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Technology Challenges During Teachers' Induction Years
Part 5: Teacher Prepared, School Unprepared

Of all situations, this is the one where the teacher may feel conflicts are most likely to occur. If new teachers sense opposition to their desire to use technology, or encounter obstacles resulting from difficulty accessing technology resources, they may quickly lose their desire to use technology. New teachers do not have the time to wage a pro-technology campaign within their school or community and may feel that it is not their place to do so. Subsequently, the challenges within this scenario are many.

The most pronounced challenge is likely to be frustration. New teachers may have been trained to use technology under ideal conditions in technology-rich university environments which are seldom comparable to the conditions which currently exist in most U.S. schools. These new teachers enter the school system eager to implement new technology strategies and expect to find resources and equipment similar to the ones with which they were trained. In many cases, however, the school system does not have adequate resources, and this often results in new teachers foregoing their training and reverting to traditional methods of teaching without incorporation of technological resources (Casey, 1995).

Despite the fact that computer-to-student ratios have dropped from 50:1 in 1985 to 9:1 in 1997, the lack of available or up-to-date equipment is still cited by many teachers as a common barrier to the effective use of technology (NCATE, 1997). Many school systems maintain computer labs instead of providing each classroom with computers, and because of the number of classes vying for time, teachers often encounter scheduling problems. In addition to outdated equipment, new teachers also run into difficulty with accessing appropriate educational software (Barksdale, 1996).

Another challenge faced by new teachers is the possibility of meeting with opposition as they try to include more technology in their classrooms. The use of the computer has changed the teacher's role from "information disseminator" to "learning facilitator," and many teachers who are approaching retirement are unwilling to accept and adjust to this change. Other veteran teachers, especially those lacking adequate computer training, are intimidated by the equipment and may criticize or downplay the new teacher's ideas. A new teacher trying to establish a niche within the social structure may simple choose to conform to the accepted practices of the school's culture. As one technology resource leader has noted, "It seems to be hard for the new unseasoned teachers to resist the pressure from the oldies to not rock the boat" (Hemmerly, 1997).

Many new teachers have been exposed to technology during their high school years, in their homes as they were growing up, and in their teacher education programs. These new teachers are likely to be intimidating to veteran teachers when it comes to their knowledge, and familiarity with technology. Subsequently, veteran teachers may openly oppose the use of technology in teaching and argue that a school's money is better spent on non-technological resources. This creates additional roadblocks for new teachers as they strive to become a part of their school's social infrastructure.

Conversely, we may again see veteran teachers embracing the opportunity to learn about technology from new teachers. As stated in the previous section, this is problematic in that new teachers' time is scarce, but often they long to be accepted by veteran teachers.

To address these challenges schools must be open to suggestions and be supportive of the new teacher's desire to use technology. The school must impress upon its new teachers that while resources may currently be lacking, there is interest in accommodating the new teacher's technology needs. The school should provide a support structure that is able to hear new teachers' frustrations and deal with them in a proactive manner.

Efforts should be made to provide new teachers with access to and information about funding. Similarly, the school should provide easy access to someone who can offer words of advise or provide assistance. One specific solution that some schools have employed is to provide new teachers with a partner or mentor who has similar interests and is working in a positive and proactive way to incorporate technology in their classroom or the school.

These challenges should also be addressed in teacher education programs. In addition to teaching future teachers to use technology, we must also prepare them for what they will find when they leave the university and take their first teaching position. New teachers must be made aware of the policies and practices that are likely to be encountered in the schools they will teach in. We should train teachers to be able to adapt their use of technology to a variety of circumstances and should also offer strategies for gaining additional technological resources.

Case Study: From Riches to Rags
In her first year of teaching Kristen found herself in a well-off district, with more than ample technology resources. The technology training that she had in her teacher education program was put to good use. She had a computer in her classroom, and was able to aquire software and additional computers when she needed them.

Kristen then moved to another district and found a stark contrast in their technological preparedness. "I was promised technology, but the school did not have ample financial resources to deliver." The technology resources of this school consisted of a single computer lab. The scheduling burden on this lab meant that her only access to technology was two hours ever other week. Essentially, lab time was used only for word processing. She could not successfully incorporate technology into her everyday teaching, and found this to be highly frustrating.

Fortunately, her school had an open mind toward technology use, and even as a new teacher, her input on technology matters was welcomed by the school's technology committee.

Helpful Hints To Meet The Challenge:
Helpful Hints To Meet The Challenge:
New Teachers:
1. Seek out technology conferences and workshops and volunteer to attend and bring back information for your school. Take someone with you!
2. Ask your school librarian to subscribe to leading technology journals.
3. Find and join a technology interest group in your town or school or on the Web.
4. Useful innovations have occurred with limited technology resources. Challenge yourself to find these innovations with available resources (i.e., many teachers are using Apple II E's for e-mail).
5. Ask the principal to introduce you to the district/corporation technology coordinator and explore whether there is a committee or other group on which you could serve to help your school be better prepared to use technology.
6. Volunteer to serve on a committee that would seek out and write grant proposals to support technology- hardware, software, and staff development.
7. Locate articles (either in paper or on-line journals) to share with your principal and other interested teachers regarding technology issues.
8. Attend school board meetings and/or meet with the superintendent to learn about the district/corporation's long and short term plans to upgrade technology.
 
School Leaders:
1. Provide a mentor that has similar interests, e.g., an innovator or risk taker.
2. Allow new teachers time and opportunities to sit on school technology planning committees.
3. Conduct a needs-assessment to determine teacher skills and interests regarding technology.
4. Designate a teacher-leader to coordinate a study group that focuses on use of various technologies in the classroom based on previous needs-assessment.
5. Through the school-improvement committee or other site-based leadership group, establish short-term and long-term goals to incorporate appropriate technologies into the classroom.
6. Identify potential funding sources to support acquisition of technology and staff development.
7. Contact local businesses and industries to arrange "partnerships" for potential donations of hardware and software.
8. Work with the new teacher to identify specific technology-related items to include on the teacher's Professional Growth Plan and monitor their progress. This could be facilitated by the new teacher's mentor, especially if the mentor has good technology skills.
9. Request that the teacher spend time during the summer prior to his/her first year becoming more familiar with technologies available in the school.
10. Periodically have new teachers meet in a support-group atmosphere to address technology-related issues and concerns.
11. Advocate for a school or district technology coordinator.
12. Develop a technology plan or revisit and upgrade the present one.

Continue to Part 6: Teacher Unprepared, School Prepared


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