Let teachers lead decisions in technology use, motivating them to apply it effectively

August 18, 2010 •

Instead of asking what technologies work, and how can they be scaled up, ask: What conditions make it most likely that teachers will be motivated (and able) to take up new technologies to make learning more productive?

We came across an article recently about the introduction of new technologies into the work place, to improve the scope and quality of products; to assist workers; and to automate certain tasks. In this article the unions, understandably, are concerned with how changes affect their members. ‘Don’t make these changes willy-nilly,’ they seem to say, arguing for a voice in how new technologies are used. ‘We will figure out how to use technology to improve things,’ labor argues; not merely to supplant labor. Management is not in the best position to understand where technology can lead to improvement. Productivity can be improved, if you let the professionals figure out how.

The article was written in 1982. It was published as part of a Trans Atlantic Perspectives series between the United States and Germany, financed by the Marshall Fund. Despite the changes that have occurred with technology over the past 30 years, some important principles—such as the desire of workers to have a say in how new technology affects the job they are to do—stay constant.

To use technology, students and teachers—the workers in education–need to be motivated to use it.

In this video Daniel Pink argues two critical points that relate directly to the uptake (or lack there of) of new technologies in schools.

Describing business, Pink says that the conventional concept of motivation has been to reward good behavior with higher compensation—a method, he argues, that makes intuitive sense but data shows is much less effective than we think. Carrots and sticks only motivate to certain degrees, and have limits.

Instead people are motivated by a need to be creative, productive, and to have a sense of independence.

Those in the classrooms need to be motivated to use new technologies, which means asking, more than telling, how technology can best be used and clearing the way for it to happen. The staff must have authority to determine how new technologies will be used. Like the unions in the 1980’s, teachers today might know better than anyone how to use technology to improve learning. That could involve changing school schedules and layout, as well as the learning models.