Magazine article Technology & Learning

Professional Development: It's about Time: With High-Stakes Testing and Accountability the Focus of the Day, Teachers Are Reluctant to Devote Even a Small Portion of Classroom Time to Professional Development. Here's How Three Tech Training Programs Budget Those Elusive Hours. (What Works)

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Professional Development: It's about Time: With High-Stakes Testing and Accountability the Focus of the Day, Teachers Are Reluctant to Devote Even a Small Portion of Classroom Time to Professional Development. Here's How Three Tech Training Programs Budget Those Elusive Hours. (What Works)

Article excerpt

North Carolina: Time Up Front

The North Carolina ENTech program is a statewide initiative that invites school-based teams of teachers and sometimes principals to participate in five days of tech training (with two days of on-site follow-ups) at one of five regional centers. Implemented by the national nonprofit ExplorNet, ENTech takes a problem-based approach, asking teams from underserved communities to work collaboratively on school improvement projects while learning integration strategies and using the scientific method to explore the ideas and concepts behind the North Carolina standards. The BEST (Blending Educational Strategies with Technology) experience is based on a flexible, hands-on design, modeling the effective use of technology for instruction and guiding educators through the process of customizing it to meet their schools' needs.

Throughout the five-day training, instruction happens in three different "voices":

Voice #1: Immersion. Role-playing is the basis of this voice, with a "teacher-to-student" approach. Teacher participants change roles and become students, with the ENTech instructor the teacher. This resembles a regular classroom, and teachers gain the experience of learning about new technologies in the traditional way. Typical activities might include using Kid Pix to create a North Carolina map. Instruction consists of a simple overview with basic tips about how to use the new technology.

Voice #2: Peer-to-peer or teacher-to-teacher. In this experience, ENTech instructors take part in activities with participants and guide them through questions that will help them tailor the use of technology to their unique situations. "Would it work in your classroom? If not, how could you reshape the activities to meet the needs of your students? How would it work in difficult situations, such as with special needs children or with only one computer?"

Voice #3: The expert or "techie" to teacher. Instructors act as the experts and give step-by-step instructions about how to focus on a specific product, technology, or outcome.

Instructors use each of these voices at various times during the sessions to teach participants technology skills and strategies on a "need to know" basis. Skills are taught in the context of creating products and designing classroom activities, with no pre-programmed lessons on topics such as how to create a spreadsheet.

Assessment is woven throughout the program, with participants answering survey questions, using rubrics to review their level of technology integration, and employing other measurement tools to evaluate outcomes. Networking and sharing expertise is also a major focus. Teams from the same school work together on collaborative projects (real-life problems their schools need solved) for part of the training and then regroup with other regional teams by grade level, subject area, or interest. Teams brainstorm solutions to universal problems, such as teaching in the one-computer classroom, and often find innovation, support, and new solutions among their teammates.

Instruction also includes simple strategies that teachers can take back and use immediately with their students. For instance, a "Not Yet/Been There, Done That" chart requires participants (acting as students) to write their names on sticky notes and place them at the appropriate points on the chart so it's easy to determine when everyone has completed tasks. Participants also create a Web site about a local historic site and post it to share with the community.

Texas: Putting Time on Teachers' Sides

At Lubbock ISD, teachers learn exactly what they need and want, when they want to learn it. They can learn at home, at school, or from commercial instructors, at times conveniently included in their busy schedules. How can a single district provide professional development on this scale? The answer is simple: they don't. …

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