Background

 
 

 

 

What's the Problem?
Why?
How?
P4L? Summary

  • Why hasn't technology moved more readily into the classroom?
  • Why is there a disconnect between many faculty/teachers and technology?
  • Why do we use student-centered or project-based learning in the classroom, but are instructionist when teaching teachers?

The ideas are there. Does conference euphoria ring a bell with you? It describes the excitement and vision that comes from attending a conference, but then never applying any of the ideas in your own environment. Teacher "How Toís" and "Best Practices" have been available at conferences, on the web, and in publications for many years, but rarely take hold in actual practice. Instructional technologists and trainers see the same thing: they teach a great class, series of classes, or seminar presentation; people leave enthused; but little is translated into classroom activities. What is preventing teachers from implementing the vision?

The effort is there. Teachers attend workshops and take vacation time to learn new tools. Administrators mandate that technology will be used and bring in experts to develop curricula and train teachers. Technology integration in the classroom appears with increasing frequency in major publications and as the theme for conferences. Often, when technology is used, it only mimics current practices rather than utilizing the new capabilities to take teaching and learning to new dimensions. With all of this commitment, why isn't technology embedded in the curriculum?

The tools are there. Technology is more frequently available in the classroom today, and yet those resources are often not being used well, if at all. Corporations provide software and hardware to education at reduced prices (or free). Yet, computers sit in a corner of the classroom or, in some cases, are never unboxed. Despite resources, technology integration into the curriculum comes only with minimal gains (Polselli, 2002). An IT director asks, "In business we send people to a training session and they come back and apply it to their job. Why canít teachers do that?"

How do we help teachers find the fun? The value? What makes the tech guy different from the teacher? Somewhere along the path of his learning, the "tech guy" clicked with technology. He became more comfortable with it through play. He proably came to his knowledge slowly over time. He gained a deeper understanding, built on successes. He applied his play to his work. Along the lines of Papert (1993), he is a Yearner - in charge of his own exploring and using his knowledge; he is not a Schooler - tied to prescribed contents and methods. New issues were not to be feared; they were opportunities, challenges that increased confidence. What would it take to help a teacher have this perspective?

How do we help teachers discover their fluency in technology so that they can become creative initiators of learning models incorporating technology in a way that works best with their own personal style - a way that showcases their unique individuality?


Why Is It Happening?
What?
How?
P4L? Summary

In order answer the "How to change?" question, understanding the "Why?" question offers some suggestions for solutions. One way to summarize those "Why?" questions is to see them as missing links.

  • Missing Link #1: The technology has no relevance for the teacher. A teacher's inexperience with technology results in difficulty recognizing the relevance of the technology to her 'work.' Without this recognition of relevance, there is a resulting lack of buy-in, which limits the adoption of technology.
  • Missing Link #2: Basic skills insecurity hampers the teacher's attempt to accomplish any vision she may have to as to how to incorporate applications into practice.
  • Missing Link #3: Transferring basic skills and vision into practice can be a challenge. Even with buy-in, teachers often need assistance in making the practical link to their daily work.
  • Missing Link #4: No time to learn or play is provided in an already full schedule.

Relevance Missing: Training that involves acquisition of disconnected skills that have little relationship to their real world is an ineffective learning environment (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 153). Unfortunately, most training does exactly that: it starts with the application rather than the teacher. It covers only an evolving set of tools rather than equipping teachers to change their approach through the new possibilities that technology offers. In the traditional model for training, specific applications are taught. This training has its roots in the shift of teaching from an art to a science (Smith, 1998, p. 48) and the promise of a quick fix that guarantees results (Smith, 1998, p.55). Typically, today we still see mass training as the most effective method instead of the personalized training of apprenticeships. Teaching applications leaves the trainers forever in the position of training and teachers as eternal trainees. As applications continue to multiply, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine for teachers what applications work, let alone provide the ongoing training this necessitates.

Basic Skills Lacking: Without the buy-in, there is little interest in learning even the simple skills of file management, email management, and basic office applications. Knowledge of these skills is a foundation for many other applications in the classroom. In the classroom of today, basics of multimedia management are also increasingly valuable and, if you have no understanding of how to size or organize those files, the technology becomes unusable. With little experience in the basics, teachers often haven't seen the parallels in applications. There is no transference skills from one application to the next.

