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The vision of Project Tomorrow is to ensure that today’s students are well prepared to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders and engaged citizens of the world.  We believe that by supporting the innovative uses of science, math and technology resources in our K-12 schools and communities, students will develop the critical thinking, problem solving and creativity skills needed to compete and thrive in the 21st century.

Teachers’ Readiness to Adopt and Adapt Digital Content — TRAAC

Project Tomorrow has recently completed a National Science Foundation funded study on teachers’ readiness to adopt and adapt digital content for classroom use.  The primary goal of the research study (called Teachers’ Readiness to Adopt and Adapt Digital Content — TRAAC)  was to develop a rubric by which teachers could assess their “digital readiness” along a spectrum ranging from novice to expert level.  Using pre-existing theoretical frameworks and other adoption methodologies, the Project Tomorrow team developed and tested two new tools for school usage:  a user-friendly self-assessment tool for teachers and a Digital Readiness Spectrum that described classroom usage along a continuum of integration and sophistication.  The primary project sites for the three-year research on the efficacy of the tools was four middle schools in Onslow County, North Carolina.  Additionally, approximately 3,000 additional teachers have completed the assessment tool.

A key component of the TRAAC study was the understanding that teachers’ readiness to use digital content did not follow a “one size fits all” formula.  In fact, across the study group of middle school math and science teachers in Onslow County, we encountered a broad range of readiness within the teaching staff.  This is not atypical in most schools today.  However, too often, schools do not approach teacher professional development from an individualized or personalized perspective.  Rather, teacher PD is quite often still a “one size fits all” for an entire staff.  Therefore in understanding how to help teachers develop greater capacity for using digital content and other digital tools, we also needed to explore how various PD methodologies and approaches addressed teachers at various points along the Digital Readiness Spectrum. 

Study Activities:

In Year 1, the research team created the Digital Readiness Spectrum and a short pilot Needs Assessment to test the Spectrum’s effectiveness.  The research team conducted baseline focus groups with teachers in Onslow County to determine their ability levels and comfort levels with digital content. 

In Year 2, the research team administered the refined Needs Assessment to the study team teachers, gave teachers their results, and trained school-level instructional coaches to support teachers in their efforts to better utilize digital content in their instructional practice.  The teachers were provided with a variety of different PD opportunities through webinars, professional learning communities, face-to-face workshops and in school mentoring and coaching. 

In Year 3, the teachers experienced additional professional learning and participated in an expanded version of the Needs Assessment with the goal of determining teachers’ growth along the Digital Readiness Spectrum over the two years’ time.  In the final year of the grant, the research team refined the measurement tools in ways that might impact a broader teacher audience looking for ways to measure “digital readiness” in their schools and classrooms. 

As a testament to the validity and effectiveness of the tools, the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University used the self-assessment and the spectrum within a statewide coaching cadre program that impacted districts throughout North Carolina.  Upon request Project Tomorrow also provided other districts with access to the tools to better understand the applicability of the products for district planning.   

Findings from the TRAAC study highlight the need for measurement tools like the Digital Readiness Spectrum and the associated Needs Assessment for assessing teachers’ digital readiness.  These findings also enlighten us to the nature of the types of professional development that facilitate real change in teacher practice in terms of their use of digital content.  The key findings from the study are:

  • The Digital Readiness Spectrum and Needs Assessment are valid and reliable tools for measuring teachers’ ability and comfort levels in adopting and adapting digital content for classroom use.
  • Intensive, ongoing and comprehensive professional training can help teachers advance along the Spectrum.
  • Embedded instructional coaches, who work closely with teachers continuously throughout the school year, have a differentially larger impact on teachers’ successful digital conversion. 
  • In a time of increased state and local standards, professional development must address these standards in order to have relevancy and result in improvement of teacher practice.
  • Access to reliable hardware, robust infrastructure and high quality content and software are necessary prerequisites for successful digital integration.

The final report of the study, Moving Along the Right TRAAC: Accelerating Digital Adoption Through Peer-Coaching and Collaboration looks at the existing research on digital conversion and professional development best practices and outlines the process that was taken to create the Digital Readiness Spectrum and Needs Assessment. The report also focuses on the types of professional development interventions that were used to support the teachers in the TRAAC study as well as the results of both the quantitative and qualitative data that was collected in understanding which of these interventions had an effect on teacher comfort and utilization of technology-enabled content. 

To request a copy of the final report, Moving Along the Right TRAAC: Accelerating Digital Adoption Through Peer-Coaching and Collaboration click here.

If you think this data is interesting and would like to implement the TRAAC assessment within your school or district, please email the completed TRAAC permissions document to Jenny Hostert at jhostert@tomorrow.org.