What is Effective Technology Professional Development?

March 29, 2009

“A leader in ed. tech. is a person who knows how to make those  connections.”
WOW2 Show 108 podcast with MaryFriend Shepard
March 15, 2009

MaryFriend goes on to explain that Dewey’s theory of constructivist learning is the only learning theory that explains how integrating technology into today’s schools will work. This requires that a solid and shared understanding of the principles of constructivism and social constructivism, so educators are prepared to meet learners where/how they learn in today’s ever increasing technological society.

The barriers to successful professional development (PD) are significant. We know from Chao-Hsiu Chen’s work and writing in  Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology integration? that some teachers’ lack or inconsistent understanding of this theoretical understanding hinders effective integration of technology into curriculum. External factors including pressure for students to achieve well in standardized exams and fears that content won’t be covered are two  external barriers that Chen identified.

Any PD initiative should begin by helping teachers make connections between their perceived need to cover curriculum and the sometimes conflicting demands of 21st century literacies.  It requires much more than the simple knowledge of how to use the tools. It requires an in depth understanding of good pedagogy in a supportive school climate conducive to inquiry learning and collaboration. Scott McLeod has developed some excellent guidelines for school leaders to set the stage for effective 21st century PD in Professional Development for Leaders.

In An Absence of Leadership, Scott suggests a good place to start is the ISTE’s NETS for Students and NETS for Teachers. I would then add an introduction to Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy is  familiar tool all teachers use when trying to infuse higher level thinking into their lessons and this is a great way to allow teachers to connect to what they already know. Andrew Churches has shown how it applies to technology integration – including the new Web 2.0 tools.  Illustration by Andrew Churches – from Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy V 3.0:

andrew-churches3

Then I’d re-introduce Manitoba Education’s Literacy with ICT continuum and the 21st Century Skills Map developed by the National Council of English Teachers which goes even further to illustrate how the tools can be integrated to meet curriculum standards. Teachers can then be asked to identify for themselves what they really need to be doing in this area.

Effective integration of technology requires time to meet, plan, and research – lots of time!  Judi Harris wrote an excellent 4 part series of articles for the ISTE online journal Leading and Learning with Technology entitled “One Size Doesn’t Fit All”. She asserts in  Part 1 (February 2008) that “30 hours of focused PD is required to change teachers professional practice.” Anyone who has tried to implement a successful technology professional development program for staff knows the extreme range of proficiency of use and range of successful integration that exists within any school staff – young and old. Judi Harris has developed a model that describes how the goals of PD can be addressed to meet the needs of each teacher.  Judi Harris gives some concrete ideas of how to combine goals and models to find the most effective and specific approaches given individual teacher’s differences. Teachers are described as innovators, early adoptors, early majority, late majority or laggards.

Kimberly Ketterer in “Coach, Nurture or Nudge” (Learning & Leading with Technology, May 2007)  provides a brief and insightful description of 3 groups of teachers in need of either coaching, nurturing or nudging, along with some suggestions on how best to work with each group. No longer can it be said: “You can’t hope to reach every teacher”.

Camilla Gagliolo identifies several structures by which teachers can help mentor one another in “Help Teachers Mentor One Another” (Learning & Leading with Technology, Sept./Oct 2008).

Yet Sandra Kay Plair’s assertion in Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency resonates the strongest:

Despite a steady wave of how-to workshops and some longer-duration seminars, infusing technology into curriculum and teaching practices remains elusive for many teachers. The existing format for technology-related professional development lacks the continuity that teachers need to develop the confidence and efficacy leading to technology fluency. Teachers crave a constant support person, in close proximity and available to fill in the gaps that arise with the rapid changes associated with technology.

She goes on to advocate for a “knowledge broker” or a staff member identified as the educational technology mentor: someone that knows how to use technology tools to enhance teaching and learning.

I know from working for 12 years as an in-school technology support teacher that this is true. I worked with each teacher on planning and integrating technology.  The classroom teacher was recognized as the curriculum specialist and I as the technology specialist. Everyone was armed with knowledge of good teaching strategies employed school-wide. Why is this model of in-school support not more widespread? Part of this answer is the reality of dwindling resources for staff allocation. So in the absence of sufficient staffing for full-time technology mentors, the teacher-librarian is in a unique position to provide  collaborative support, or to help set up formal mentoring structures to integrate technology, even with those teachers needing the most nudging.

