As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), it is often difficult to convince the lead teachers to adapt and use new methods and techniques for teaching, especially if it involves a new piece of technology that they may be unfamiliar with. While blackboards and printed handouts can indeed help teachers achieve clear instruction, sometimes these are not enough for the technologically advanced students who often fill our classrooms. Many schools around Japan are investing in mobile devices such as iPads and other technology, but seldom is there a plan in place to employ them in the classroom. This article describes the process that one ALT in northern Japan used to take advantage of the set of iPad Minis which were provided to her school by the Aomori Prefecture and Hirosaki city Boards of Education, and to get her fellow Japanese teachers to begin using them in their lessons.
Finding Resources and Getting Started
First, we teachers must discover what our schools have to offer in the way of available technology. As assistants, sometimes we are not told what resources are available for us to use with our students. Once you know what is available, you can begin planning to integrate those tools into your lessons. It sounds simple enough, but often ALTs or new teachers at schools forget to look for chances to think critically about whether there is a better way to approach any given lesson using more modern methods.
Once you know what resources are available, decide how to get the other faculty members on board with your ideas. This year, I discovered that my school had over 40 iPad Minis for use in the classroom. I also discovered that most teachers in the school were unaware that these iPads existed and were available for use. Once I found out about the iPad Minis, I couldn’t wait to use them in the classroom. I knew however, that convincing my fellow teachers to use the new tech was going to be a challenge. In the end, I was able to get them to try using the new technology tools, and we had a successful demonstration teaching lesson using the iPad Minis. This lesson sparked a desire in many other teachers at the school to use this versatile resource in their own lessons.
Steps to Win the Faculty Over
Convincing teachers to try a new piece of tech in the classroom is no easy task. It takes careful planning and patience to show non-tech savvy teachers how useful something can be in their own classroom. The truth is that many teachers have difficulty visualizing technology-enabled lessons because they have little to no experience with the technology being introduced. Here are some of the steps I took to get teachers at my school to use the iPad Minis:
- Introduce the idea. A few months before you plan to use the tech in the classroom, let the teacher with whom you’ll be working know about the technology that you would like to use. It does not need to be an in-depth explanation, just a summary of your thoughts and an overview of your intentions.
- Show them the technology and how it works in simple terms. Once the teachers have warmed to the idea of using the new tech in the classroom, and any fear the teachers may have had has dulled, show them the actual tool you’d like to use and how it works. In my case, I brought an iPad Mini to their desk and played around with it with them—showing them that it was not as scary as it seemed. I encouraged them to get one of the iPads from the box and play around with it. I also assured them that I knew how to use the iPad and have seen how it can be beneficial in the classroom.
- Ask them questions and reassure them. A few days later I asked the teachers if they had any questions about the iPads. Of course, they did, and they immediately wanted to know the exact application I wanted to use. Since I hadn’t decided 100% on the application I wanted to use, we discussed the many uses of the iPad Mini and how it would work as a tool in a variety of ways. I reassured them that the first lesson would require very little knowledge of the iPad Mini on their part, so they wouldn’t need to worry.
- Plan an entire lesson using the new piece of technology. Next, I planned an entire lesson using the iPad Mini, knowing that I might not be granted permission by the lead teacher to use it in the classroom. I planned the lesson to be adapted for use as a whole class discussion, group work, as well as pair work. In this way, I would be ready for any questions regarding the lesson, and I’d be able to properly show the flexibility of the lesson plan and how easily it can be adapted. In my case, I did a lesson on a very specific cultural piece, so the lesson itself was full of pictures, videos, and key words students would need to know. I also printed out a mock handout that students would use while following the iPad lesson.
- Get the teachers excited and reassure them again. After we looked at the lesson together, the teachers were impressed at the amount of knowledge and visuals a student could learn with the use of the iPad Mini compared to a non-technology-integrated lesson. I could sense their curiosity and slight excitement at the thought of doing this lesson in their own classroom. At this point, I seized the opportunity to reassure them yet again that the iPad Mini is not as difficult to learn to use as it might seem, and that it was worth trying. I also pointed out that our discussion of the iPad Mini had given them hands-on experience of its use in the classroom.
- Give your lesson and invite other teachers to observe it. Once given permission, carry out your lesson and invite teachers from other subject areas to observe. Later, have a discussion with those teachers about their ideas on the pros and cons of using iPads in the classroom. This allows for proper feedback from all parties, and allows us to improve the lesson together.
If you are considering using a new piece of technology in the classroom that other teachers are unfamiliar with or seem opposed to, don’t let that stop you from trying. What originally was a source of fear and discomfort for many of my fellow teachers, is now a welcomed and well-used tool. The important thing is to take it slowly and demonstrate to other teachers how it will benefit the students, improve their instruction, and make the lessons more engaging. Once teachers see the benefits, they may become more willing and eager to be led into the wonderful world of blended instruction.