|Project Tomorrow (formerly known as NetDay) would like you to know that the information and links on this page may be outdated.|
The Final Frontier:
St. Louis, MO -- At the Midwest Education Technology Conference, teachers and administrators crowded into the Lewis Room (named after Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark exploration fame) for a conference session on "Staff Development: Technology Integration Made Easy." Technology Director Joyce Fitch shared her technique for making every teacher in the LaGrange School District 102 a technology user.
"We get buy-in, because everything we do promotes something that a teacher wants to do in their classroom," she says. "It's not application specific, it's activity specific."
What Makes a Difference
Constructivist Professional Development
A typical workshop begins with a question, "How would you reconfigure a classroom to promote group work, if you could have anything you needed?" The teachers self-select into small groups to brainstorm ideas during the organization phase of the process. They come back together to share the ideas and, as a group, determine their solution and assign research tasks. Small groups research and prepare a presentation of the results. While solving the problem and sharing the results, teachers practice many technology skills such as using outlines, databases, spreadsheets, charts and graphs, the Internet, CDs, and creating email, web pages, newsletters, videos, and reports.
Fitz will hold a class when a group of teachers or lead trainers have time -- afternoons, evenings, weekends, and even during spring break. Every teacher in her district now has clear expectations for what students should be learning, a clear understanding of project-based learning, and the basic skills and resources to get started.
Sharing What You Know
"I've come to believe that the idea of having lots of available technology will, by itself, improve learning just isn't true," Barnhart says. "We have hundreds of computers in my school. But the most important element of using computers to improve student learning is in the thoughtful construction of learning experiences and being attentive to students as they participate in the process."
She created her personal web site, www.RainbowTech.org, to communicate with her Fairfield University undergraduate students in 1999. "Introduction to Educational Technology" (http://www.rainbowtech.org/workshops/MD300B/Overview.html) offers an online tutorial for implementing theory through practical classroom applications. Her site grew from that first page to a collection of workshop support materials where teachers can review lessons as they need the information.
"Teachers feel burdened and guilty and they shouldn't," says Reid. "At first technology seems like a big black box. They don't know what's appropriate. They don't know where to begin. We have to help people understand the whole process and give them a vocabulary to discuss it. There has to be a clearly articulated vision, leadership for the vision, technical support, and effective training at all levels."
"There is a range of people in every workshop from those who don't think technology works to teachers who lack the confidence to try it themselves," says Luke. "You can't wait to use technology until you know everything. It starts with baby steps. I start from the curriculum and then we add technology. I show them how to use help menus to find quick answers."
Pockets of Success