Matt Villano gathered a quintet of educators to sound off on what works and what doesn’t in the ongoing mission to train teachers to use technology in classroom instruction. The result was an article and podcast for T.H.E Journal published in March, 2008. Below are my contributions to the article and links to access the original content.
FIVE ON FIVE: A DIALOGUE ON PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
What does each of you see as the most successful model for providing professional development?
Kristin Hokanson: What’s traditionally known as “spray and pray,” where you give educators information and just hope that they’re able to use it, hasn’t been working. There is no one thing that works. I’ve been very impressed by how Classrooms for the Future tried to develop a model of professional development [that includes] coaches. The coaches are highly trained, and then they go out and work with their staff. Some vendors have also come and done out-of-the-box training with the teachers. Another part of our grant funding [required] that we have a student support team to inspire teachers to start changing their thinking. With this kind of support, we can see the kind of integrated use of technology that we really hope will benefit our students and prepare them for the 21st century.
Which types of teachers take to different professional development models better than others?
Hokanson: Different people have different comfort levels, both for project-based learning and uses of technology. I can’t really say that you can define who those teachers are, but I can say that, just as we want differentiated instruction for our children, we need to drive that same type of differentiation for our teachers. We need to listen to what their needs are, we need to think about what their strengths and weaknesses are, and we need to design for them professional development that will meet the needs in their classrooms. One of the things that I found very effective with my teachers is going in and saying to them, “What are the things that are working very well for you?” I ask them, “Where are the places that you have concerns?” If I know the things that are working and I know where teachers have concerns, then I can work with them on the things that are going to make a difference within their classrooms.
Moving forward, what do you see as the biggest challenges to professional development?
Martinez: There are obstacles to [overcome] in every organization. Schools aren’t unique in that way. People like their comfort zones-that’s why they’re called comfort zones. What we try and do is create success, and then show that success to other people. I think, a lot of times, we’re building a wall between professional development and what actually happens in a classroom. For some teachers, unless they see it with students, they’re never going to believe it. They can build a project in a workshop, but then they don’t quite believe that students are actually going to be able to do it. So we need to move professional development to a place where students are actually participating, and participating in an important way, to show teachers how students use technology.
Hokanson: Exactly. We need to help teachers see that we are providing them the professional development to learn these tools in the same way that the students are learning them, and I think that the students can be great models for that. We use wikis and MySpace a lot with our teachers, and the students know how to change their pictures and do all the things that the teachers want to be able to do. Let the kids show them how. Listen to the kids.
Hokanson: I want to tell a great story of something that happened at our school. One day, members of our local senior center wanted to come in and see what we were doing. They came, and by the time they were finished with their day, they were amazed at the Smart Board and other technologies we were using to teach kids visually to understand concepts that were so abstract. So I think opening the schools and making them a little more transparent is a really good idea
For a link to the complete article, visit here
To access interview highlights, visit here
To access the entire podcast of this interview, visit here.
Matt Villano, “Five on Five: A Dialogue on Profession Development,” T.H.E. Journal, 3/1/2008, http://www.thejournal.com/articles/22182