After serving as a Texas FFA state officer in 2018, Josh Witherspoon joined the iCEV team as a part-time employee for 3 years before taking on the role of content development specialist in 2022. Witherspoon holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University, in which his experience and proficiency in writing, marketing and CTE allow him to effectively communicate the successes of CTE educators and students and the value iCEV has to offer.
Technology is perhaps the strongest factor shaping the educational landscape today. If you’re a CTE teacher looking for a new curriculum for your course, you may be unsure about using a digital resource because of the challenges like school budgets and disengaged students that arise from using technology in the classroom.
As a passionate provider of digital CTE curriculum and resources, iCEV is dedicated to ensuring you have all the resources to best support every student’s needs in your classroom.
Over the years, educators have shared with us some of the most common challenges CTE teachers face when using technology in the classroom, including:
Vetting Digital Curriculum Options
Cost of New CTE Technology
Student Disengagement with CTE Technology
Supporting Students With Diverse Needs
Potential for Students to Cheat
In this article, we’ll explore common technology challenges educators come across in the classroom, the causes of each one, and how you can overcome them.
1. Vetting Digital Curriculum Options
Choosing a curriculum option is one of the most important yet challenging educational decisions you’ll make for your course. Every school has unique teachers, students, communities, and needs, with no two schools being exactly the same. For this reason, there are a wide variety of curriculum choices, from digital to print options, each emphasizing different content, levels of learning, and teaching methodology.
With so many options, searching for thebest digital CTE curriculumfor your students can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you’re transitioning from a textbook resource.
Vetting digital curriculum options is a substantial challenge because of each factor an educator must consider. There is a lot to consider from curriculum format and intended audience to the cost of the curriculum itself.
Best Practices for Vetting Digital Curriculum Options
Before selecting a curriculum option for your students, there are a few factors educators must take into account to ensure the curriculum you choose is the best fit for your students. Factors you should consider when selecting a digital curriculum include:
Cost of the curriculum option
Additional resources that come with the curriculum
The curriculum format is the first factor you should look at when exploring a prospective curriculum option. An effective curriculum has a strong support structure for teachers and students throughout the learning process. It is also flexible to allow for customizable, individualized learning.
To know if a curriculum is formatted well, ensure it includes resources like course guiding documents, instructional materials, and student coursework. These materials will help you better guide students through your course and enable them to learn and apply their knowledge and skills.
The next factor to consider is the intended audience of the curriculum you’re interested in. Every curriculum option out there is unique in design and intended audience. Make sure that any curriculum you adopt is explicitly designed for the grade level you teach. Access to grade-appropriate instruction is critical to meeting students where they are at.
A third point to consider is the price of purchasing new curriculum for your students. The cost of a digital curriculum varies by provider and is a substantial part of your decision as you aim to find the best option with the most “bang” for your buck.
When justifying the cost of a curriculum option, look at how comprehensive the materials and resources are and how well the curriculum meets the needs of your students and your personal instructional goals. You’ve found a solid curriculum choice if the benefits justify the cost.
Finally, consider the additional resources that come with a curriculum. Many curriculum providers offer access to other resources and technology to aid instruction, course management, and data reporting to save you time. Understanding the full scope of resources you’ll gain when choosing a digital curriculum option is essential to gauge how flexible the resource is and if it will truly meet your classroom's needs.
2. Cost of New CTE Technology
Another common challenge is the costs associated with bringing new technology into your classroom. Schools have budgets. But making those budgets stretch far enough to include instructional technology isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Many factors come into play when determining instructional technology expenses. Cost can vary depending on geographic location and the personnel needed to support the technology. Schools must also consider other technology components, including infrastructure, hardware, and software, all of which come with additional costs.
With all of these factors influencing the cost of technology, what solutions are there to help make the cost of classroom technology more approachable for teachers?
Solutions for the Cost of Technology
While the challenge of technology cost is substantial, CTE educators can apply for alternative funding sources specifically allotted for classroom technology. Two prominent funding sources available include Perkins V and ESSER funding.
The Federal Perkins Grant provides formula allocations for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to fully develop secondary-level CTE students' academic, technical, and employability skills.Explore how you can use Perkins V funding to purchase valuable classroom technology and more.
