Breaking Down Barriers

New-FSR-logo-1014I recently wrote an article for EdTech Digest called “Keys to Engagement: Connectivity Challenges in a Technology-Rich Classroom.” In it, I outlined some challenges and solutions common to modern learning spaces, but which are often not at the top of mind when designing or installing room equipment.

One of the ideas I brought up was that “aside from aesthetics, cable management and connectivity can determine if the technology in a classroom is intuitive and easy to use or cumbersome and not being used at all.” While true, this is not the only factor that detracts from the use of classroom technology. There are a number of reasons teachers and professors may not use the well designed and helpful equipment.

Lack of training

Of course this is the most obvious. It can take months to complete a room integration project. But once the installation is complete and the technicians are gone, the project is not done. The users have to be trained on the new equipment. Even if you (as a techie) know how to use it, doesn’t mean the end users do. Simply — if they don’t know how to use it, they won’t use it. Take the time to train.

Unintuitive controls

All the training in the world is not going to save a system that just doesn’t make sense to the users. If something is unintuitive, it will take too long to figure out. If it takes too long to figure out, it won’t be used in a classroom. Neither children nor adults have the patience for this. Overly complicated controls fall into this category as well.

Barrier-1014Poor placement

I touched on this in my previous blog, “Keeping Active Learning Spaces Active.” Remember — any type of barrier, whether intentional or not, prevents movement and flow. Technology in the classroom is only as effective and useful as the environment allows it to be. Limiting the potential for interaction and collaboration, for example by placing interactive boards behind a table or desk, will reduce the advantage of having audio visual equipment. The unfortunate feedback to the administration will be that it doesn’t seem to help all that much, and that the equipment, software, required maintenance and training is cumbersome.

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The “I’ve been teaching effectively without this stuff for years” Attitude

While this is not something we can control, unfortunately there are still some teachers and professors who either don’t see the value in teaching with technology (despite years of research to the contrary) or are so set in their ways, they don’t want to learn something new. They believe they are effective and hold to a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. Unfortunately, not engaging with active learning (which technology facilitates) is a broken philosophy. And the students are the ones who will be at a disadvantage.

Technology in the classroom not only assists instructors but it can increase retention, interaction, engagement and assessments in students. As manufacturers, designers, installers and maintainers of these modern learning spaces, we have a responsibility to the teachers and students to make sure the equipment we provide can be utilized to its fullest potential. While it’s clear that “some things may never change,” we have the ability to influence many of the barriers to use of classroom technology. I am sure I haven’t mentioned all of them. Name a few more below!