Scott R. Laleman
A review of literature in the field of technology staff development
The technological infrastructure at Lindop School, a small K-8 single-school district in the near western suburbs of Chicago, has exploded over the past few years. It began with a change in administration in 2000. With that change came an increased commitment to make the school a technological leader within the educational community. The electrical systems in the school were updated, every room had 6 network drops pulled to it, and 30 new iMacs were purchased with grant money during the summer of 2001. With the new computers, each classroom now had 2 computers in it, with a networked printer. Two servers were also purchased that summer. The servers were relocated from the computer lab to a secured room in the south end of the school, and I was hired as the new technology teacher.
During the summer of 2002, the school purchased 15 iBooks for a mobile lab and leased 60 iMacs. This purchase brought the total number of machines in each classroom to four. As our total number of machines was reaching the 200 mark, I was released from my teaching duties to be the full-time technology coordinator. As a part of this job, I was to provide ongoing technology staff development for staff.
My action research revolves around my belief that teachers who use technology extensively in their everyday life are more likely to use it with their students in the classroom. On the other side, if teachers are afraid of technology, and don’t use it in their personal life, they will be less likely to use it in his classroom.
How was I to get a staff who was used to being paid for every bit of overtime they put in to come to my technology sessions? Why didn't teachers retain what they were taught at the built in staff development days before school started and once every month? Would offering just in time training to teachers increase the use of technology in the classroom? Does team teaching with a technology 'buddy' make a teacher more willing and/or more likely to try teaching independently using technology?
In order to answer these questions, I searched for articles and web sites about technology staff development models and how to get teachers involved in learning and integrating technology into their curricula. I also built on knowledge I had gained during my previous job as a teacher and head of the technology committee at a middle school in San Antonio, Texas.
In San Antonio, where I taught for 5 years, I was part of a technology staff development model in which the sessions were taught by members of the technology committee made up of teachers from various grade levels and subject areas. In San Antonio, there was little staff participation in the district-provided technology staff development, so our technology committee posed the question, 'What if the training sessions were conducted by in-house staff members who already had a level of familiarity with those taking the classes?' When we implemented this type of training session, we found that our sessions were well attended, even on Saturdays, because the staff knew that the trainers would be there to help answer questions when they arose after the training sessions. In addition to the built-in staff development days, I began to develop training sessions based on a more individualized approach, which provided opportunities for small groups or grade level teams to request training on specific technology issues, software and/or skills set, at the time they wanted or needed it.
Planning and Getting People Involved
Barbara Bray offers ten suggestions for developing technology staff development, starting with forming a subcommittee of the school technology committee with representatives from all aspects of the school, including students, parents, and outside experts (Bray, 1999). No single person can be an expert in all areas so finding people on-site that can teach and be experts in certain technological areas is especially important. Having these people provide on-site workshops in addition to sharing a list of off-site learning opportunities provides the staff with a diverse collection of classes to choose from. Providing diverse types of training will better serve the different learning styles and time constraints of teachers (Hutchinson, 2002).
Input from the staff is also very important. Getting input may include brainstorming with staff about what they want to learn, what they are afraid of, and using a needs assessments that determines the teacher’s comfort levels and experience with technology. From this input, individual learning plans can be made to help teachers achieve their goals and strengthen them in areas where they have little knowledge (Bray, 1999).
Sharing successes during staff meetings, and publicly with the community is an effective way to celebrate what teachers are learning while getting others excited about and involved in the learning process according to Barbara Bray (1999). "Tech Talk" is a monthly session held at the Niskayuna, New York middle schools that are informal and include demonstrations and presentations on topics that are chosen by the participants. They also include hands on exploration of technology for teachers. The members of the technology committee also share, or encourage teachers to share, their successes and promote the technology staff development options in their district (Niskayuna, 2002).
Staff development should be an ongoing endeavor. Everyone should not be trained on the same applications at the same time. “A ‘one day this will help you’ program really means ‘one day we will have to do this again,’” (Hutchinson, 2002). Planning for training to continuously happen, or having just in time training in addition to a set training schedule, provides for the most flexibility and greater involvement on the part of those being trained.
