Earn as You Learn

Note: This "OldyButGoody" article came about as a result of what Somerset ISD was doing many years ago. I liked the "Earn as You Learn" approach since it was one that I had implemented successfully in Mt. Pleasant ISD, and that had been replicated from my work at Perales Elementary in Edgewood ISD. It's amazing to me how approaches like this take on a life of their own as they are shared with others and come back to you all the richer. For fun, I've also left the "About the Author" section...wrote it when I was 20-something.

Are you an administrator? If so, I want you to ask your teachers something.
Ask them why they're in a technology workshop, and the answer might be, "I
have Powerpoint on my home computer. I don't have it at work, but I wanted
to learn how to use it." Ask them why they were chosen to attend, "My
principal told me yesterday afternoon to come." Is this the way technology
integration starts? Is this the foundation we want teachers building on as
they start down the road of technology integration?
Apparently so because out of every group of 16 educators that walk into my
classroom for a workshop usually 5 of them say something like, "I don't
know why I'm here. My principal/superintendent/grade level chair sent me."

This approach lacks teacher buy-in, yet many administrators continue to
place technology in teachers' classrooms without considering the
consequences of their actions. So what if parents walk by and see a
computer in the classroom--if their children aren't using it, and the dust
is an inch thick, the response is even more negative. And, in failing to
consider teachers' need for staff development, ongoing support,
administrators doom their campus to subsistence technology existence. An
existence where teachers do enough to get them by on their P.D.A.S.
evaluations, but not enough to meet the Texas Essential Knowledge andSkills (TEKS).

Here are the stories of two school districts in different parts of the
state where administrators decided to take a different road to technology
integration. Pay attention because what they did is paying off as teachers
in the classroom buy into planned integration. The guts of these
professional development plans is that only those who make the effort to
learn the technology, get the technology in their classroom. Fail to make
the effort to attend classes and learn how to use technology with your
students, or use it only for Accelerated Reader and/or software like Reader
Rabbit and Successmaker, then the computer is removed from your classroom.

1. When the big yellow bus pulled into the parking lot of that Austin
hotel, everyone knew that Mt. Pleasant ISD from East Texas had arrived for
the TCEA State Conference. In that school district, E.C. Brice Elementary
teachers worked together on the technology committee to build a
professional development plan that brought teachers to after-school and
Saturday workshops. This staff development plan later was adopted in
modified form at the district level. It allowed teachers to volunteer for
staff development so that they might get a new PowerMac and Color
Stylewriter printer in their classrooms. And, the evidence of continued
success was easily apparent as I watched the LaVonda Prince and Wynona
Rutledge present on the HyperStudio projects their students were creating.
These projects focused on different topics and included TEKS galore.

Forty-one educators from Mt. Pleasant ISD arrived in a big yellow bus. Why?
They were there because they had participated in a voluntary professional
development program. Stepping forward earned them the technology in their
classroom. For more information about Mt. Pleasant ISD's exciting, latest
efforts, contact the Deputy Superintendent Pam Fite via email at

2. On a bright Spring day in San Antonio, first week of March to be exact,
I had the fortune to have a first year, junior-high teacher from SomersetISD in my class on PowerPoint in the Classroom. What amazed me wasn't the
enthusiasm this teacher showed about learning how to use PowerPoint with
her Home Economics students. After all, teachers from other school
districts in the room were just as enthused about using digital cameras to
add photographs to their PowerPoint presentations. Excitement also filled
the room as they made navigation buttons in PowerPoint, added sound and
graphics from the web, and discussed how to organize students into
cooperative groups focused around a real life problem or simulation.

No, what amazed me was that this first year teacher expected something from
her school district. With that blithe confidence so common to first year
teachers who do an environmental scan to assess their situation, then
assume all is as it ought to be, this Somerset ISD teacher said in her
introduction, "I can't wait to participate in the Earn as You Learn
Program." Asked to elaborate, she mentioned, "It's a program where you
learn how to use technology in your classroom. You get a big TV screen
connected to your computer."