School-wide access to some standard software helps build a shared understanding of the tools which can be used to integrate technology. For example every school should have concept-mapping software, word processors, spreadsheet, database and graphic creation and editing software available school-wide on all computers. If the same software is used division-wide, then even more sharing between colleagues is possible.

No discussion of professional development for integrating educational technology would be complete without including the many opportunities afforded by online learning. There are also many opportunities for growing a personal learning network online as well as enrolling in a formal online course. Although it’s not for every teacher, in many ways it can be the best professional development available for learning the new tools, how to use them and how to assess in today’s schools. In “Online Professional (Leading and Learning with Technology, May 2007) Jim Vanides describes how it  can allow students to be deeply reflective and participate fully instead of the 2-3 vocal students as in a traditional classroom.

Personally I can attest that online learning, through formal courses and using the web 2.0 technologies,  is the best I’ve ever experienced.

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Bridging the Chasm between Fantasy and Reality

November 30, 2008

Last week I concluded my blog with the following ambitious statement:

“Some of the best professional development comes from in-school sharing and collaboration. That’s where I see myself teaching in the read/write web – to break out of the “echo chamber” that is web 2.0 and to bridge the chasm between what some may see as fantasy to reality.”

Today I attempt to answer the question “Where do I begin to bridge the chasm?

The biggest challenge to introducing the power of Web 2.0 tools into every classroom is the time it takes to learn. In Anne Davies blog “Thinking about change – Nov. 7, 2008 , Anne eloquently states:

I think a big part of why educators are not out of their own networks is that their day is filled with other priorities that the teacher has to accomplish. I wish schools would make reflection and learning time for teachers a priority that nothing could interrupt. Students need the same. I agree that educators need to blog, use wikis, del.icio.ous and the like but until the educators’ learning and growth is truly made a priority within our schools, I don’t think we will make the progress we need to achieve. We need leaders that make this happen. A reflective culture of learning and growing must be nurtured in our schools.

As Bridget McCrea reports in The Journal – Karl Fisch: Creating Lifelong Learners, Karl Fisch of Arapahoe High School, frustrated with the pace of technology integration into classroom practice, secured grant funding to provide significant release time for teachers to learn and apply the latest technology tools.

This is a professional development (PD) model in which I would love to participate. When the time is right, I will definitely be there to collaborate with teachers to delve deeply into the power of blogging and the interrelated world of Web 2.0 for education. But that will take time to work with school leadership and setting up as a possible school priority and I want to start right now. Again I ask myself, “Where do I begin?”

podango-sound1 Click Here To Learn Which Web 2.0 Tool I’ll Begin With and Why

(The background music is called “Outdoor Ambience” and was downloaded from Soundzabound Royalty Free Music for Schools and the “ptwiiing” effect is available as a freeware download courtesy of Chris from Flashkit.com.)

Why Podcast?

Wesley Fryer makes outlines a rationale for podcasting in education in his “Why Podcast?” ppt linked below

whypodcast:
Check out a fuller description here .

In Manitoba podcasting is one of the suggested ways for students to “Show Understanding” of their Literacy with ICT Inquiry Projects as seen in this Developmental Continuum:
literacywithict.

What is Educational Podcasting?

Here’s Tony Vincent’s comprehensive site for Finding and Subscribing to Podcasts.

One of the sites on Tony’s list: The Education Podcast Network (EPN) “is an effort to bring together into one place, the wide range of podcast programming that may be helpful to teachers looking for content to teach with and about, and to explore issues of teaching and learning in the 21st century.”

My advice would be to find and sample the podcast series you’d like to follow in EPN, then subscribe in iTunes. This list is great to illustrate the abundance and wide range of educational podcasts available, even though it is incomplete. The podcast series that is noticeable absent from this list is the cutting edge k12online08 Audio Channel , so that would be a good one to demonstrate subscribing to through iTunes. EdTechTalk is listed, but the full breadth of the podcast would be worthy of demonstrating as well, in particular the Women of the Web 2.0 podcast series.