Peaking Teachers’ Interest
The Roswell, New Mexico, Independent School District began offering technology training in the mid 1990's. Research presented on its web site shows that as the district offered more technology training sessions, more teachers became involved in taking the classes. Roswell set up a hierarchy of technology support, starting at the individual campuses, with a technology specialist at almost every school. At the time this was taking place, this was revolutionary and provided some of the early research to support a model of technology support that school districts follow today. Recent examples of this type of support and training include Northside Independent School District and San Antonio Independent School District, both in San Antonio, Texas. Both districts employ school-level technology specialists to support teachers in technology integration, as well as helping with staff development.
Research posted on the Rosewell ISD web site shows that of the teachers who went to their district technology support center for training, over 70% used technology with their students more than 4 hours per week. However, in a district-wide survey, less than 7% of teachers achieved this kind of computer time.
District based technology training was the norm in the mid to late 1990’s, as the majority of training in Roswell ISD was done at the district technology support center. The Niskayuna Central Schools Educational Technology Department uses district based training at their Educational Technology Exploration Center (eTec). They offer just in time training for teachers in which they can schedule half or full day sessions on the topics of their choosing at eTec. However, Michael Greene, the educational technologist, also recognized the need for school based training. He said, “Using a teacher’s building provides a more familiar and comfortable environment and offers easy access to personal material.” The eTec is therefore designed to be partially mobile, with 6 portable computers and a LCD projector. This way, training can be held at the district office, or at individual schools (Niskayuna, 2002).
The 4T program (Two Teachers Together with Technology) at Niskayuna is a year-long peer mentoring program which allows a teacher more experienced in technology to mentor and train a less experienced teacher who wants to learn more about using technology. The pairs are expected to meet regularly and provide written feedback at the end of the program. The teachers who participate each receive in service credit and are provided with a small amount of money to purchase resources to achieve their goals. Greene said that this type of training is “pretty popular,” but that different people gravitate toward different kinds of training, and that he tried to “approach staff development from as many different angles as possible,” (Greene, 2002).
Personal Use Leads to Classroom Use
Perhaps the most difficult part of technology staff development is getting teachers in the door. With the full teaching load, taking an extra hour out of their day to learn a new technology must demonstrate an added value to the learning process. In order to get teachers interested, the sessions should be relevant to their work, make their lives easier and peak their curiosity (Wang, 2000). An effective means to hook a teacher is to find out what their passion is and show them a program that can help develop and further that passion (Tenbusch, 1998). In Idaho's Kuna School District, Technology Directory Deb McGrath motivates teachers who are uncomfortable with technology by showing them how to use it personally. She states, "...One of the committee members might begin by helping the teacher send an e-mail to a friend or family member, find a great web site that matches the teacher's interests. An effective means to get the teacher comfortable with technology and see its value. Once this happens, we can move the teacher into more sophisticated applications," (Milone, 1999).
Teachers at two schools in the Anaheim City School District in Anaheim, California were given a pay advance through a Technology Literacy Grant to purchase technology of their choosing, provided they ‘repay’ the advance by participating in technology courses and training at a rate of $10 per hour. The teachers were offered workshops through the district, but could also attend conferences, classes at a local university, or request workshops on topics that had not been covered. As a result, 92% of teachers and administrators at the two schools had participated in training and workshops offered in the first year of the three-year program. In the first year of the program, regular, weekly classroom use of computers by students nearly tripled (Riel, Schwarz & Peterson, 1999).
Planning is perhaps the most important aspect of technology staff development. Without a well defined plan, even the schools with the most money and newest technology would fail. Trainers must plan to address all of the fears and misconceptions about technology, while also peaking teacher’s interests. Once a teacher is hooked, and uses technology successfully for themselves, use in their classroom is likely to follow.
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This page last updated on Sunday, July 6, 2003