Chapter 5

Cycle 3: Professional Development Situated in the Context of Practice
     

CYCLE 3: Situating technology professional development in the context of practice rather than development of specific software skills.

During cycle 1, I surveyed the faculty and staff about their training needs. Several items rose to the top of the list. Time resounded as a huge issue. The community was not very open to training that added hours to the day. In the past, all training classes took place after hours. During the early days of technology adoption, there were special days set aside for technology training. Neither of these models were popular then and were not favorable in the survey. However, there was interest in having training options during the day repeated multiple times throughout the month. There was also support for short workshops that focused on a specific skill or technique.

This model led to development of a training model allowing faculty and staff to attend sessions between classes or immediately at the end of the day. No allowances were made for class coverage. I have found from past experience that many teachers do not want to use class coverage to release themselves for professional development.

This year, the school added a work day to the schedule where faculty and staff were granted a day without students or meetings. The purpose of this day was for faculty and staff to use the time for purposes they saw fit. Seeing this as a unique opportunity, I put together a set of classes to offer that day. These classes were optional as this was not a technology training day. While the survey from cycle 1 pointed away from community interest in training in technology integration, I chose to make all of the classes relate to use of technology in education. Each class offered was focused on introducing faculty to new models of using technology in education.

Research Question

How effective will the practice of delivering technology professional development in the context of practice be as a method of increasing effective use of technology in the curriculum?

Sub-questions

  1. How effective will the practice of offering multiple sessions of the same workshop be in reaching the faculty and staff?
  2. What times and offerings will be the most successful for professional development in educational technology?
  3. How open will the faculty be to technology professional development that emphasizes pedagogy and is delivered in a way that models effective use of technology in an educational setting?

Action

This cycle has two parts: (1) a workshop that was repeated multiple times over the period of a month, (2) a series of workshops that occured on a faculty workday.

For the first part of this cycle, I developed a one hour workshop to introduce the community to blogs. It as clear from the skills/ knowledge survey that the community had little knowledge or experience in this area. The course was described as follows:

This short session is for those that have limited knowledge about blogs.  Blogs have taken the Internet by storm.  The power of blogging has changed the face of politics, and media reporting placing the power of the press in the hands of the people.  No wonder Time magazine made bloggers the people of the year.

In this one-hour hands-on session, you will set up a personal blog and view other blogs that are on the net.  If you have been wondering what all the “blogging” fuss is about, this workshop is for you.  The educational potential of blogging is huge.

During the month of April, 4 sessions were scheduled with each session being on a different day of the week and time of day. Announcements were sent to the entire community to solicit sign-ups.

Part 2 of this cycle took place on a single day. April 29 th, was set aside as a faculty workday. The intent was that teachers could use this day to grade papers, plan for future classes or complete any outstanding work. There were no scheduled meetings. This became the target date for a day of adventures in educational technology.

Drawing from the model of short standalone workshops, I planned 5 workshops each between 1 and 1.5 hours in total length. The theme for the day was adventure and discovery. With the exception of one of the workshops (Internet searching), they were all designed to be introductory. The intent was to allow teachers to explore possibilities. The goal was to stimulate thought about implementation rather than develop expertise.

Session 1, the blogging class was an additional offering of the class offered during part 1 of this cycle and utilized the same resources and rational for making the offering.

Session 2, Searching the Internet: Techniques to Improve Your Yield, was the only class offered that was designed to introduce specific skills with the purpose of developing expertise. The survey of faculty and staff demonstrated a need for this type of training. 31% of those surveyed responded that they had never heard of Boolean logic when searching the web and an additional 19% had heard of it but did not know how to perform such a search. Combined with the common complaint by faculty that students always turn to the web and often cite the first few hits returned by their search, it was obvious that additional training was necessary in this area. I developed a one hour workshop that focused on advanced search skills using Boolean logic. Using content I developed for a parent workshop on the Internet, I modified it for this short workshop. The focus was on building a personal Internet profile by finding personal information on the Internet using advanced search techniques.

