11.15.2017People

Teachers with tech. Now what?

By: Jason Small
Watch Video about What If? Let's Reimagine Learning. Technology Can Help.

More than 1 million classrooms in the United States are without proper access to technology. As this generation of students moves into the workforce, they face a future where 77 percent of all jobs in the U.S. will require computer skills by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The problem stems from social and economic circumstances that have created a gap between those with and without access to technology in schools. This gap is called the ‘digital divide’.

Providing students access to technology is an important step, but we’ve learned that it is only one part of the solution.

Verizon explored this issue in-depth while actively working to support schools through our Verizon Innovative Learning schools program. We’ve learned that providing devices and connectivity simply isn’t enough.

We’ve also discovered that teachers with devices and connectivity are not necessarily prepared to incorporate technology into their teaching.  

Imagine you are a teacher in a school that has worked hard to get technology. But now that you finally have it in your classroom, you have no specific guidance on how it can help enhance teaching your students. How frustrating would that scenario be to you as the teacher? The student? The parent?

Kids are perceptive, so if you don’t know something, they can see it. They can feel it.

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Jeneena Hubbard teaches sixth grade at PS 171. “Kids are perceptive, so if you don’t know something, they can see it. They can feel it,” shares Hubbard.

We’ve found it takes a three-pronged approach for us to sufficiently support schools that are not technology-enabled:

  • Devices
  • Connectivity
  • Curriculum coaches

Teaching teachers tech

Teachers need someone to help guide their understanding about the best methods and tools that technology brings to the classroom.

According to Aharon Schultz, elementary assistant principal at PS 171, teachers need and want this help. “We already have great teachers at our school. They want to learn and they’re eager. They want to know how to use this stuff.”

To help teachers learn about the technology, so they can teach using technology, the Verizon Innovative Learning schools program puts a curriculum coach in each school it engages. These coaches continually work with teachers to give them a better understanding of how to effectively incorporate the technology into their curriculum.

Over time, feedback from a school is shared across the network of coaches.  These learnings and new ideas continually improve the ways in which teachers optimize their curriculum, using technology.

Sometimes, the students also help to teach the teachers as they discover new apps and tools. It’s a collective learning experience where everyone benefits by sharing.

If I’m the teacher teaching the student, who’s teaching me? You have to learn it.

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Hubbard shares, “If I’m the teacher teaching the student, who’s teaching me? You have to learn it. Show it to me. Let me see it. Teach me something so that now you’re turn-keying it to me and I can turn-key it again to more students and maybe I can add that into the following year’s instruction.”

While we’re proud of our efforts to address this problem, much more help is needed to level the educational playing field.

“Without a Net: The Digital Divide in America” premiered on the National Geographic Channel in September to raise awareness of the digital divide. The film highlights the challenges schools and students face. It also shows creative ways schools and organizations are working to address this gap because the systemic issues behind it are not being resolved quickly enough.

What can you do? 

About the author(s): 

Jason Small leads storytelling for the Verizon communications team. His background includes online and offline roles in digital marketing and communications within corporate, agency and startup environments across more than 20 brands. You can connect with Jason on Twitter @JasonSmallChats