The Teacher IS the Innovation

Note: Another OldyButGoody. One of my favorites. The idea for this article came from a conversation with a director in a small school district where I spent my time facilitating TIFTech Training (hence, lots of exposure to leadership there). 


Technology innovations have changed professional development methodologies for adult learners. Not only have teacher preparation methods for integrating technology changed, but so have the technologies teachers have access to in the classroom. Teachers need technology-based professional development to shift onto learner-directed instructional methods. The training process should emphasize the specifics of locating information effectively, organizing the relevant information for analysis, and presenting the outcomes of the work in an understandable way (Niederhauser, 1996). With such training, teachers can help students develop cooperative projects that have an interdisciplinary focus. Recent changes on the part of the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) have impacted educator competencies in regards to technology. Doubt may remain, however, as to whether more effective professional development strategies are being employed to facilitate increased technology proficiency among educators.

As technology-saavy educational leaders, we need to ask ourselves a question that goes to the heart of technology innovation in Texas schools: How have technological changes in educator professional development strategies and in public schools impacted the technology competencies for educators in Texas, regardless of content area? Several factors impact professional development strategies that increase educator technology competencies. These include the following: (a) teacher attitudes towards new technologies being used; (b) what constitutes successful technology integration; (c) professional development strategies to achieve successful technology integration, such as cohort learning; (d) the new professional development strategies in use or gaining popularity among services that provide training; (e) the educator competencies educators require to successfully participate in training; and (f) examples of required educator technology competencies in Texas Public Schools now.

No matter how innovative the technology, teachers now must learn how to organize classroom activities so that the technology is an integral part of instruction. In short, teachers continue to be the innovative component in the classroom, with or without the technology. What Constitutes Successful Technology Integration How learning occurs may be a starting point for identifying how instructional methods that employ technology can be integral to the process of teaching and learning. Several views exist on how learning occurs, including constructivism, or like a popular quote explains it, "To know is to know how to make." Yet, pushing new learning theory in workshops is not enough--we need to assess how classroom practitioners approach teaching and learning.

Needs assessment provide insights into how teachers see the teaching and learning process. (A list of needs assessments can be found online at http://www.mguhlin.net/gallery/edcomp/assessment/index.html).

COMMON ELEMENTS OF NEEDS ASSESSMENTS 
Many needs assessments can be used prior to and after educator professional development is initiated. The majority of needs assessments focus on the same points that the SBEC Standards focus on, which include the use of technology as an information management tool (e.g. graphics, text, video, sound manipulation in the creation of desktop publishing, web site creation, video editing, and others).

Particularly effective may be Dr. Chris Moersch's (1994) Levels of Technology Implementation (LoTi) scale. This scale identifies the use of technology as an interactive learning medium. Technology as an interactive learning medium, Moersch believes, has the 'greatest and lasting impact on classroom pedagogy and is the most difficult to implement and assess.' The scale ranges from Level 0 (Non-Use) to Level 6 (Refinement) with Level 4 as the desired level to achieve. At Level 4, technology is perceived as a tool to identify and solve authentic problems as perceived by the students relating to an overall theme/concept. Emphasis is placed on student action, on the resolution of issues requiring higher order thinking skills, in-depth examination of content. Needs assessments such as these can be powerful tools for professional development facilitators, especially as they design cohort learning experiences. You can also purchase a product known as the Professional Development Planner (http://pdp.lqhome.com) that connects the LoTi needs of a teacher to professional development.

DESIGNING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Successful professional development models include designing training that promotes positive and permanent changes in the academic climate of classrooms by influencing teachers' beliefs about their ability to make changes, as well as providing access to instructional materials, educational technologies, and hands-on experiences. Teacher attitudes, time to plan, access, and how professional development is structured are critical to enhancing educators' competencies in technology.

An additional factor is continuous learning that allows teachers around the clock access to learning resources rather than seat time during specified hours. Even as continuous learning is key to teachers becoming competent in the use of technology in their classrooms, teachers need to adapt to the economic and increasingly popular societal use of new staff development models that enhance their learning experience as knowledge architects. A Department of Education report revealed that only 20% of full-time public school teachers feel that they are ready to include education technology or teach culturally diverse students.

However, this does not mean that most teachers are ineffective but that they need continuous professional development (Education Digest, 1999). Some staff development models that can be used to ensure continuous learning include the following: (a) multimedia presentations through satellites allow educators to communicate in real time with experts and colleagues throughout the world (NEA Today, 1997); (b) electronic journals (Anderson-Inman, 1998); (c) interactive video conferencing sessions for teachers; (d) web-delivered staff developmentincluding streaming video, webcams, and interactive chat (Jackson, March, 1999); and (e) online mailing lists supported by Web-based resources (THE Journal, March, 1999). Several of these are used in the Pathways to Advance Virtual Education (PAVE) Masters Online program I work with (http://www.pavenet.org).

These different models are now being used to support the State Board of Educator Certification's (SBEC) technology standards for educators (Appendix A) as well as other initiatives such as the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) Board's training (Kimberly, 2001). An examination of the SBEC standards shows a clear expectation that new staff development models to be used with educators. Several school districts have already moved ahead on this, notably Allen ISD which, from reviewing their web site, addresses quite a few of the critical issues to support teacher innovations. Being innovative, though, wears on teachers--due to time requirements, and the constant work of being creative.

On-line teaching and learning in professional development, a reactive process, poses challenges for the teachers; teachers react to these challenges by shifting paradigms and using constructivist models (Peterson & Facemyer, 1996). For example, synchronous communication via satellite, streaming video, web cam, or interactive chat are clearly provided for in the SBEC standards, as well as the Technology Applications Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills referred to in those standards. However, teachers must change the way they teach to use these technologies in their classrooms with students.
Texas Public Schools: A Look at the Future of Professional Development

Common components of school district professional development programs designed to address educator technology competencies include the following: (a) problem-based learning approaches to guide student learning both for adults and children; (b) development of technology skills that focus on information seeking, management, synthesis and presentation through a variety of formats (e.g. desktop publishing, web design); and (c) application of these skills in the classroom with students through special summer camps and, later as teachers gain more familiarity, during the school day. As your district begins designing--or even, revisiting--your professional development program in light of the new SBEC standards, keep these components in mind.

The process of preparing teachers needs to both model new technologies and allow them the freedom to be innovative in ways that only they can be.




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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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