Cyber-Supported Professional Learning Experiences That Build Technology and Engineering Educators' Practice

By Ernst, Jeremy; Clark, Aaron et al. | Journal of Technology Studies, Spring 2017 | Go to article overview

Cyber-Supported Professional Learning Experiences That Build Technology and Engineering Educators' Practice


Ernst, Jeremy, Clark, Aaron, Bowers, Sharon, Journal of Technology Studies


INTRODUCTION

In this era of school reform and new national standards, professional development for educators is a key factor in building teacher confidence and competences (Dede, Ketelhut, Whitehouse, Breit, & McCloskey, 2009). National STEM education initiatives cite the need and importance of professional learning opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educators, but the instructional support offered to these educators varies in quality and effectiveness (National Research Council [NRC], 2009). Professional learning experiences for technology and engineering teachers are often found to be deficient and less robust than professional development for teachers in other STEM disciplines (DuBois, Farmer, Gomez, Messner, & Silva, 2009; Li, Ernst, & Williams, 2015; National Academy of Engineering & NRC, 2009). The lack of effective professional development for technology and engineering educators is further accentuated by a shortage of licensed and certified teachers for this discipline (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards [NBPTS], personal communication, October 2012). As states adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), there will be increased demands for professional development for STEM educators to address changes in content and pedagogy that integrate science content with engineering practices and promote inquiry- and design-based teaching and learning (NRC, 2015).

A lack of effective professional development for some and increased needs to shift instruction for all, require the development of and easy access to results-driven, job-embedded professional learning experiences (National Staff Development Council [NSDC], 2001). Professional development that changes teacher practice must build a community of learners and be flexible, practical, and focused on content and strategies that can be immediately implemented within classroom settings (Li et al., 2014; Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; NSDC, 2001; Schlang, 2006; Weiss & Pasley, 2006). Traditional models of professional development can be costly, time consuming, and often an added burden to teachers' already over-stretched commitments (Dede et al., 2009). Today's educators need professional learning experiences that can merge with existing expectations, incorporate resources that may not be readily accessible, and offer a supportive learning community that provides real-time, continuous, classroom-based support. Professional development provided through an online setting provides this framework for learning and, through asynchronous online discussions, a platform for self-reflection, collaboration, networking, and shared resources (Almendarez-Cadena, 2014; Dede et al., 2009; Zepeda, 2015).

The need for quality and easily accessible professional learning opportunities for technology and engineering educators was the impetus behind the development and delivery of the Transforming Teaching through Implementing Inquiry (T2I2) project. T2I2's first goal in addressing this need was to develop learning experiences that reinforced and broadened technology and engineering educators' conceptual understanding, teaching practices, and pedagogical content knowledge. Specific content and practices, identified from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) for Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood (EAYA) Career and Technical Educators, framed the T2I2 professional learning experiences for secondary technology and engineering educators (Pearson, 2012). The T2I2 structured and practice-driven experiences, known as Learning Objects, encouraged and modeled ways for technology and engineering educators to improve their classroom instruction, participate in professional activities, and increase student learning.

An equally important goal for the T2I2 project was to develop a cyber infrastructure to support the delivery of the newly developed web-based resources and materials. …

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