Session 3- “What is So Smart About a Smartboard?” was designed to educate interested faculty on the potentials and possibilities of teaching with a Smartboard. While the technology has been around for sometime, it is only recently that teachers at the school have shown any real interest. We will be installing several new boards next year. Some of these are by request while others are being installed to provide access for future development. One of my greatest fears with this technology is that teachers will use them as glorified whiteboards. In this workshop, I focus on possibilities outside the realm of a whiteboard. The goal here was to get faculty to think out of the box. This was a demo workshop where I prepared in advance several different types of lessons for varied curriculum. The tool was shown to be useful as a power presentation tool as well as a tool for collaboration and recording the construction of knowledge.

Session 4- “What is the difference between a blended course and a blended drink?, explored several different tools and techniques for teaching a class in a blended format. The school has WebCT as learning management system (LMS) and this workshop focused on teachers could use the tool to centralize their online content in a blended course. The tool was new to most of the participants and so a quick overview was appropriate. However, this session focused on pedagogy and walked the participant through an experience of learning in a blended format. During the 1.5 hours, they received information delivered in a traditional format. They were then taken into the world of online learning by participating in online chats, accessing online resources for reflection in a blog (Papert’s: Computer as a Condom) then responding to the blogs of others. They were then taken to a threaded discussion where they were asked to reflect on three leaders of their choice and what characteristics made them a great leader. The session ended with a quick tour of a wiki constructed to document the collective wisdom of the group related to characteristics of leaders.

The 5 th session had only one non-faculty participant registered. Since this session was specifically for faculty, the session was canceled.

Data to Collect

During this cycle, I collected data related to the organizational demographics of the individuals attending, notes and reflections I created after the workshops as well as the results of post workshop surveys.

Data Analysis

This cycle included a total of 5 different workshops. Part 1 included one workshop repeated 4 different times. Part 2 had a repeat of this workshop with 4 additional offerings. While a large number of participants attended only one offering, there were faculty and staff that attended multiple workshops (chart 1). While 26 individuals participated in these workshops, the aggregate count of workshop participants including multiple sessions was 42. Of these those that attended one session, half again as many attended two.

Examining the attendance by workshop was also important to understanding the effectiveness of these two workshop models (Table 7). The first model (part 1) offered the community multiple opportunities to attend a given workshop over the period of a month. The second model (part 2) offered the community the option to attend workshops of their choosing on a single day.

CHART 3

Attendance Trends: N=26 while the effective aggregate number of participants counting multiples is 42.


TABLE 7

Attendance by Workshop. A total of 26 individuals participated in these workshops.

Session

Attendance

Model 1

 

Introduction to Blogs

13**

Model 2

 

Introduction to Blogs

3

Searching the Internet

7

What is So Smart About a Smartboard?

12

What is the difference between a blended course and a blended drink?

7

N=

42

**Model 1 attendance values represent the aggregate of 4 workshop offerings. N=42 includes individuals that attended multiple sessions

Looking at the distribution of participants across campus, the greatest number came from the upper school. Almost three times as many participants were from the upper school than any other area (chart 3). The second most represented group were members of the administrative support staff. While the emphasis of all the workshops was use of technology in education, these members of the administrative support staff were interested in blogs.

CHART 4

Demographics of participants by division. N=26 for all workshops.

It might also be helpful to look at the participants by department. The workshops were general by design and appropriate for all disciplines. Participants in these workshops came from a variety of disciplines. However, there were three departments that had 2 times as many as any other department. Math, Modern and Classical Languages, and English each had 4 participants attending the workshop (chart 5).

 

CHART 5

Total workshop attendance by department. These are aggregate numbers for all workshops presented in cycle 3.

Looking at the results of the workshop evaluations supplied little additional information that could be used to shape the future direction of these types of workshops. All of the responses to questions related to the quality and scheduling of the workshops were recorded as Very Satisfied and Satisfied (see appendix AA for copy of workshop survey). When asked if they would recommend the workshop which they attended to others, all said yes. Several of the participants included comments asking for additional follow-up workshops. I also received several e-mails as follow-up from the workshop. One of these really stood out as the response was not at all expected. The following are the contents of several follow-up e-mail messages from participants of several workshops held on April 29 th:

  1. I really enjoyed both workshops, and my head is abuzz with ideas.  Thanks for your time and energy!
  2. Thanks so much.  The smart board workshop was most beneficial and informative.  I am very excited about it.  Perhaps we can do more of this during disorientation week. 
  3. I want to again thank you for Friday's tech classes.  I really did fine it interesting, helpful and (I can't believe I'm going to say this) inspiring.  It was offered at a perfect time. The length of time was just right for me.  It had enough detail but not so much that it was overwhelming.  It was also great to have the opportunity to go back to my desk and play around a little bit with what we had done.

