Leveraging Technology to Change the Professional Development Landscape

My question related to ISTE Coaching standard 4b is “how do we provide technology rich professional learning programs” for teachers. Just as things have been slow to change in education, it’s been equally slow to change in professional development. We often still model traditional lecture style models that don’t embrace available technology tools or don’t utilize them in ways that mirror the blended, personalized, transformative learning environments that we want for our students.

In the conclusion of The National Educational Technology Plan there is a call for the following changes to Professional Development for Teachers:

  1. Provide pre-service and in-service educators with professional learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy and enable them to create compelling learning activities that improve learning and teaching, assessment, and instructional practices.
  2. Use technology to provide all learners with online access to effective teaching and better learning opportunities with options in places where they are not otherwise available.
  3. Develop a teaching force skilled in online and blended instruction.
  4. Develop a common set of technology competency expectations for university professors and candidates exiting teacher preparation programs for teaching in technologically enabled schools and post-secondary education institutions.

Each of these items require changing the structure of our Professional Development  toward, mastery and evidence based learning as well a providing teachers with the tools to personalize their learning and experience technology rich learning environments as a student. As the saying goes, “you teach the way you are taught”. We won’t develop new teachers who naturally think and teach differently until we produce a generation of students who had the chance to learn differently. The first step will be to shift the experiences our current teachers have in pre-service and inservice trainings so that they know what it looks and feels like to be part of a transformative, tech infused learning experience.

Transforming teaching practice is bigger than just including technology. There are certainly larger questions about pedagogy and what we can learn from the learning sciences research that will have a huge impact on teaching and learning in the future.  Jennifer Graff suggests in her paper Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments (Graff 2013) that there are three drivers that technology brings to the change process. First, it can open up opportunities to improve teaching and learning that weren’t available before. We don’t have to rely on just the experts in our districts for learning. Webinars, MOOCs and video conferencing and online learning can provide teachers with access to amazing experiences from experts in their fields. Secondly, adults without digital literacy skills will be at a disadvantage and she suggests will “suffer from a new digital divide” of adults who can function in a digital world and those that can’t. Finally, technology is an integral part of functioning and accessing “higher order competencies” that make it possible to be productive in today’s society.

She used ‘Morel’s Matrix” to evaluate technology in education based on the four stages (emerging, applying, integrating, and transforming) to look at a number of areas but the one that stuck out to me was the one on Professional Development. Transformational PD involves integration, innovation, self-management on the part of the learners and involves a personal vision and plan (Graff 2013).   

When you put that together with the recommendations of the National Technology Plan it seems like there are four main things that an Technology-Rich professional learning environment needs to have:

  1. Clarity of Professional Competencies and Expectations – It’s difficult to develop personal vision and plans as a teacher if the overall direction is not clear. If organizations can develop professional competencies, teachers (both pre-service and inservice) would be able to set achievable goals and work towards mastery. Once mastery is achieved, it would be easier to set more innovative goals with the confidence of having the skills and abilities to meet them.
  2. Teach skills the same way they’ll be used; integrated into content areas and using blended and personalized delivery methods. Teach to the ’why’ first. Model professional development that teaches content and best instructional practice with the inclusion of technology to support and enhance the learning so that teachers understand why it’s useful. If it’s something that they’ve experienced that makes a powerful difference in their learning they will be motivated to learn how to do it so they can offer the same experience to their students.
  3. Use technology to provide choice, learning flexibility (i.e. time, place, duration, learning styles) and access to quality learning opportunities.
  4. Make use of professional networks and learning communities to expand learning opportunities outside the classroom or school and to access innovative ideas and resources.

 

References

Conclusion – Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Office of Educational Technology. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/conclusion/

Groff, J. (2013). Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments. Oecd.org. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/Technology-Rich%20Innovative%20Learning%20Environments%20by%20Jennifer%20Groff.pdf

 

What does it Mean to Advocate for Technology?

As coaches and administrators we are aware that technology skills are important for our students. Computers are everywhere…in our pockets, on our desks, on our laps, in our clothing, cars, airplanes, farms, factories, restaurants, and doctor’s offices… you get the picture. We want our students to be competitive in the world, and be “college and career ready” when they leave our schools which, most would agree, takes at least some fundamental familiarity with computers. Why is it then, that in spite of 1:1 computer initiatives in our schools, better wifi access in more places and more tech savvy teachers than ever before, we still aren’t producing enough computer science graduates to fill the available jobs nor have we seen student achievement rise to the levels we’d hoped. I had hoped it was as easy as a cry for more advocacy for technology, support and training for teachers. As I was researching, however, I realized that the real answer is not necessarily more people advocating for more of those things, although it can’t hurt, but in advocating for the right things…changes in teaching practice and changes in attitude.

In the early years of computers in the classroom we thought technology was the answer to our education woes. It was going to change everything about how we teach and how students learn. They were “set to revolutionize the traditional teacher-centric lecturing style and to unleash the potential for improvements in teaching quality and efficiency.” (Falck, Mang, Woessmann 2017)  Unfortunately, the promises of technology to revolutionize teaching and to increase student achievement have largely fallen flat. This same study Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement (Falck, Mang, Woessmann, 2017) posits that the “null’ effects on student achievement could be caused by “a combination of using computers for activities that are more productive than traditional teaching methods, thus improving student outcomes, and using computers in ways that substitute more effective traditional practices, thus lowering student outcomes.”

