Hurdles to Integrating Technology in the Classroom
Technological advancements have happened at a very fast pace in the twenty first century and like every other field, education has also benefitted from the proliferation of digital technology. The growth of online education has led to changing structure and composition of classrooms. The benefits are not limited to the Western nations only because these courses are helping students around the world. However, the western nations are definitely ahead when it comes to the level and type of technology being used to deliver courses inside the classroom. This shift has created new opportunities but technology and IT are complex areas. While most universities imagine that technology can be seamlessly integrated into the classroom, the corresponding changes to be made in the environment, curriculum and teaching methods may be difficult to achieve.
Apart from advanced equipments including projectors and laptops, the use of online resources for teaching has also grown in the 21st century. Apart from integrating these things into their teaching style and adopting new methods, the teachers may have difficulty aligning themselves with the changing requirements of the classroom. Time has changed fast and many times teachers find themselves in a bad mess trying to chase the fast changing expectations of students and parents. If institutions believe that technology can help them manage everything, then only technology is not the answer. There are certain things that will follow with technology and managing them may be difficult for both institutions and teachers. As there are advantages of delivering courses and lectures using technology, there are inherent risks too. Digital technologies may provide an enhanced learning experience but then, are all the teachers able to integrate it seamlessly and deliver effectively. There are several reasons that teachers may remain struggling with technology apart from lack of interest and appropriate level of awareness.
Technology’s presence in the classroom can affect education both ways. On the one hand digital technology provides easier methods of communication and information sharing and effective means of lecture delivery, on the other, it can become a distraction. A student watching YouTube videos on his laptop while lecture is on, can be a difficult to handle distraction for the teacher. Internet is a good thing in many ways but in many ways it can lead to loss of focus and may take students far from their main focus. Even smartphones come equipped with so many features from videos to games that they can easily distract students from their studies. Social media is another major distraction that is engaging users’ attention more than anything on the World Wide Web. On the other hand, a teacher may have to focus more on the technical aspects than on the course itself. Not all teachers are digital experts but the pressure to become one has kept rising. Often this pressure can also lead to loss of motivation. However, one thing is clear and that is digital is here to stay and even in case of teaching, its role will continue to grow. This thing has led to some teachers growing the perception that technology may become a barrier to classroom learning.
What is the biggest hurdle to integration of technology in the classroom?
The main focus of teachers with the use of digital technology is to engage the classes better. This becomes difficult to achieve when the teachers are themselves feeling disengaged. So, the biggest hurdles are lack of training and motivation. As already highlighted all teachers are not digital experts and information technology or other forms of classroom technology can be very complicated to employ and use. Apart from training and professional development, teachers need other forms of support to stay motivated to use technology and exploit its benefits to the fullest. Not all the teachers have enough technical training and find working with laptops and internet both time consuming and labor intensive. For several of them, it was easier to use whiteboards and printed books. All of them are not convenient with all types of software and hardware they get to use for teaching. Handwritten notes were easier to prepare and many of them may even hate typing for long hours. While these teachers need training they also require continued technical and infrastructural support to deal with these issues and to use technology efficiently. If they lack the necessary motivation to use technology inside the classrooms, then forcing it upon them will not yield the right results. Not all teachers believe in technology and some even consider its advantages exaggerated. Technology may not be adding real value to the classroom in many teachers’ perspective and so new technologies may fail to find acceptance among teachers.
Allowing students to bring their own devices also has its own risks. Not all of them are motivated to focus and for several of them bringing laptops and to the classroom is fun. They may start watching YouTube, playing games or even try other forms of nuisance. Students immersed in digital technology may adopt other forms of risky behaviour too. The teachers may need to focus on keeping the students sufficiently engaged so they do not create any nuisance. Many of them who come from the lower economic strata have limited access to the internet at their homes. This gives rise to complications with homework and teachers may remain in a fix over whether each student would be able to fulfil the tasks assigned. Such students may find it difficult to keep pace with the rest of the classroom and those with limited technology and internet may be left behind. This kind of digital divide may therefore become an obstruction to learning and growth. So, it turns out that while technology holds the potential to transform learning, there are pitfalls every teacher wants to avoid. In many cases instead of being a facilitator, technology can become a hurdle as highlighted above. The question that arises at this point is whether these pitfalls can be avoided and teachers trained to use and manage technology better or there is some different factor that can lead to successful adoption and use of technology for classroom education. Well, there are many teachers who have adopted it and engaged their students successfully. Some problems remain but teachers can still manage to engage their students. We will consider the solutions for integrating technology in the classroom in the next section.
What is the solution? How can teachers integrate technology successfully?
Teachers cannot integrate technology successfully without understanding technology and it is why both training and motivation are important. Integrating technology is complex for so many reasons that you cannot find one way out. Not the same technology or the same method helps every teacher or works in every scenario. Integrating technology is often difficult because teachers cannot see beyond the technical aspects and therefore fail to align it with the learning goals. Rather than just addressing the training needs of teachers, institutions must create an environment and a sense of direction that aligns with learning goals and helps teachers understand technology and its applications in the right context. Most teachers see it just as a tool and not as a part of the central picture of learning. The level of learning and experience among teachers vary and therefore one solution does not apply to all. The need for information and communication training in the context of higher education has been highlighted time and again. Teachers can face several issues and therefore an environment of training and support is essential but even important is to develop a common vision and as Brendon Hyndman notes in her article for phys.org, a shared community of practice. Otherwise, it is the future of the students that is at stake and the entire purpose of integrating technology may fail.