Transference Challenging: Trainers teach skills or applications and assume the teacher knows what to do with these tools. They may only off-handedly refer to how to use them in the classroom. Business training programs such as those offered by New Horizons are copied by academic institutions, as seen in the the University of Missouri, St. Louis, Microcomputer Program. The transfer of the application to a classroom experience is left to the teacher. The solution is handed out without knowing what, if any, problem is being solved or learning experience improved. It is often a cookbook lockstep approach with little room for individual variation or understanding. The author embarassingly even remembers using this analogy in some of her early training classes. Learners are often discouraged from developing their own models during a course and admonished to stay with the class. I have been in and taught many classes like that. Workshops attendees are reported to have only a 10% retention rate of material covered (Polselli, 2002).

No Time: Even when a teacher has a vision, there is little time for her to develop the skills needed to implement that vision. Usually, they must give up personal time to attend one-shot classes. They are not provided with accompanying release time to implement acquired skills and ideas. Developing those skills works best in small doses with just-in-time training (JITT): help with one or two points right when the learning is occuring. The awareness and growth of JITT now results in a Google search in five figures.

No Play: Remember the tech? He learned tech by playing. All too often, the pressure to use technology comes from outside the teacher. They don't have the space to play - to do 'purposeless' learning in their own way. The external motivators (i.e. pleasing the principal, appearing competent to peers, parents, or a general fear of being left behind) are not sifficient to effectively engage the teacher in learning. Instead, these motivators tend to foster a sense of desparation - a nemssis to play. The reluctant adopter is apt to stay reluctant. There is little framework for a deeper understanding, a slim chance to develope from a point of interest that relates to classroom learning. Too frequently training overwhelms teachers instead of building their confidence (Smith, p. 36). Having done computer training since 1983, I have frequently seen the trainee - be it a teacher or staff member - does not take ownership of the learning about (and with) technology. It is only when they really see the relevance of an application that they catch fire and take off.

So: no play, no time, no basics, no relevance. Knowing this, how do we help teachers discover their fluency in technology so that they can become creative initiators of learning models incorporating technology in a way that works best with their own personal style - a way that showcases their unique individuality?

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How have these issues been addressed?
What?
Why?
P4L? Summary

Basic skills and transference: Several teacher training programs are working toward incorporating technology training in basic skills with classroom activities through working with the teachers current curriculum and content. Noted below are samples that encourage or work with the teacher's individual classroom practice in some measure.

  • Fort Smith Public Schools Tech Academy offers a 3-2 program: three days of intensive training followed by a month in your classroom implementing what you learned and concluding with two days of sharing and further development of curriculum integration. Each teacher must come with some unit they wish to integrate technology. Basic skills - both software (file managmenet, internet, PowerPoint, etc.) and peripherals (scanners, digital cameras, projectors, etc,) - are done through an instructionist approach. However, interlaced with those activities small peer group challenges that develop both short applications for the tools and coach each other on the development of their individual classroom units.
  • INTECH in Louisana also does a five day program. Each day incorporates curriculum integratation and pedagogy as well as cooperative learning techniques and basic technology skills, including classroom management. This is followed two weeks later with two days of "redelivery" of lesson plans from the first session.
  • DETA of Broward County, Florida, also covers pedagogy, skill development and technology integration each day. Their helpful modelling of essential questions and authentic learning activities and collaboration all combine to utilize technology as a means rather than the end.
  • FutureKids relies on corporate trainers and comes complete with lesson plans designed for your location. They assist with evaluating the technology itself as well as teacher training.

Mentoring Models : Peer mentoring has been an option for years. Several studies on developing technology integration through a mentoring process document success (Polselli, 2002). Varying approaches to student support for technology also are reporting success.

  • The Union City Public Schools in New Jersey, featured by GLEF, successfully utilize Tech Teens to support hardware and teachers.
  • Generation Y (GenYes) infuses technology throughout a school tying the outcomes to national standards. It provides a framework for the teacher and the student technology partner to develop the unit incorporating the appropriate technology.
  • Ann Thompson's Faculty Technology Mentoring program out of the Iowa State University's Education College began at the university level and spread to local K-12 schools in which their student teachers were placed. It is a one-on-one partnering program.
  • Wake Forest University STARs program partners students with faculty across disciplines for development of faculty teaching and technology integration. Students receive extensive training in technology and mentoring in return for a multi-year commitment. The students mentor during the academic year and are provided internship opportunities durnig breaks.

Mentoring Strategies: Motivation is encouraged by tailoring the speed and level of difficulty to the specific situation. This requires flexibility on the part of the mentor (Kariuki, 2001). Attention to building confidence promotes mastery that enables transference Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000).

