Age does not predict teacher comfort with technology

Previous posts have explored the importance of teachers to online and blended learning enough times that regular readers may be tired of hearing about the misconception that teachers aren’t important in digital learning. But there’s another misconception that I think is common, although I have only anecdotes and observations.

The misconception is that relatively young teachers are more likely to be comfortable with implementing digital learning, whether using technology in their classrooms, teaching fully online courses, or somewhere in between. When school leaders consider whom they would like to have piloting online courses, it’s not unusual for them to show a bias towards younger teachers.

My recent trip to the Clark County School District to visit with teachers using technology in their classrooms showed why this idea is a misconception. I was fortunate to see several classrooms with teachers using technology in a variety of ways, and one common factor was that all were experienced teachers. Although this was a very small sample, we have seen similar situations in other districts, and I have heard comparable accounts from others. Some observers believe that younger teachers want to become comfortable teaching before adding technology or teaching online, while experienced teachers are often the ones ready to experiment with new methods of instruction.

Two of the Clark County teachers separately, and unprompted, told me that using technology in their classrooms has given them new interest in and energy towards teaching. They are excited to be thinking about new ways to reach students. During a visit to another district, a teacher even suggested that learning new technology and ways to teach with it had kept her in the classroom.

As the OECD report said, “technology can amplify great teaching.”

The teachers I saw were indeed great. I suspect that they were great before they started using technology. The technology may be making them a bit better. It may also be keeping them in the classroom.

Thanks to Kim Loomis, Lucas Leavitt, Travis Warnick, Jerrad Barczyszyn, Jennifer Barczyszyn, April Hollaway, and Joanne Schmutz for opening their schools and classrooms to me, and taking the time to answer all of my seemingly endless questions.