Wednesday, September 2, 2009

10 Tips for Teaching Technology to Teachers

I have been working with teachers to learn to integrate technology into their teaching for almost ten years. Here are a few of the things I have learned - in no particular order (number 10 is probably the most important).

Please share your thoughts and suggestions!

1. It isn't really about the tool it is about how you use it: It isn't the word processing software, it's the skills and usefulness of word processing. It isn't the presentation software, it's how to create a meaningful and effective presentation.

2. Differentiate: Provide lots of different avenues for teachers to learn. Create visual handouts, offer group training, create video screencasts and provide one-on-one instruction.

3. Don't be the only teacher: Encourage teachers to work together and coach each other. Get students involved, let the kids be the teachers and provide opportunities for them to help their teachers out.

4. Ask lots of questions: If you are working one-on-one or with a small group try to get to the pedagogical goal for the tool.

5. Enlist your PLN: Reach out to your PLN for support and ideas, read blogs, follow folks on Twitter, ask questions, share your frustrations.

6. Remember there is great teaching without technology: There are many ways to teach and many great lessons that do not use technology. Respect the expertise of your colleagues.

7. Acknowledge your teachers' anxiety and expertise: When I'm working with a teacher who is having a hard time with something I find easy, I always remind myself of all of the things that person knows how to do that I don't know how to do. Teachers are not used to not knowing, looking "dumb" or feeling out of control. I often hear teachers tell me "I'm bad at this." Remind them how they respond when their students tell them they are bad at something. They aren't bad at it, they just haven't learned how to do it yet.

8. Start with the early adopters: If you are new to a school and are trying to make change, start with the easy folks, the ones who want your help. Once they are successful, word will spread and you will be able to get to some of the more resistant teachers. Don't beat yourself up about the hardcore resisters. There are some people that you just can't change - see number 6.

9. Observe your colleagues: If you can, try to get in and observe classes at your school. Go in without an agenda, just watch your colleagues teach. You will gain a greater appreciation for their skills, it will give you some ideas of ways you can support them and you will get to know them a little better. This is also really fun to do.

10. Don't touch the mouse: Tie your arm behind your back if you have to, but try not to take over mousing for your teachers. This is one of the hardest things for me to do, but also one of the most important. When people mouse they learn to do things themselves, when I do it for them they learn to watch me do it.


Brenda Smith said...

All are great points. I find #7 to be highly critical: "Acknowledge your teachers' anxiety and expertise." Veteran teachers are anxious about change (I was there just last year and I am still working on it!). Veteran teachers are also very in tune to their own expertise. Without tact and moving at a pace that is realistic, you may just lose them! Thanks for the great post!

fivbert said...

I agree #10 is the most important although all of the hints bind themselves together!

I tell that to my elementary students when they are helping a "neighbor" with a problem.

I tell them how hard it is (to NOT touch the mouse); I admit that I have to lock down my own hands b/c it is so much quicker and easier to "do it yourself" and SHOW THEM, than to talk them through it and let them experience it.

But that is true in all aspects of teaching whether or not you are using technology.

There is a quote (that I can't put my hands on right this moment!) that basically says when you teach something you learn it the best.

Students do not really "get it" by just hearing, seeing, and writing about it, but by teaching another person how to do it, then they solidify the concept in their own brain.

lindargeorge said...

Liz, I love your tips. I promise, on my honor, to abide by them as best I can this year! :)
How are you? I hope to see you at CMTC!!

esmith1126 said...

#10 is true of students also. When my students help other students, the first thing they want to do is grab the mouse and do it themselves for the struggling student. I try to make the helper talk the other student through the situation.

Blythe Musteric said...

Thank you for a great post. I agree with your tips, and I especially like #10. I think this could be a great way to explain one of the most important principles of teaching. As teachers, we should repeat this mantra daily!

Detroit Sports Dork said...

Liz these are terrific. Common sense suggestions that are so easy to transgress!

Billie said...

What a timely post! An online colleague forwarded me this today after I had a difficult class with preservice teachers . . . using blogger and one other social networking tool.

Thanks for the tips.

Unknown said...

Good tips, and great reminders! Thank you!!

Chris Hyde said...

Great points, Liz. I'm going to keep this post nearby as a reminder for this year as I work with teachers and administrators. Thanks for sharing!

Lauriene Tschang said...

Thank you very much for reminding me that I have to give up the MOUSE! Guilty of #10. I will try my best to abide by it.

Maureen Tumenas said...

Great reminders Liz! We just started using Edublogs Campus this fall, so I am constantly training teachers. The very hardest thing for me to do is not touch the mouse. Working with a close friend today and told her that she was allowed to duct tape my hands if I reached for the mouse again. She actually did that to me in student/faculty soccer game years ago after my excellent hand-eye coordination and reaction time(read hand ball) caused 2 corner kicks.

