps, student use of electronic devices within the classroom, etc. For this to happen, however, they must first become proficient with these tools themselves.
- Technology Tools for Formative Assessment – Another area that is receiving a great deal of attention within most districts is the need for formative assessment, mainly as a way to help guide instruction. Again, the number of tools that our teachers have available is overlooked as many of our teachers lack the skills to use them for specific purposes. Formative assessment means through the test/quiz features on Schoology, Google Forms, and the SMART student clickers all provide quick and detailed data relating to student comprehension that students seem to really enjoy (at least compared to more traditional approaches). These tools need to be taught with an emphasis on how to use them in this regard.
- Technology Tools for Research – With the implementation of the Common Core standards across all areas of instruction and the focus that these standards put on student research, we must train our teachers on the proper ways to enforce this practice within their classes. It’s no longer just English and Language Arts teachers that bear this responsibility, but teachers across all content areas. All teachers must be brought up to speed on proper research methods and the resources that are available to them in the classroom.
- Using Technology to Improve Efficiency – The demands of today’s teacher seem to be growing with every passing day. I can only speak to what I see going on in my district and in the districts around me, but teachers are feeling the weight of these increasing responsibilities more than ever. If we can build practices into our teachers and administrators daily routine that save time and energy then we owe that to them. The use of productivity apps to increase efficiency need to be highlighted to ease the burden that so many of our colleagues are facing, including iOS apps and Google Apps (notably Docs, Calendar and advanced functions with Google Mail including Hangouts).
No major epiphanies here, folks, but getting down to brass tax it’s an essential area for effective instruction and teacher sanity.