Issues With Integrating Technology in the Classroom

Many schools and districts across the nation spend a lot of money upgrading their computers or buying new technology as a method to increase student learning. However, just buying technology or handing it out to teachers does not mean that it will be used effectively or at all. This article looks at why millions of dollars of hardware and software are often left to gather dust.

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Buying Because It's a 'Good Deal'

Close-up of schoolgirl scrolling on tablet
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Most schools and districts have a limited amount of money to spend on technology. Therefore, they are often looking for ways to cut corners and save money. Unfortunately, this can lead to buying a new software program or piece of hardware just because it is a good deal. In many cases, the good deal lacks the application necessary to be translated into useful learning.

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Lack of Teacher Training

Teachers need to be trained in new technology purchases in order to use them effectively. They need to understand the benefits to learning and also to themselves. However, many schools fail to budget time and/or money to allow teachers to go through thorough training on new purchases.

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Incompatibility With Existing Systems

All school systems have legacy systems that need to be considered when integrating new technology. Unfortunately, the integration with the legacy systems can be far more complicated than anyone envisioned. The issues that arise during this phase can often derail the implementation of new systems and never allow them to take off.

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Little Teacher Involvement in the Purchase Stage

The teacher should have a say in technology purchases because they know better than others what is feasible and can work in their classroom. In fact, if possible students should be included as well if they are the intended end user. Unfortunately, many technology purchases are made from the distance of the district office and sometimes do not translate well into the classroom.

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Lack of Planning Time

Teachers need additional time to add technology into existing lesson plans. Teachers are very busy and many will take the path of least resistance if not given the opportunity and time to learn how to best integrate the new materials and items into their lessons. However, there are many resources online that can help give teachers additional ideas for integrating technology.

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Lack of Instructional Time

Sometimes software is purchased that requires a significant amount of classroom time to be fully utilized. The ramp up and completion time for these new activities may not fit within the class structure. This is especially true in courses like American History where there is so much material to cover in order to meet the standards, and it is very hard to spend multiple days on one software application.

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Does Not Translate Well for a Whole Class

Some software programs are very valuable when used with individual students. Programs such as language learning tools can be quite effective for ESL or foreign language students. Other programs can be useful for small groups or even a whole class. However, it can be difficult to match up the needs of all your students with the available software and the existing facilities.

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Lack of an Overall Technology Plan

All of these concerns are symptoms of a lack of an overall technology plan for a school or district. A technology plan must consider the needs of the students, the structure and limitations of the classroom setting, the need for teacher involvement, training and time, the current state of the technology systems already in place, and the costs involved. In a technology plan, there needs to be an understanding of the end result that you wish to achieve by including new software or hardware. If that is not defined then technology purchases would run the risk of gathering dust and never being properly used.