It would seem from the follow-up e-mail and the workshop evaluations that the workshop program was a great success. Besides the comment in message 2 above, there were several others that responded in comments on the evaluations that they had an interest participating in similar workshops during the closing week of school after classes are done and students have left. This is a program that I am currently working on assembling for this year.

General Reflections from Cycle 3

The new types of workshops offered during this cycle were quite successful. While the survey showed that there might be little interest in classes emphasizing integration, there still seemed to be considerable interest. Why the discrepancy? I suspect that these classes were so different than prior offerings that teachers might have been attracted by their curiosity.

The session on blogs was by far the most heavily attended of the workshops offered. During these workshops and through the post workshop evaluation, it became evident that there was a lot of general interest in blogs. While they have existed for some time, they have only recently become main-stream. With blogs making it prime-time, news of bloggers having an impact on the 2004 presidential election and Time magazine elevating bloggers to the status of “people of the year”, it is not surprising that there was considerable interest in blogging.

The session on Smartboards garnered the second greatest attendance. During the past year, I installed a Smartboard in one of our teaching labs. This has proven to be a point of interest for many this past year. I also had several conversations this year with faculty returning from conferences describing the incredible technology that is the Smartboard. We are currently building a new lower school and adding to the existing upper school. Both of these projects are scheduled for completion this summer. As part of this project, I have planned to introduce additional Smartboard resources in both locations. We will also see the addition of a second computer lab in the lower school increasing opportunities for additional computer access.

Based on post workshop surveys, none of the participants had taught with a Smartboard and most had limited knowledge of their possibilities. I believe there will be considerable effort required in Smartboard training next year. This training will need to emphasize pedagogy as well as software and hardware training. Effective use of the Smartboard is to make the magic of the technology transparent. This will only come with increased proficiency. Reflecting on questions asked during this workshop, it may also make sense to group future Smartboard workshops around pedagogical functionality. While each discipline had specific pedagogical and functional questions, there were commonalities as well. These commonalities become the basis for future workshop planning and groupings. Interest surrounding this technology is currently high providing a potential tipping point for educational technology at the school. Creative use of the technology and increased access will be fundamental to its success.

Of the departments attending, Modern and Classical Language has been the most aggressive in implementing educational technology in their curriculum. Math has been the least receptive in the past to technology use in their curriculum. It is important to note that each of these departments will have access to Smartboards next year. Both Math and Languages have expressed considerable interest in this technology. Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to share emerging technologies available at the school with the Math department chair. It is possible that this meeting helped to increase interest in the department as I was able to share in an authentic way, the blending of different tested and emerging technologies as they might be used in a common lesson taught by one of our Math teachers. I am also aware that there is additional pressure from other members of the community to introduce technology to the Math curriculum.

The majority of the participants from these groups are also from the upper school. Reflecting on the high percentage of participants from the upper school, there are several things that come to mind:

  1. I was a full-time upper school teacher and currently teach one class in the Science department.
  2. I know the upper school teachers much better than I know the teachers of the other divisions. My relationships are considerably deeper.
  3. Students and faculty in the upper school have greater access to technology resources at the school. There are 5 labs available to students and faculty of the upper school compared to 2 in the middle school and 1 in the lower school.
  4. Students of the upper school have considerably more freedom in their schedule than students in other divisions increasing their access to available technology resources.

Considering these points, I do not find it surprising that more teachers of the upper school participated in these workshops. This is consistent with prior technology professional development at the school. One area that I will need to explore in greater depths is the establishment of deeper relationships in the other two divisions. This is a startling revelation to me and one that I will want to aggressively examine with the start of the new school year.