How to Podcast?

Wes Fryer includes an extensive list of resources for getting started with educational podcasting on his Podcasting Wiki here.

One of the resources listed on this wiki is Tony Vincent’s Excellent Podcasting for Teachers & Students Click on the image below to view the full .pdf file.

tonyvincent
I followed Tony’s guide to create my own first podcast, from installing and using Audacity and Levelator Software to labelling and importing my podcast into iTunes complete with original artwork. This guide even details how schools can create and promote their own podcast series.

An important part of planning to podcast with students is exploring, then discussing what makes a good podcast. Here are 3 possible assessment rubrics to help guide students in their learning linked below:

podcasting1podcasting2podcasting3

Educators will also want to familiarize themselves with the Podcasting Legal Guide for Canada (also linked to the image below):

podcastinglegalguideforcanada3

“Why Copyright?”, due November 2008, is another resource educators will want to watch for:
Why Copyright? Canadian Voices on Copyright Law – Trailer

When Do I Find Time with My Colleagues?

If time is such an issue in introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers, when will I introduce podcasting? I’m happy to report that I’ve already started! Students in a grade 12 Psychology class asked their teacher to help them edit a .mp3 file that they wanted to include in their multi-media presentation to demonstrate their understanding and learning of their inquiry project “Effects of the Menstrual Cycle on Women’s Mental and Emotional Health”. I was invited into the classroom and arrived in a flash! I demonstrated how to edit .mp3 files using Audacity, then how to search for more podcasts on their topic through iTunes (yes there were more podcasts on this topic), add their own dialog to the podcast and generally hooked a whole group of students, plus their teacher, on podcasting. This is what I meant when I wrote “Some of the best professional development comes from in-school sharing and collaboration. That’s where I see myself teaching in the read/write web”. – in authentic learning situations. I’m just waiting now for the interest and enthusiasm for podcasting to “catch on” in other classrooms.

A teacher of beginning English as Additional Language students asked for a demonstration of how to locate on the web and burn podcasts to a CD for her to play in the classroom. We set up a time to do this and after that I asked “Would you like to learn how to make your own podcast?” hoping that she would jump at the chance – and she did! She was surprised at how easy it was and that I would post the files on the school blog for her students so they could practice speaking English outside of the classroom in the comfort of their homes or at a library – at absolutely no cost to the school!

A few weeks ago I posted a podcasting test on the division-sponsored blog entitled How I Made This Podcast. The reason I did that was to demonstrate that podcasts can be uploaded and embedded directly into my school division WordPress.org blogs, but need to be linked from a podcast hosting service into this WordPress.com blog. Well, it turned out that my podcast was a “hit around the office” with the division’s Educational Technology Folks. After I expressed my initial embarrassment at this, I was asked to share what I’ve learned about podcasting with the Senior Years Educational Technology Mentor’s Group. This is my plan:

December session:

  • record the entire session using the podcast kit prepared by the ed. tech. folks and available for loan to schools
  • edit and share bits of the session as “minutes” on the 9-12 Mentor’s blog (giving my word processor a break for a change!)

January Session:

  • familiarize participants with the resources listed above
  • demonstrate and walk participants through making and posting a podcast on our mentor’s blog

I’ll also highlight this CBC podcast featuring Darren Kuropatwa following his Web 2.0 PD session at our Manitoba Special Area Groups Conference on Nov. 28, 2008.

The time is right for the “just in time learning” of podcasting in my little educational enclave and fortunately I’m ready!

Which Web 2.0 tool would you begin with?

podango-sound2Listen to this blog courtesy of Talkr.com


Blogging Professional Development Pre-requisite: Must be willing to travel the world and back again in your jammies

November 24, 2008

In my last two posts I’ve written about how I very quickly established a personal learning network online (my community of communities) and how I’ve begun to track my favorite bloggers through my RSS aggregator. You can tell by one look at my blogroll on the right that I’m following some very authoritative voices in Web 2.0 and education as well as some fellow Teacher-librarian bloggers that I’ve connected with through various social networking sites.