  • Two-way Mentoring: The nature of mentoring suggests that mentoring works best when both parties are giving and receiving - when it is a partnership for learning (Huang and Lynch, 1995). Mentoring through a committed relationship encourages trust that leads to quicker learning by fostering risk-taking and even mistakes (Meier, 2002). Developing this relationship over a significant period of time encourages deeper understanding which provide the environment for that radical change in approach to teaching and learning.
  • Long-term commitment: Student mentoring on a specific project for one year as a catalyst for crossing the technical divide moves a teacher down the path toward fluency. Through this process, conscious attention is then on the application of technology to new ways of learning and not on the mechanics (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000). Whether you see the mentor as an "actuator of learning" (Wink and Putney, 2002, p. 32) or a bloke to provoke, one of their goals is to help the teacher gain technology skills so that using them becomes effortless. Increasing the general comfort level with technology, along with a vision of how technology will improve teaching, are likely to improve integration in the curriculum (Polselli, 2002).
  • Choosing partners: The social nature of learning dictates that the teacher assist in choosing her mentor. Ideally, the student mentor is a major or minor in the teacher's field. At the very least, they should have a strong interest in the area of interest and are eager to learn more about the field. This provides a forum for two-way mentoring, empowering the teacher as well as the student. The regular long-term nature of the relationship leads to a safe community of practice for learning. More than train in technology, the mentor is a problem solver for both the technology and teaching issues (Smith, 2002, p. 48). Through this process of collaborative problem solving they become co-learners.
  • Accessibility: The mentors provide 'just in time' training aimed at providing sufficient expertise (Papert, 1993) in the language of technology and the grammar of the web (November, 2000). Providing the tools to assess which teaching methods work for them along with enough knowledge to learn and apply them is a more lasting approach. Through a specific application, teachers are able to develop an evaluative approach to teaching decisions and techniques in general (Lundeman, Levin, and Harrington, 1999). Development of this inner critical eye adds to their increased autonomy and motivates change from within. Their professional judgment and empowerment are another level offluency - the teacher begins to experience their fluency on both cognitive and behavioral levels (Papert, 1993).

With these models to address basics, relevance, and accessibility, how do we help teachers discover their fluency in technology so that they can become creative initiators of learning models incorporating technology in a way that works best with their own personal style - a way that showcases their unique individuality?

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Partnership 4 Learning Background
What? Why?
How? Summary

SPARK + CATALYST: Starting with the teacher's area of interest (the spark), provides a foundation of relevance for deeper understanding. Together with a mentoring team (the catalyst), the teacher develops a framework for using one application as the venue for independence. This process creates new options from the uniqueness brought to it by both the content and the individuals (Langer, 1997, p. 113). No two plans will be identical, just as no two fractals are the same. This classroom model for partnering offers opportunities for the teacher to utilize new tools and ways of thinking to promote learning. More than a change in the individual, it is a change in culture (Papert, 1993).

SPARK: The perspective of the teacher, either her passion or a challenge, sparks an interest that can ignite the fire which uses technology to light the pathway to authentic learning. "They are most apt to 'buy in' when their personal passions and interests are at stake." (McKenzie, 1999) Working on a project about which the teacher is passionate will carry them over the hurdles of technology basics. Their grasp of the subject provides the framework that helps them envision and create possibilities for the use of technology. This interest empowers the teacher through ownership. Ownership increases when the teacher is actively participating in constructing meaning for the technology from within the project. The level of learning increases when there is perceived usefulness and purpose.

CATALYST: A mentoring team that includes the student partner supported by the technology coordinator and the trainer over an extended period provide a solid plan for success.

P4L: In this Partnership for Learning [P4L] the teacher and the mentor collaborate, each with their area of experience, to develop problem solving skills and expertise through the project. The student expands expertise in the academic field and the teacher develops basic technology skills, providing both scaffolding through the Vygotskian zone of proximal development. They both grow from what they can accomplish with assistance to working independently (Vygotsky, 1938). Both are active participants in the process and their personal involvement brings ownership of the process and outcome (Langer, 1997). See also P4L@Prin.


SUMMARY
What?
Why?
How? P4L?

The question that really matters:
"Why is it important to integrate technology into the curriculum?"

P4L addresses this question. Growing together, the student and teacher mentors learn that technology - specifically, the computer - provides a viable method for learners to direct their own education in a way that integrates learning with life. The authentic nature of both individual and group activities involving technology make school relevant and learners connected - connected to each other, their work, and to their world.

P4L: Through a teacher-chosen project the teacher gains a fluency in technology that flows naturally into other projects and areas of teaching. This fluency brings the initiative and wisdom to choose what fits ~ what fits the teacher, the students, the situation. Papert calls this "freedom of choice to use the computer in a manner that would express their personal styles of work." (Papert, 1993) This mentoring approach is a long term solution and not a quick fix. The goal is to change underlying perceptions and approaches, not to teach applications or even technology.

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