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Help for Reluctant Tech Users

two teachers working on computer


Whether you’re learning new cyber skills or helping your colleagues get more tech saavy, here are some tips to earn your geek cred.

Advice and Support

In technology (and in life!), sometimes you’re the teacher and sometimes you’re the student—and it’s completely normal to always be a bit of both. One day, you help a colleague learn the joys of the copy and paste keyboard shortcuts, and the next day you’re learning how to create and edit a YouTube video. So, whether you’re teaching or learning, or a bit of both, here are a few practical tips to make it a little easier for the reluctant tech user.

Make it Personal

Teaching technology in isolation never works. But teaching tech with a personal twist works most every time. When a reluctant tech user learns how to do something with technology centered around a subject or topic about which they’re personally passionate, they’re going to be instantly engaged to work harder at it and feel exultant when successful. For example, when I teach anything related to digital photos, I have the teachers bring in five to ten pictures of their friends, family, vacations, hobbies, or pets. Using their own photos, I show them to import, edit, crop, resize, enhance, adjust, and then export those photos. As a final product, we bring some of those photos into a Google or Word Doc to make a captioned collage sheet for the refrigerator. All of a sudden, these teachers are motivated to try on their own! The purpose and the passion may vary, but the skills are the same and easily transferable.

Show & Tell

Hold a Digital Petting Zoo and invite your teachers to drop in and visit. Set up each table with a different tech gadget, software, tablet with a cool APP, or super handy website loaded. No pressure, step aside, hand it over, and let the teachers explore, touch, play, and try the tech devices themselves without any agenda. Familiarity breeds fearlessness!

Small Steps

Instead of long PD sessions before or after school, consider holding a Tech Tuesday, Espresso Tech10 (a fast-paced, coffee friendly 10 min tip session) or a Tech-Fueled Drive By: where you teach one tip in 2-3 minutes. Show how it works, and then let the teachers try it right away on their own.

Keep it short and sweet! Teachers, staff, and administrators will respond better when you show them one tip at a time instead of everything you might know about technology. Follow up either situation with a short email with links to more information, examples, a comic, and a quick survey to help target the topic of the next Tech Tip session.

Think, Pair, & Share

Once you identify those reluctant but willing teachers who are baby steppin it to a new tech future, pair them up with an in-school tech buddy to learn together. Tech buddies should check in regularly with each other to share recent successes or challenges.

Make House Calls

Some teachers don’t want to come to the library or computer lab to learn with a group of others. They might be shy, intimidated, or just reluctant to do it. Make a house call and go to them. Bring your laptop to their room during their planning period and have a quick one-on-one session. How do you get them? Go LOW TECH: put tech appointment slips in the staff bathroom and in all the mailboxes. Keep the appointment and follow up!

Let the Kids Lead

Challenge students to learn the tech skills, let them practice in class or on their own at home, the local library, or at a friend’s house. Then let them teach the teachers. Tell teachers it’s not just okay, but it’s great to say things like, "Hey, this is new to me, too...let’s learn together!" or, "WOW...Cool! Show me how you did that!" I’m never too proud to say to my kids, "Gee, I don’t know how to do that. Can you please teach me?" And really? They love to! It’s a good thing.

Praise Them!

Employ random acts of awesome! Every time you see a baby step forward, recognize and praise! It sounds obvious, but it goes a long way. We all like kudos. Show off and share with your school Twitter or Instagram. Maybe create a series of badges for your school learning hub or webpage to show achievements. I know, stinkin’ badges aren’t everything, but people enjoy earning prizes, badges, and geek street cred!

One Thing

The last important tip is to encourage and challenge your staff (and yourself) to choose just ONE THING this week, month, or year to focus on and learn. It doesn’t matter what the time limit or duration. It doesn’t matter the tech tool or app. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your teachers with the million gajillion new tech resources that are out there. That would intimidate anyone. Dare to try and learn one new thing. As a bonus ninja upgrade, challenge them or yourself to record the journey, the epic successes and occasional fails in a blog, journal, Instagram, or Twitter. Be a transparent life-long learner and a daring change agent. We can sometimes inspire others more with our failures and lessons learned than our triumphs. It’s good to share, celebrate, and to remember for next year.

Finally, give yourself permission to quit. I gave up on Facebook and Snapchat. I didn’t like either and I’m not going to try anymore and I’m a lot happier because of it. I know the saying is "never give up, and never surrender," but sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to wave a white flag, retreat, regroup, and bide your time for another opportunity to share, teach, learn, and grow.

@GwynethJones, a.k.a. The Daring Librarian, is a blogger, a Tweeter, an International Ed Tech keynote speaker, Google Certified Innovator, PBS Graduate Champion of Change, and the author of the award-winning Daring Librarian blog. Gwyneth also is a career-long NEA member and the teacher librarian at Murray Hill Middle School in Howard County, Md. And, of course, it goes without saying, she’s ridiculously humble.