As the rest of the group puzzled about this, I thought back to the
conversation Jim Baldoni (Email: jim.baldoni@esc20.net ), the lead
facilitator on doing Earn as You Learn for Somerset ISD, had had with me.
His focus was on introducing teachers to one-computer classroom methodology
and Internet webquests, learning how to focus on project-based learning
using a format adapted from The Big Six, and helping teachers assess
student projects using rubrics. Somerset ISD had entered into an agreement
with it's local education service center, where Jim Baldoni works, to do
training that moved beyond "the application level." This application level
is marked by an over-emphasis on the different information management
programs, like word processing, spreadsheets, databases, Internet search
engines with no real focus on using them with students.

Notice how local school districts who have the people to do it can handle
their own classes internally in Phase 1 of Somerset's plan. When the
technology director from Somerset ISD called me one day to ask if they
could use the professional development materials on our web site, my reply
was, "Of course, you can! They are there for you!" The more we share our
materials, the quicker we can achieve our goals of integration at regional
and state levels. As Jeanne Martinez, Director of Technology at regional
education service center put it, "We can't train EVERYONE in the region!"
And, she's right. There isn't enough time for education service centers to
train everyone on applications and how to integrate.

School districts can do their own introductory training and consult with
regional service centers and other entities to provide higher level
integration strategies. Our goal isn't to sell materials but to enhance
the quality of education for the children we serve. 

In Phase 2, a district can contract out for professional development that
focuses on integrating technology. As I read long ago, "A teacher's job is
to make him/herself progressively unnecessary." While Jim Baldoni and I
continue to streamline the process of integrating technology, we appreciate
the opportunity to work with campus teachers. As we share our experiences
and what we know with classroom teachers, the wealth of applied knowledge,
of planned integration spreads among the pools of applicants to the Earn as
You Learn Program. 

BEGIN EXCERPT from Somerset ISD's plan:

Phase 1
Continuation of training for all professionals and paraprofessionals to
participate in on-going, hands-on training for basic computer functions,
Internet navigation, E-mail, and troubleshooting to be held at the high
school and junior high school instructional labs.

Phase 2
In order to assist teachers to implement the use of technology into their
curriculum, the "Earn As You Learn Program" will be started during this
phase. This plan is intended to allow teachers to apply for a workstation
to be located in their classroom. In the application process, the teacher
must indicate how they plan on integrating the use of this technology into
their classroom. The completed applications will be sent to our Educational
Service Center, where they will be judged by the curriculum staff. The top
40 applicants, as determined by ESC staff, will be invited to participate
in the program in this phase. The selected applicants will receive
intensive training in basic computer skills, computer trouble shooting,
Internet navigational skills, the use of E-mail and Internet publishing.
The training will be held at school district facilities, taught by ESC
staff and school district technology personnel. The applicants will also
receive technical support and assistance from CIT Task Force members from
their respective campus in implementing technology-based curriculum in
their classrooms.

Upon the completion of the training, the teachers will receive a
workstation and printer for their classroom. At the end of four weeks, the
teachers will be required to present to a panel of district committee
members made up of different staff throughout the district, projects that
have been created using their technology skills. The projects should
exhibit proficiencies that the teacher has developed using the computer. If
it is determined by the panel that the teacher has acquired the necessary
skills to utilize the computer in developing and enhancing curriculum, the
computer will remain in the classroom. If the required skills have not been
mastered. the teacher will have an opportunity to request additional
training to reinforce their skills. After receiving the additional
training, the teacher will be required to resubmit projects for approval by
the administrative panel. After the second submission, if the teacher still
does not have the required skills, the computer will be removed from the
classroom. The teacher may reapply to admission to the program during the
next school year.

So, ask yourself, what kinds of answers do you want your teachers to give
when they introduce themselves? Do you want them to arrive thirsty to
drink from the well of shared experience on technology integration, or
would you rather have them arrive thirsty for freedom from your efforts to
make them learn? Earn as You Learn allows teachers this choice. And, take
it from someone who has made it work in two different school districts, and
seen it work in several others, there will be no end to those who will
stand up and deliver.

And, that is where my faith in classroom teachers comes from. They've never
let me down when I've called on them to step up and do what it takes for
their children. If you've been let down, maybe it's time to set up an Earn
as You Learn Program in your district.

Special Thanks to:
LaVonda Miller
Jim Baldoni
Pam Fite

About the Author:
Miguel Guhlin is a bilingual/ESL PreK through 12 certified teacher and technologist working as an educational specialist at a regional education service center.  His two favorite quotes are "Ask not what computers can do with students, but rather, what students can do with computers" and "Hardware without software is just junk, but software without teaching is just noise."

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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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