I listened to almost the entire k-12online08 conference on my iPod on the bus coming to and from school each day over the last 3 weeks with interest and excitement. This truly is an exciting time to be an educator. I get hyped up by the possibilities and strategies employed by teacher librarian power-bloggers like Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog and Joyce Valenza’s Never Ending Search Blog. At Doug Johnson’s suggestion in “Blogging and The School Library Media Specialist” I added myself in fascination to the the growing number of librarians worldwide on the Librarian Bloggers Worldwide site . I get hyped up by reading blogs like Will Richardson’s New MacArthur Study: Must Read for Educators .

Yet I also truly relate to the Comment to that blogpost by Shirley Smith:

Then there are the days when I can’t seem to convince anyone to pay attention–regardless of the latest research.
I would be interested in someone writing–or pointing to– a “vignette” that would describe what a typical day would look like in this new world/education order. Provide a glimpse that could help bridge the gap from fantasy to reality so the regular classroom teacher could see herself “there”.

Back here in my little corner of the world, and south-east corner of my school, how do I connect with those teachers across and down the hall and help re-define best practices for today’s high school learners? As Dennis Richard states in the k12online08 podcast- There’s Something Going on Here You Need to Know About . . . how does one ” break out of The Echo chamber to introduce their work and web 2.0 technology to a much wider diverse circle of educators “?

Another question that I’ve been pondering over the past couple of months is why I’ve never met visionary and experienced web 2.0 practitioner Darren Kuropatwa. He teaches in my school division and even in the same district! I used to teach two blocks away when I was working in one of his high school’s feeder elementary schools. I’ve visited his school on many occasions for Teacher librarian meetings or to get my flu shot. I’m following him on Twitter and have visited many of his blogs while at home in my jammies and with my dog at my feet, but have never seen his name outside the “web 2.0 echo chamber” (except for an article in the Manitoba Teacher Society newsletter last year).

I know from Darren’s “A Difference” blog that he has provided professional development opportunities for teachers in our shared district, division and province. I have a rare and unique opportunity to request a classroom visit and perhaps even capture that “vignette” that would describe what a typical day would look like in this new world/education order” that Shirley Smith commented on. That would be of true interest to my colleagues.

Yet that doesn’t entirely address the situation stated by Will Richardson in his New MacArthur Study:Must Read for Educators post that educators “have to be more willing to support this type of learning rather than prevent it, but as always, we have to understand it for ourselves as well.”

I find myself in a unique situation in my school division, especially as a Teacher-librarian. I was asked to chair the Senior Years Educational Technology Mentors Group this year. This group meets 5 times a year and has one or two representatives from each high school in the division, and my role along with 3 other steering committee members is to help set the agenda. At the suggestion of the mentor’s last session we’re going to be doing a Knowledge Management Session with ICT Mentors next month. That is, we’re going to use a wiki to create a list of who has experience and expertise in different ICT courses offered through the division. I’m going to ask participants to read and reflect upon Will Richardson’s blog post and the related comments to “The Less You Share The Less Power You Have.” The more exposure others have to how powerful the sharing nature of the read/write web can be – the better!

Will Richardson makes some very good suggestions for getting started with blogging with colleagues close to home in his book: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. He suggests blogging for knowledge management and articulation for staff to communicate internally, archive minutes, collect links and relevant information, store documents and presentations for easy access later on. At the division level educators can share best practices, lesson plans and “learning objects” (pg. 25) . We have the beginnings of such a blog for the senior years educational technology mentors in my school division but as of today only two members have contributed, sigh. Hopefully that will change soon.

How else can I promote the read/reflect/write web in my little corner of the world? Now that I’ve gained a little knowledge and experience in blogging I’m going to watch for opportunities to share. For instance, students took pictures on our recent field trip to the Petroforms in the beautiful Whiteshell provincial park (my new header was taken in that park) and I posted some that don’t identify the participants on Flickr.com. My next contribution will be to create a RSS feed to our school blog. I think it’s a great way to increase student and teacher traffic to the blog and to see how other’s around the world will respond to the photos.

Some of the best professional development comes from in-school sharing and collaboration. That’s where I see myself teaching in the read/reflect/write web – to break out of the “echo chamber” that is web 2.0 and to bridge the chasm between what some may see as fantasy to reality.

Visit here for more on this next week!

Listen to this post courtesy of Talkr.com