I have 3 major initiatives starting at once this fall- continued rollout of Google Apps, Edublogs campus and school wide voice thread accts... everyone is getting to watch me learn by trial and error as I try to navigate new control panels. I am certainly not "the expert" and tell them that I ask for help from my PLN all the time and it is really OK to be a learner. That is hard for many used to be in the "teacher" role to accept.

Mohamad Basri Hamzah said...

Liz, I think your tips are relevant to all teachers, even in Malaysia, where I live. I'm sharing your tips at


Liz B Davis said...

Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment on my post. Clearly, number 10 seems to be a fan favorite. I'm working on designing a sling for my mousing arm so I can tie it down. Sometimes all I want to do is take over and mouse.

Linda - Unfortunately I won't be at CMTE this year. I will be at MassCUE presenting 2 sessions.

Maureen - We too have just switched to Google Apps for education (including Gmail) and so far it is going really well. We've also added Discovery Streaming and Turnitin, so I am also doing a lot of learning on my feet and trying not injure myself too badly when I trip.

Angela said...

As a literacy coach, I'm often called upon to help folks begin or enrich their use of technology, and these tips are incredibly helpful. Simple and wise. Thanks for this post, Liz. Great reminders as I start a new year.

Robin said...

#8, #7, #6 - my guidelines for staff development over the next few months. This post was timely and very appreciated. Thanks, Robin

Stephanie said...

I appreciate #7 as well. We tell our students to "teach each other with their voices and not with their hands."It's so true for teachers too!

Rhondda said...

This is a great post. I found myself nodding at many points. As others have acknowledged #7 is one that has to be dealt with very tactfully but also getting them create/use the tools for themselves and not doing it for them (as the temptation can be)is important too

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Kevin Jarrett said...

Fantastic tips! So true! I try, try, TRY to observe #10 but when I give in I always gently guide their hand on the mouse. It works for me! Something else I've found very effective: using my laser pointer to point to things on their screen. This works VERY well with LCD monitors; CRTs not so much; they reflect. I have a very powerful green laser that is super visible even in the brightest classroom! Keep up the great work Liz!

Kevin Jarrett
Northfield, NJ

Sandy Kendell said...

Liz this is an awesome list! You and I have been helping teachers for the same number of years, and I resonated with every one of your points. I especially appreciate your emphasis on respecting our colleagues no matter where they are coming from - most importantly the the resistent ones or the ones with low confidence.

And #10 is the hardest one for me, too! In my head sometimes I'm like chanting "No Mouse...No Mouse" while working with someone! LOL! Thanks for sharing...I'll be passing along to the instructional tech facilitators I work with.

Teaching Jobs | Blogger said...

"1. It isn't really about the tool it is about how you use it"

I couldn't agree with you more on this being number 1 on the list. No matter how awesome your technology is, if there is no planning or concrete objective for using such, you won't be able to reap the benefits in even believing in technology.

Mrs. Armusewicz said...

I have been the computer teacher for over 10 years. I have always helped the teachers to develop their skills on the computer. This year my role is changing. I am going to be working with the teachers in their classrooms to teach them how to integrate technology into their curriculum. I will also be helping with professional development. I just taught a class on the use of the smartboard. I'll keep your 10 rules in mind. I do have trouble keeping my hands off the mice with the teachers and students.

abracadabra said...


Bookmarked! A great list and power post, that hits all the bases.

The only thing I would add would be to make sure to PRAISE and not appraise. I always try to work in some time to applaud teacher's work and get them to share and notice what each other has done/produced with technology.

I'm glad you mentioned about acknowledging anxieties. I used to use this video for my reading course (it demonstrates the "concept of print) but it works wonders with lowering the affective filter of teachers. so funny

thanks for the great post.


hearing school said...

You and I have been helping teachers for the same number of years, and I resonated with every one of your points. I especially appreciate your emphasis on respecting our colleagues no matter where they are coming from

Anonymous said...

Great list! My one hope is that somewhere out in the world there circulates an equally strong list of "10 Tips for Learning Technology for Teachers".

Lynne K said...

Thank you for these great suggestions! I am an instructional support teacher of mathematics and this will be a great resource to help me teach the teachers in my school. I found your second suggestion important. I need to realize that some teachers are going to be reluctant about learning. I will need to provide different settings, groups and times to work with the different teachers. What is a PLN? I do not believe we have one of them since I am unsure what it is. Number 7 is critical to remember. Many teachers will not be comfortable using technology and will take a lot of patience and coaching in order to find success. I am lucky that I can do #9, go in and observe. I can guide and serve as a resource as I go into classes as well. Finally, your last suggestion is key. The teachers will certainly not learn if I do it all for them. Thanks again for the great suggestions. I cannot wait to implement them.