In 2020 and 2021, Congress passed three stimulus bills that provided nearly $190.5 billion to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. These funds address the impact that COVID-19 has had on the education system and students’ learning. Learn more about ESSER funding and how you can use it in your classroom.
3. Student Disengagement with CTE Technology
As technology use in the classroom continues to increase, the challenge of student disengagement with classroom technology has become more prominent. Classroom technology and digital curriculum have often faced criticism for their inability to keep students engaged long-term.
However, to fully realize the benefits of technology in our education system and provide innovative and impactful learning experiences, educators need to use technology effectively in their practice.
There are a multitude of reasons students disengage when using classroom technology, including:
No variety of media types
Limited opportunities to collaborate
If students go through the same routine of viewing a slideshow and filling out a worksheet independently daily, they’re likely to become disengaged. Students thrive when they can complete coursework in diverse ways.
Varying the types of media you use in the classroom helps appeal to students with different learning styles. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to teaching today’s students. With that in mind, modern educators must implement diverse strategies to keep students engaged. Hybrid, or blended learning, combines traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning to keep learning experiences fresh and engaging.
Students may also feel disengaged if they have little opportunity to participate or collaborate in class. Limited collaboration makes it difficult for students to feel invested in the material, making it harder for them to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Solution for Student Disengagement with Digital Curriculum
Keeping students engaged in your classroom revolves around your ability to diversify how they engage with content and coursework. When technology integration in the classroom is seamless and thoughtful, students become more engaged and take more control over their learning.
Another significant challenge educators commonly see when looking to incorporate technology in their classrooms is meeting the needs of diverse students. Humans tend to fall into patterns of behavior. For teachers, that means that if we’re not careful, we begin to teach things the same way every year. While this can be comfortable for you as an educator, it can result in a rigid learning experience that may not work for all students.
To create the most inclusive learning environment, ensure your course technologies and materials are accessible to all students.Accessibility in education is about making information readily available and easy to digest for all learners. Often the tools and approaches that make materials accessible end up being useful for every student.
How to Support All Students When Using Digital Curriculum
No matter the makeup of your classroom’s population, you’ll be challenged with diversifying instruction and coursework for a wide variety of skill levels and abilities. When it comes to education, perhaps the most beneficial contribution of technology is its ability to personalize learning to meet your student's needs.
You can use various strategies and tactics to incorporate technology to better meet the needs of learners in your classroom. The key is understanding each student's needs and finding the best technology to level the playing field for all students in your course.
For example, if you have an ELL, providing them access totranslation technologywill allow them the same access other students have to engage with concepts and gain valuable knowledge and skills.
Regardless of the needs of your students, thanks to the constant innovation of educational technology, there is a tool out there designed to support every special population student.
5. Potential for Students to Cheat
In any classroom, academic integrity is paramount to student success. With the increase in technology use in today’s classrooms, educators face additional challenges when preventing students from cheating.
Unfortunately, as technology has advanced within the classroom, the ways students cheat have also evolved. For example, instead of passing notes back and forth during an exam, they can now easily search for answers, share with others, and pass off another student’s work as their own.
While this challenge is substantial, there are numerous strategies and tools you can use to keep students from cheating in your course.
Ways to Prevent Cheating on Digital Curriculum
Discovering cheating in your classroom can be frustrating. When students cheat on assignments and exams, they aren’t mastering the material and won’t have the skills and professional integrity they’ll need in their careers. As an educator, the last thing you want is to feel like your students are not adequately prepared.
Understanding how students cheat and how to spot cheating in your classroom only provides a reactive solution to the problem. By implementing strategies to prevent cheating on online curriculum, you can become more proactive in reducing cheating altogether.
How to Incorporate Technology Into Your CTE Course
Incorporating educational technology in today’s CTE classrooms has presented educators with significant obstacles that may leave you wondering if technology is worth the possible challenges.
However if implemented intentionally and effectively, technology allows educators to remove the physical barriers of the classroom, offering all students new and engaging ways to connect with the curriculum to develop valuable knowledge and skills.
So the next question you might be asking yourself as an educator is, what technology do I want to integrate next?
Could a digital curriculum help you better engage your students with technology? Many teachers use iCEV to enhance learning in their classrooms and prepare students for success.