But is all professional development created equally? No! Today, teachers are inundated with requests to "jump on board" with many initiatives. The fact of the matter is that by now teachers have learned to be discerning as to what they agree to. The real question is WHAT professional development is effective in encouraging teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms?
* Attitudes. Thinking that technology is just a fad, or that it is too overwhelming, or that it really doesn't relate to curricular goals.
* Lack of access to equipment.
* Lack of access to quality professional development.
* Lack of access to support.
* Insufficient time to explore and learn about Web 2.0 tools and technology.
* Lack of motivation.
Overcoming the Barriers with Effective Professional Development
Kimberly Ketterer believes that, "ensuring access to 21 century technology skills for all students begins with teachers feeling comfortable using them in their teaching and learning environment".
What does it take to help a teacher become comfortable with these skills? Is it a one-size-fits-all three hour workshop? Doubtful. That may be enough for a teacher who is already comfortable immersing themselves into the world of Web 2.0. Is that enough for everybody else? In fact, Judy Harris, author of the four part series, One Size Does Not Fit All, states, "research evidence indicates that 30 hours of focussed professional development, on average, is required to change teacher's professional practice." Harris believes that, " most teachers probably have not had sufficient time or opportunity to engage in the kinds of professional learning necessary to help them to use educational technologies in new ways to assist their students' learning."
Thirty hours? Whew, that is a lot of time and that is not the end of the list that experts have begun to write to meet the professional development needs of teachers. Here's what others are saying:
Sandra Kay Plair states that "teachers crave a constant support person" and need to have the pedagogical knowledge that ties in with the tool. Teachers need to know what technology to use when. Teachers need to know what the tool is going to do for them, how it ties into their exsisting teaching beliefs and practices, and how it will benefit the teacher and the students. Plair also states that teachers need support in their classroom, "where the action takes place".
Judy Harris believes that beyond those needs listed by Plair, a successful professional development plan also needs to:
* match teacher's goals and personal characteristics
* match student's levels
* be concrete and linked to school-wide efforts
* involves teacher's choice
* emphazizes demonstrations, trials and techniques
* provide opportunities for teachers to recieve and give feedback
* have ongoing support in place
Hefty Demands. Are We Up For It?
There are many proposed professional development models out there that would meet the needs of various districts. I have chosen a model that I would think would best suit the teachers that I work with on a daily basis. Kimberly Ketterer provides a framework for a pro-d model that is similar to a menu, including appetitizers, salads, entrees, desserts, and of course (my favourite), snacks. She proposes that a choice of each selection of her "menu" has the potential to meet the needs of a diverse group of teachers.
Appetizers: These are the "hook" or the "tease". Teachers need to see the value of what the tool is offering to capture their interest. Appetizers may come in the form of showcasing student work, training on the application, and demonstrations.
Salads: Teachers need ongoing workshops to hone their skills as well as customized plans that meet their classroom's unique needs. These things meet certain needs, but still leave teachers hungry for more.
Entrees: Bring on the main course! Entrees come in the form of year-long support, summer institutes, workshops that are specialized and focussed on particular teachers (primary, intermediate, English, Science, beginner, intermediate, advanced).
Desserts: Even though I am not one for ordering desserts, districts must recognize the need to continue the support into the classroom with peer coaching, co-teaching, co-planning, feedback, and recognition.
Snacks: Even though you may be full now. You will always get hungry again. Snacks provide "tune-ups" with online PD, videos, and one-time demos.
Not Sold Yet? Crying Out, "Where's the Beef?"
I may have sold a few of you on Ketterer's "menu", but as I pointed out earlier, what may work for one district may not be right for another. I think that the biggest barrier to the "menu" shown above would be $$ or perhaps that the whole district is at odds with it's technology integration goals. Well, that's where Camila Gagliolo's article, Help Teachers Mentor One Another, comes in. Even though I can see my district moving towards the "menu" model, we are not entirely there yet. But, as I read Galiolo's article, I realized that so much mentoring is going on at individual schools, and even across multiple schools, many people's needs are being met through less expensive and time consuming methods. Will it create a district-wide technology integration movement? Who knows? It is certainly making a difference at the schools that I have visited. So here is the "budget" version of effective PD for technology integration.
As individual educators, we can set up multiple opportunities for technology integration mentorship. In fact, I personally am involved in several of these options in my own district. To provide valuable mentoring opportunities there are several options:
* peer to peer networks
* identifying strong advocates and mentors
* create opportunities for collaborative planning (think IT specialists, Teacher-librarians, principals)
* small but regular meetings and workshops (must continue to fuel the fire!)
* create co-teaching opportunities (principals and/or specialists can often find a small amount of funds for release time)
* provide recognition (all it takes in my district is to email/phone our superintendent or local media)
I don't want to be cliche but the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way", comes to mind when I think of this. Honestly, there are many barriers and even the most proactive advocates will NOT win everyone over. As educators we must remain true to our goals and keep our beliefs in focus. There IS a way to promote and foster EFFECTIVE technology integration in the classroom but for it to be truly effective, we must interlace our original beliefs about how children learn and how those strategies can be fostered and enhanced with technology but still maintain the HUMAN side of teaching.
Gagliolo, Camila., Help Teachers Mentor One Another., 2008. Learning and Learning With Technology.
Harris, Judi., One Size Does Not Fit All. Customizing Educational Technology Professional Development. 2008.Part 1-4, Learning and Leading With Technology (23).
Plair, Sandra Kay. Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency. 2008. Vol. 82. #2.