David Truss said...

Hi Liz,
Just getting to your post now. I love #10, the overall favorite from your comments, and I also think there is incredible wisdom in #6
Remember there is great teaching without technology: There are many ways to teach and many great lessons that do not use technology. Respect the expertise of your colleagues.
Keep collegial respect and 'good teaching' at the forefront and good things will happen. A great list and timely for me to read it now, thanks so much!

Unknown said...

Teach teachers in pairs. Have one navigate and the other drive (use the keyboad and mouse) and then switch.

Dirk Tietjen said...

I agree with man points. The point "not all get it" deserves a second thought. Actually even getting it which means it is understood does not mean they can apply it. Many of us forget that understanding something and being able to aplly a new skill are two totally different learning curves.
While our brain can sort in new information at night the mastery of a new habit and skill takes much more time and faces some plateaus-we should just know, having seen soemthing does not mean we can just do it, too.

czechblues said...

not sure I agree with number 8,
my tip would be something like:
find a way to embrace the ones who are unsure or uncertain.
I am not sure that further empowering those who are good can motivate those who are not, they just feel like they are left further behind.
I'll give an analogy,I work in an efl context, a colleague of mine gives prizes, (dictionaries andthe like he gets free from publishers) to students who perform well, my colleague says it is motivation but those students already have dictionaires and readers etc, it is the strugglers who need the prizes because they need the motivation. A free reader or a free dictionary may just provide that motivation. So why start by educating the ones who can do it already.

Jane Hake said...

I love these tips, and I am especially glad you included #6. I know some very excellent teachers, particularly in primary grades who are teaching children how to relate face to face and do not use much tech in their classrooms. Naturally, they would not be as comfortable with tech, but they have a real knack for building community and relationships in their classrooms.

I am a veteran teacher and very into using technology. I think some veteran teachers are resistant to change because we see the cyclical nature of so many bandwagons that are later abandoned- but tech is different and we need to help veterans realize that tech is here to stay and can be integrated w/every teaching/learning style.

classroommng said...

Thank you for your informative blog. There are many tips for teaching technology to teachers. I like your third points that don’t be the only teacher its very important point for teachers and students.

annieEd205 said...

These are all helpful tools, and I like how they are geared more towards interaction with other teachers and not just students. As a future teacher, I know that numbers 4 (ask alot of questions),5 (enlist your PLN), and 9 (observe your collegues) will be something that I will do on a daily basis mostly because I sometimes struggle with using technology in college, so I can only imagine what it will be like when I am a teacher! Number 10 (don't touch the mouse) will be hard for me just because there are things I know how to do and do well that when and explanation isn't going as I had hoped I tend to resort to hand over hand. You make a good point that people learn by "mousing". When I look back at previous computer courses, I learned a lot just from clicking a mouse.

dgpender said...

As a technology trainer, I thank you for your tips. I always try to reassure teachers in workshops that "no questions is a dumb question." There are always different levels of "expertise" in the sessions, and there are always others who are willing to help those who are struggling. This helps form relationships and additional contacts among their peers. These are great tips!

Leslie the designer said...

I'm going to print this post and tape it next to my desk. Every single one of the suggestions will help me improve in my role as Technology Coordinator, assuming I actually follow the tips. Which I will do, especially #10 and #6.

daisychauhan said...

Aren't we making our teachers more depended on Technology, I believe that E-Learning is not about Electronic Learning we take is a bit differently we believe it Enabling Learning,

To demystify education technology by demonstrating that educators can create innovative eLearning content without having to become technology experts.

Educators Should be Creating eLearning

Educators –
are qualified in the art of teaching
have years of experience of teaching a subject
know the diversity of children’s learning needs
know how to engage children in the learning process
know how to assess learning

Technology companies –
know technology

That’s 5 reasons in favour of educators
1 in favour of technology companies when it comes to creating eLearning content.

“Educator-friendly” Technology

Educators should be able to effectively employ technology in their teaching process without having to become technology experts themselves

Technology companies need to comprehend that unlike apparel, which typically come in 4 sizes – S, M, L and XL, the need for technology in education is multi-dimensional, that requires a high degree of creative customization

In other words, the need of the hour is develop “Educator-friendly” technology, as opposed to the popular notion of creating “Technology-friendly” educators.

And we help educators by providing this technology.

Josh said...


Great post... inspired me to write my own list of the top ten tops for teaching technology to students.