In the study they talk about the “opportunity costs of time”. Each day teachers are given a certain amount of time and they have to make decisions about how each of those minutes is spent. If they spend minutes on technology in ways that enhance learning and provide opportunities for exploration and creativity that aren’t  possible with traditional teaching methods then they are spending in ways that will likely increase student outcomes. If, however, they choose to spend technology minutes on things like drill and kill practice or electronic worksheets that are not as effective as other teaching strategies such as collaborative work, discussion, design thinking, communication, etc. the use of technology is actually lowering student outcomes because the opportunity for deeper or more effective learning is being lost. It all comes down to purpose. Why is the technology being used the way it is?

I’ve been advocating for years for technology to be used to “transform” teaching and felt that we will never really be able to change student outcomes for the better until we stop doing the same ineffective teaching that we’ve held onto for years and started to fundamentally rethink how we teach and what we expect students to do as learners. But I’ve been advocating for technology use in a broad way and have been happy with the low expectations we have of teachers using technology in our classrooms because “at least they are using it.” Maybe true advocacy is not allowing it to be ok that time being spent with technology is having a negative effect on student learning because it’s replacing good teaching strategies. Although I’d want to focus obviously on the transformative ways technology can impact student learning our schools need to have bigger discussions about the things that don’t work as instructional practices and help teachers make the connection that those same ineffective practices are equally ineffective when you add technology.

It think advocacy for the transformative power of technology will have to come through in the passion I bring to my communication with teachers and administrators, by modeling change and a growth mindset but most of all, by being a part of the bigger discussion around ensuring all teachers are using the best, research based, instructional practices to teach kids. If technology is the right tool to support those practices then I’ll be there to support, teach and guide teachers. But we have to be ready to let go of technology time and instructional practices that are not effective in helping our students learn.

References

  • Falck, O., Mang, C., & Woessmann, L. (2018). Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement. Oxford Bulletin Of Economics And Statistics, 80(1), 1-38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obes.12192

What teachers need to learn about professional digital citizenship

The ISTE standards for Educators outline how educators can help model, support and teach digital citizenship for students. They are, as we’d hope, responsible use standards that focus on the things we do want teachers to do with technology. It uses words like “positive, socially responsible contributions”, “establish a learning culture”, “mentor students”, and “model and promote management of identity”. (See the graphic below for the full text of the Educator Standards.)

I am in full agreement that teachers need to be part of educating students about digital citizenship. In many districts it’s been a task turned over to librarians. For a long time libraries were where technology was happening and often the only place students had access to technology. However, in an age of 1:1 one devices, teachers are now in a better position to be able to address issues in the moment, spy out and use those teachable moments to teach students or reinforce digital responsibility, and they are there when the technology is being used. Librarians are still amazing resources for digital citizenship and digital and media literacy instruction. But what if we could take the task of teaching students those skills off the librarians plates and instead have them teach teachers those same skills?

I’ve been searching for a few months to try and find some resources to teach teachers about digital citizenship. I don’t mean how to teach them to teach their students, I’m talking about teaching teachers the things they need to know to keep themselves safe, protect their own digital reputations and become ethical consumers of digital information. I’m not sure its the same as just picking it up by osmosis as they are teaching students. It seems unfair but teachers, like a lot of public figures, are more in the spotlight than many other professions such as an accountant or a scientist. They work with children. There is a higher standard expected of teachers, especially in their interactions with students and parents. It’s not even enough to keep your professional and private lives separate online when everything is so searchable. So, I’d like to find some ways that I can help teachers understand their own professional responsibility when it comes to issues of social media, copyright, account privacy and other issues that could  affect them and their professional reputations.

Let’s take the ISTE for Educator Standards and see what teachers might need to know in order to be able to model and teach the standards and protect their digital reputations:

Standards 3a & 3d

These two standards are about positive relationships online and managing one’s digital footprint. We want teachers using social media. It’s hard to stay relevant and connected without a social media presence anymore, but we do need teachers to know how to keep their presence appropriate and manage their digital reputation. One interesting resource I discovered was Childnet International. Their  Social-Media-Guide-teachers-and-support-staff has some good advice about things like when it’s appropriate or not to “friend” students on social media, setting privacy settings on social media accounts and managing your professional reputation. Their online safety calendar 2017-2018 has links to video and print resources for teachers and checklists to help teachers manage their digital footprint and their social media sites. Their INSET Training also discusses issues of reporting and monitoring student behaviors. There are lots of good resources here that I will spend more time learning about and finding ways to incorporate into training for teachers.

There is also the issue of training teachers to take a closer look at the privacy policies of websites that they ask their students to sign up for. We have a responsibility to watch out for the welfare of our student’s data when they are too young to do it themselves. Becoming more familiar with what to look for in online agreements is essential. The document from the government: Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices seems like a good place to start to learn more about protecting students.

Standards 3b & 3c

The areas of being critical consumers of online content and the ethics of intellectual property rights have more in common with good practices for students but it’s incredibly tempting to “borrow” things from the internet for that lesson coming up in 15 minutes. Teachers need good instruction on copyright and fair use. Many districts are also helping teachers understand and define intellectual property rights in regards to teachers creation of content that they want to sell online. We may need some more open conversations with teachers about what belongs to the district and what belongs to teachers.

Training for teachers is beginning to take more shape in my mind. Using these resource I can hopefully get a good start on it anyway.

References

ISTE | Standards For Educators. (2017). Iste.org. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices. (2014). Washington DC. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Student-Privacy-and-Online-Educational-Services-February-2014.pdf

School Pack for Online Safety Awareness. (2017). Childnet. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.childnet.com/resources/school-pack-for-online-safety-awareness