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Technology Challenges During Teachers' Induction Years
Part 6: Teacher Unprepared, School Prepared

Not all new teachers are adequately prepared and eager to use technology in their teaching. Even those teachers who did receive some pre-service training in technology may not be completely comfortable with their computing skills and knowledge of technology. This can present a serious challenge for new teachers who are hired with the expectation that they will know a fair amount about technology, especially with the current trend of showing preferential treatment to job candidates whose resumes show technology experience (Ponsessa, 1996).

Some teachers may feel obligated to talk up their experience with technology in order to be competitive in a large applicant pool, and some administrators will erroneously conclude that all new teachers have been adequately trained to use technology. Either way, a new teacher can be left in an awkward position when an administrator assumes that the new teacher knows more about technology than he or she actually does.

New teachers may also find themselves having a false sense of comfort. With more and more states requiring at least basic training in technology, it is likely that new teachers will have had basic technology training in their teacher education program. However, this does not mean that they necessarily had the benefit of seeing technology integrated into the curriculum effectively, or may not have seen the modeling of appropriate use of technology for teaching. Thus, teachers may be eager to use technology but ultimately be unable to do so with positive results.

Many new teachers, even those who had technology training, remain uncomfortable using technology. A new teacher who feels unprepared to effectively integrate technology will be less likely to attempt its use without the appropriate guidance and support. Veteran teachers may informally discuss their experiences using technology in the classroom but these strategies will be lost on a new teacher who does not get the opportunity to observe them. It is difficult for a new teacher to feel comfortable teaching with technology without first witnessing examples of its use, yet they often do not see demonstrations of technology in use (Honey & Moeller, 1997). New teachers may also be afraid to seek assistance for fear of appearing incompetent (Fox & Singletary, 1986), as a result, the effective techniques used by their peers will remain unknown.

Even if new teachers are willing to ask for help, it is unlikely that they will have the time to do so on their own. First-year teachers' concerns, including discipline methods, administrative approval, and communication in the social setting, coupled with the demands outside the classroom, make it extremely difficult for new teachers to find time to devote to learning about technology (Novak & Knowles, 1991).

Orientation and induction programs are crucial in terms of calming new teachers' fears, providing enough information to get them started and establishing a support network or training regimen that will help new teachers become more knowledgeable about technology. To prevent many of the challenges listed above, schools must have adequate assessment procedures, especially if technology training is optional for new teachers. Schools should also plan for on-going professional development to upgrade teachers' technology skills.

Case Study: Unprepared and Unaware
"I was thrilled to get the job teaching at the newest school in a very affluent school district near my home town," said Holly an elementary school teacher in a Midwest suburban town. "I had had some computer training in college, but never enough that I felt comfortable using it--and certainly not in front of my students." Holly indicated that two brand new Pentium computers sat in the back corner of her classroom and were rarely used for anything other than a free time activity for students who finished their desk work early.

"It wasn't until my second year, when we had a summer training session on technology that I became aware of all the wonderful things that my colleagues were doing with their computers. I felt terrible for having let mine go to waste, but was embarrassed to tell anybody that I didn't know what to do with my computer."

Holly finally overcame her fear, and asked one of her fellow teachers to give her some training and ideas for using the computer. She now reports she can't understand how she ever got by without using her computers.

Helpful Hints To Meet The Challenge:
Helpful Hints To Meet The Challenge:
New Teachers:
1. Be honest about your skills and deficiencies. Don't be afraid to ask for help and to admit that you don't know how to do something.
2. Most people are very willing to share their knowledge of computers. Find those people and ask questions.
3. Consider purchasing one of the "Computers for the Novice" books; even computer experts buy these books.
4. Ask students to help you.
5. Ask the principal to introduce you to the district/corporation technology coordinator.
6. Work with your mentor and set weekly or monthly goals regarding familiarity with technology. Be realistic but push yourself to overcome fears and feelings of inadequacy.
7. Talk honestly with your students. Find out what they know about technology and how they would like to use it in the classroom. Then devise an action plan for how to better meet your students' needs.
8. Get your e-mail account activated and get on-line to talk with others who are having similar experiences.
9. Contact former professors and/or classmates for suggestions on what to read, who to contact, how to proceed regarding acquisition of technology skills.
10. Find and read your school's technology plan.
 
School Leaders:
1. Select mentors who are technology users for new teachers who need this type of support.
2. Employ team teaching methods, or build time into a new teacher's schedule for them to observe veteran teachers teaching with technology.
3. Cover technology issues during your orientation program for new teachers.
4. Meet personally with all new teachers and your technology coordinator. Be sure that teachers are fully aware of ALL technology-related resources available to them (i.e., hardware, software, technical support, staff, etc.).
5. Stay abreast of new developments so that you can provide on-going leadership for your school.
6. Continue to pursue external funding sources to maintain and upgrade hardware and software and to continue staff development.

Continue to Part 7: Teacher Unprepared, School Unprepared


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