Using tech compliments the way I work but I completely understand that it’s not for everyone. Different teachers have completely different (sometimes highly idiosyncratic) ways of keeping on top of things. From extremely tech-centric, to utilising a bit of tech, to forgoing any kind of technology whatsoever, there’s a whole spectrum out there. I tend not to make any kind of value-judgement on the way people work as I’ve seen the most connected teachers be completely useless and those who wouldn’t dream of picking up a mobile to help in their teaching absolutely storm it.
But then again, it’s always nice to have the choice. Whether tech savvy or tech-averse, being able to work in a way that means that you’re at your best is always going to be important. I use my phone to organise my workload, communicate with colleagues, streamline certain mind-numbing admin activities, so what can an institution do to try and smooth the way for someone like me? And they should because I rule.
Firstly, let’s talk a little bit about one of the essentials, one of the building blocks of effective tech use in school; internet access. Undoubtedly the provision of wifi in education establishments in reference to speed and reliability have improved exponentially in the time that I’ve been teaching. But even now, there are places where this central tenet is neglected. Spotty, unreliable or easily maxed-out provision can be a real headache and effectively means that anyone using mobile technology is scuppered before they start (unless they fancy maxing out their 4G allowance, which is always an option but seems a bit like having to buy your own whiteboard markers, exercise books and A4 paper – tools that should really be provided). Decent internet and wifi that reliably reaches every room in every building is pretty much an essential now (and not just for me as a teacher, but for the kids as well.)
The culture in a school and how it views a particular way of working is also something that can either facilitate or discourage being productive with mobile apps. There have been places that have viewed my use of a phone or tablet to sort myself out with something akin to deep suspicion. I can’t really blame them as it’s the same way that I view the kids with something akin to deep suspicion when they’re on theirs. But then again, I’m a professional, and an adult (I won’t go so far to push it and call myself ‘responsible’) and I think we’re now at a point that mobile device use, if not entirely ‘normalised’ in schools, is not as much as an anomaly as it once was. Being comfortable with staff using tech to help with their work, perhaps actively encouraging it (yet not enforcing. I’m still firm in the belief that a professional should be able to make a choice in how they work) can make life a little easier. Establishing an in-house forum where teachers can share some of the tools that they’re using and perhaps demonstrate the apps that are helping them conquer the day-to-day grind can also go some way to removing any possible stigma as teachers convince others that they’re not constantly on the Facebook or happily Snapchatting away as everyone else gets some proper work done.
Because proper work is proper work, no matter how you go about doing it. Recognising that it happens in different ways, and making efforts to try and enable it, whether it be using pen or paper or the shiniest new bit of kit, is key to helping teachers do the best that they can. An environment that identifies how to support teachers in the way that works for them is an environment that values professionals and the work that they do. That value then carries over to the kids as it’s often the case that what’s good for the teachers is also good for the students. Not everyone works in the same way, but by making it easier to work in the way that best suits your teachers, a school can help their workforce reach their potential.