How do teachers start using ICT?

Lára Stefánsdóttir, Head of the ICT Department:
How do teachers start using ICT?

Many feel that they are on a quest changing teachers, changing education getting teachers to use ICT in education. It is not defined here what it means to use ICT in the classroom but the general idea is that teachers use computers and the tools provided by the computer in relationship with their teaching, giving students tasks and activities where the technology can be of use one way or the other for the students. There is a huge pressure on teachers to use ICT in their classroom and many methods used to get teachers to change their activities so that students use ICT. Instead of supporting teachers in using ICT in their classroom some try to convince them how they should change their classroom, often focusing on not only ICT but on how they think teachers should teach. Since there is not one accepted known method on how to teach it is not likely that one given way will make teachers start to use ICT, not even to convince them that it is something they would like to do. Therefore it is important to focus on how the teacher teaches and how he plans activities and work in his or her classes and support the use of ICT in that relationship.

How do teachers change?
Teaching is a very complex task, the teacher has to have certain knowledge to share, methods, so that the students do learn, talents, in order to catch students' interest in the subject, patience, when students have difficulties with the subject or their concentration and much more. In the classroom, the teacher is the boss, in a way teachers are directors of sometimes many working teams of around 25 people each who sometimes aren't interested in working on the task at all. So being a teacher is not an easy job. In my mind, those who want to introduce change to the classroom very often do not understand what it is to be a teacher. Teachers use different teaching theories in order to do their job. Most of them concentrate on doing their job in the best way they can find and they do believe in their methods and that they have selected what is best each time in order to fulfill their task of educating students.

Frequently they are introduced to ICT in education with certain teaching methods that very often aren't their methods', they might not believe in them or want to use those methods. So when they refuse the task they get criticized for not wanting to use the tools of the current society while they might want to do that but not by changing their teaching methods. It is essential to introduce ICT to them as a tool to use in their classroom, along with their own teaching methods in the way the teachers think best. Therefore it is very important to distinct between the teaching method and the ICT and try to find a tool suitable to the teachers' class. It is crucial to respect the teacher, his methods and ways of teaching and offer advice and provide support with suggestions or by answering questions. It actually doesn't matter what teaching method an advisor believes in, a teacher does not take anything into the classroom unless he or she thinks it will support the teaching. The students' education is the most important issue in their mind and it is imperative not to forget that it is actually the main aim of every educational institution. The technology is one of the tools that a teacher can select to be successful in his or her job, but it is never the only tool.

Due to the nature of the teacher's role it is not easy to order the teacher to change. A teacher is a well educated person and doesn't take in something that isn't justified in such a way that he or she can see that he or she as a teacher or the students could benefit. Therefore the teacher doesn't start to work seriously on ICT without a purpose and the interest in adapting to new methods. This graph describes how what is needed in order for the teacher to change:

While wiewing this graph, it is important to acknowledge that the arrow can and should turn to any of the boxes at any given time. To explain this further:

Want to learn
How to get the teacher to want to learn to use ICT differs from person to person, from method to method, tools available and many other things. It is though clear that if the teacher doesn't want to learn, meaning either finding the reason to use ICT in their teaching, the institution plan or whatever. Actually, it doesn't matter what makes the teacher want to learn, just the fact that he or she does. When teachers in MA are asked why they started to learn about ICT they give many reasons such as: "I thought it would be fun and interesting", "well, I couldn't stay behind, could I?", "my students are using computers all the time so it might be an interesting teaching tool", "I heard how it was done in another place and wanted to try that out". When digging deeper into those reasons all came to the conclusion that they had hopes it would lead to better teaching, more interested students, different and better learning methods or something that had everything to do with the classroom. The teacher as a well educated specialist not only in some given subject but also teaching methods, a person often with long teaching experience, finds meaning for learning to use ICT, they do. After all, teachers are learners and interested in learning, that is their specialty. One another thing is also very important and that is that the teacher will not start using ICT in the classroom unless he or she has some basic skills using ICT themselves.

Know how to use
What the teacher needs to know about using ICT varies very much. There are two main reasons that have an effect. First and foremost, as mentioned before, the reason or meaning has to be clear to him or her as an educationalist. Then there is another factor that should not be underestimated and that is how much at ease the teacher is on how much the students know on using computers themselves. Some teachers don't like at all when students know more than they do while others couldn't care less. This has to do with the fear of failing, or the fear that the students might think that the teacher is not intelligent enough since they might know the tool better than them. The basic line is that there is certain knowledge that the teacher has to reach in order to use ICT in the classroom but there is no given amount of knowledge it varies from person to person.

Ready to use the ICT in the classroom
When the teacher is ready to use the ICT in the classroom it is very rare that he or she selects first something new not based on anything that he has learned or seen used. How he actually does it might not be exactly the same as what he has seen but still usually it is rooted in some experience or known situation. Although it happens it is not something that one should expect that the teacher develops something new or can create something "new" or original in the beginning. First, teachers usually use something that they feel is relatively "safe". After some experience it is easier to see the possibilities and opportunities related to how teachers themselves believe is the best teaching method.

Develop new method
When the teacher feels relatively relaxed in using the computer in his own job at his desk as well as in the classroom he is able to develop new ideas and master the use of ICT in the classroom. By saying that, it might not be something that is needed that each and every teacher develops something "new". In a way, it is one of the difficulties in this field that so many think that something "new" has to be happening all the time. It is most important to reach some success in using ICT in the classroom although it is based on something that someone else has done before and through that gained experience on what works well and what does not. One of the difficulties in this field is exactly that the pioneers don't have time for the "followers" or that they spend so much time on what they are doing that it isn't interesting for others to follow in order to keep their working hours within reasonable limit. But still, each teacher masters some methods when he starts teaching, often using what he has seen or experienced. Little by little he develops his job and expertise based on his experience and through that finds his "own" way. It is the same with ICT in the classroom, based on what he finds suitable for his subject, his way of teaching, his students, teachers develop new methods and find his own way of doing things just as he does with his teaching.

Try out methods
Teachers that have gained experience are confident enough to try out new methods and ways and do not fear failing but learn from what they find out, shape what they find best into their classroom and then share with others what they have found out and through that become pioneers themselves.

It is very important for those who are supporting teachers on implementing ICT in the classroom to realize what teaching is and not only that but to respect the teacher on how he or she is as an educationalist. Furthermore it is equally important to know that ICT doesn't need to be in every class all the time. But in order to be able to say that ICT is not suitable for a given task, one has to know enough to choose. Without any knowledge one can not take that decision so therefore it is important for every teacher to gain basic ICT knowledge that is both on the tool itself as well as on pedagogical use of ICT in education.

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