Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Technology Integration - The Support Teachers Need

I can't believe how long it's been since I posted!  Lord - obviously my life is a lot busier than I thought, and I thought it was pretty busy.

Alright, let's get to it.

Last year I did an entire series on hybrid professional development centered around teaching mathematics with technology and the Common Core, with specific use of Sketchpad as the technology tool (series listed at the bottom of this post).  It was a really exciting experience for me, and one that I have to say has sort of become my mantra - long term, supportive PD that provides time, practice, support, and collaboration using both a face-to-face and online component.

Time is a key factor here - long-term, slow integration of technology into instructional practice where the focus is on how knowledge of the technology, the content being taught, and teaching strategies work together to provide learning experiences that help students.  For those of you in the know, this is TPACK - Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), something that is at the forefront of my thinking these days for many reasons. With the technology that is inundating the education world and with teachers expected to incorporate more and more technology with less and less support, I feel very strongly about promoting and creating models of blended professional development to try do what I can to support teachers and technology integration as best I can.

Which is why this blog post by Greg Limperis (@greglimperis) I saw yesterday, entitled "Tools That Do Not Make a Teacher's Life Easier" really hit home for me.  Favorite quote: "First of all, don’t buy me any technology without planning for and giving me plenty of professional development on how to use it." The rest of the post is dead-on with what I see as a real pervasive problem with edtech and with the frustration of teachers - the latest and greatest technology tools and resources are being purchased and mandated for use (BYOD, iPad's, apps, software) but little or no real training and support is being provided.

One day or one week of training will NEVER work.

And then when things go wrong or fail, as they inevitably will, teachers are blamed for not wanting to change.  It's a vicious cycle without TPACK - i.e. real understanding how how the technology can truly support the teaching of specific content and what teaching strategies work best to use that technology to teach that content. So, how do we get this support and training so desperately needed for successful technology integration into classroom instruction -the kind of training and support Greg asks for?  Obviously, there is no perfect solution, but I have some ideas.

1) Don't just buy any technology. Look at the content and determine what technology will enhance and improve the teaching of that content. RESEARCH before buying. Involve the teachers....they have to use the technology, so they should have some say in which technology will be purchased/utilized.
2) Provide training for teachers, but training and support over time
  • Initial training - basic skills, model of how it FITS THE CONTENT THEY TEACH. Helping teachers see how this technology tool can support and enhance their teaching is KEY.
  • Provide time to try it out, practice on their own, experiment in the classroom
  • Come back together - i.e. content teams or grade level teams - and share experiences, learn few more new skills and applications, model some lessons; provide specific content activities to try in their classroom
  • Provide an online support forum - i.e. a blog or a discussion forum or a web site, where teachers can post activities, questions, watch some tutorials or see classroom modeling.  
  • Provide coaching or peer support - i.e. co-teaching opportunities, modeling, peer observations.  Let them see the use of the technology in action and learn from each other.
  • Provide opportunities for collaborative lesson planning - help teachers by providing time to plan together and focus on creating lessons that incorporate the technology into the curriculum/pacing they already have to teach, then give them time to try out the lessons and come back together to reevaluate, get feedback, etc.  
  • Don't expect change overnight - expect change over time. Start small (i.e. use the new technology as a warm-up first and build on that) and provide continuous opportunities for teachers to support each other, learn more skills and applications over time (i.e. months vs. days)
  • Besides time, being able to learn the technology in the context of what they teach and how they teach, is key. 
Technology is a tool. Learning to use that tool in the right way (i.e. teaching strategies/pedagogy/Common Core Mathematical Practices) and for the right reasons with the right content is the goal, and it does not happen after one day of training.  It happens over time, with support, scaffolded learning and practice, and in collaboration with others. If we spent more money and time on using technology appropriately rather than wasting money on technology for the sake of technology, I believe we would actually see a change and an improvement in teaching with technology.

I know I see changes as a result of the blended, long-term professional development I have been working on.  I am now going into year 2 with some of these teachers.  What's different about long-term blended PD is we have a community of support, there is no pressure to change by tomorrow, but rather there is a goal that we are going to change where it makes sense and we have the time to practice and make sure the technology, content, and strategies used truly do what they are intended to do - help students learn in an engaging way that increases their understanding.  What more can you ask for?

If interested - last years blended PD journey via posts:
Planning for Hybrid PD - Comfort Level and Confidence First
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 1 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 2
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt 1 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 2) - Develop Community and Supportive Environment 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (Part 2) - F2F Feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 2 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - Make it Relevant 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - F2F feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 3 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 4) - Teacher Input  
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 4) - F2F Feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 4 - Student Focused!
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 5) - Make the PD Learning Their Own 
Follow-up for Hybrid PD (part 5) - F2F Feedback 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 6) -Sharing and Collaboration
Follow-up for Hybrid PD (part 6)

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