Mar 29, 2009

Professional Development for 21st Century Learning

I recently joined a staff, at an elementary school, in my new town, as the Grade One teacher. Over the last two months, I have been participating in their professional development activities and we recently had a workshop on a new technology that I have never used or even seen. We learned about the "Smart Table" which is a new product that Smart Technologies designed. During the PD session we learned what it can do and how it can transform learning in the classroom. After the session, I asked when we will get it in our classroom and felt excited to have my students use it.

For me, professional development in the areas of technology and web 2.0 is very effective in encouraging me to integrate technology into my practice. I personally love technology and find it very beneficial for students. I am an easy sell.

What about those teachers that never grew up with technology or don't seem to want to try the new tools that are out there? How do we get them to buy into using technology in their practice?

In the article, "A Professional Development Menu," Kimberely Ketterer discusses ways to motivate teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. She contends that the digital divide between skilled and unskilled teachers is ever present and that without professional development on technology, the digital divide becomes even more pronounced (Ketterer, 2008). I feel ready to use it, but am also very comfortable with technology. The professional development offered this evening, certainly made me more excited to start using it, but I wonder if anyone feels hesitant to use it?

How do you learn technology best?

During this evening's workshop on the smart table, I asked the teacher I was standing with how she has been enjoying her smartboard and if she has tried using "Making Words" with it yet. She said she didn't know how and I ended up suggesting that we work together to build a lesson that she could use with her students. Last week, I mentioned the 2.0 tool, "animoto," to another teacher who I knew is trying new ways to integrate technology. Before the students arrived I showed him how easy it is to use and by recess he came and discussed some challenges that he was finding with it and then after school he came with a huge smile to tell me he made a slideshow with it. As I reflected on both instances, I realized that perhaps, in a way, for those two situations, and perhaps more in the future, I am like the "knowledge broker," that is described in Plair's article titled, "Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency" (Plair, 2008). On the same note, I will be reaching out to the teachers who have used the smart table and other technologies like "Senteneo" in their classroom and I will be learning from them as well, and they will become the "knowledge brokers" to me.

Keeping this in mind, when supporting teachers in infusing technology into their curriculum, it is important to be aware of the different kinds of mentoring roles that teachers may need in order to be successful with technology integration. In "Coach, Nurture, and Nudge," Ketterer effectively states that some teachers prefer coaches to learn how to integrate technology and have made the shift in teaching traditionally to teaching with technology, whereas some teachers need nurturing in order to integrate technology. These learners have made the shift from the traditional classroom, but are not confident in using their new skill. They need a nurturing partner teacher who will help them develop and model lessons There are also those learners that need to be nudged and tend to be teachers who are safe in their comfort zone, and know that they have been successful doing what they have always done, and are hesitant to step out of their comfort zone. These teachers need to be "gently pushed, prodded and cajoled" into learning how to integrate technology (Ketterer, 2008). Knowing these three different learners that Ketterer describes and having an understanding of the digital divide, helps me to find new ways to motivate and encourage others.

In what ways can technology leaders inspire teachers to use technology in their lessons?

Camillo Gagliolo explores this question in her article titled, "Help Teachers Mentor One Another" (Gagliolo, 2008). She identifies two ways that technology leaders can help teachers continue to learn and implement technology. One way this can be achieved is through building a professional learning community with a focus on student learning. Here teachers collaborate, give feedback and reflect o individual and community improvements. In my school, the primary teachers meet once a week at lunch hour to discuss what is happening in the classrooms. This professional learning community is a great place to discuss integrating technology and finding solutions to some of the challenges that are faced when using technology in the classroom. This PLC can also focus on a number of strategies including, sharing best practices, peer coaching and lesson study (Harris, 2008). Another way that technology leaders can help teachers to learn and implement technology is by helping teachers establish a cadre of mentor teachers. Gagliolo effectively contends that "powerful learning when teachers teach each other in a peer-peer network (Gagliolo, 2008). Here, teachers can observe each others' classrooms, provide feedback, personal ongoing technical and pedagogical support and, of course, celebrate successes by sharing at a staff meeting or co-present at a local conference together (Gagliolo, 2008). These can be powerful strategies to help teachers successfully integrate technology.

I look forward to sharing how I have been using technology in my classroom and how I am continuously learning new ways to reach and teach 21st century learners. Perhaps I will continue to blog my learning, as I strive to take my PD growth up 2 notches.

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