Computers are available in schools. Computers are everywhere, whether they’re in schools, libraries, mobile pods or individual classrooms. What is the best way to make sure these computers are used effectively as learning tools?
The Benton Foundation’s recent report, The Learning Connection, states that today’s high-tech innovations won’t have any impact on education if schools don’t build “human infrastructure” which includes sufficient training for teachers. Schools in the Information Age. What is adequate training for teachers?
More than 10 years of Apple Classrooms research have shown that teachers must learn how to use technology to integrate technology into education. The learning experiences created by educators need to be reexamined as technology changes what’s possible in the classroom and what students will face when they leave the classroom and enter the workforce.
1991, the US Department of Labor published What Work Requires of Schools. This report was a SCANS Report for America 2000 by The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Essential Skills. It outlines the essential skills and attributes for success in the workforce. The report went beyond the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic and included listening and speaking. It also addressed decision making and problem solving. The report emphasized the importance of the ability to plan, identify, plan, and allocate resources, to evaluate and acquire information, to communicate well with others, to understand complex interrelationships, and to use a variety technologies.
Teachers need to not only learn how to use computers but also learn how to incorporate them into their learning experience so that they foster the development of higher-order skills. This requires fundamental changes to classroom practice in many cases. It is not possible to achieve the ambitious goals set forth in the SCANS Report by putting students in rows and asking them to complete drills and practice exercises on the computer.
Most technology staff development programs focus on learning how to use specific software applications. This type of training does not impact how teachers use technology in the classroom, according to educators who have had it. This means that the information gained from the application does not directly affect classroom practices and has no effect on student learning.
The results of technology learning are very promising when it is embedded in the contexts of teaching. Many school districts have begun to see the benefits of transferring their staff development experiences into classroom practice using a technology staff training model. It was developed after more than 10 years of research by Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow.
Schools and districts need to make significant investments in staff development. This model is based on ACOT research. A sequenced program that provides educators with quality staff development experiences and ongoing administrative support is essential for real change.
Fulton County, Georgia is home to two year-old technology staff development program. The ACOT model has been adopted by vanguard teams of teachers. They are mentors in their schools and provide a model for technology integration. These vanguard teachers took part in four to six days of Apple Staff Development technology integration training during the first year.
The vanguard team members were able to experience firsthand the benefits of integrating technology into lessons. A course facilitator demonstrated a way to teach in a technology-enriched and engaged learning environment. The context was where technology skills were learned. The context was the learning environment. In this instance, the learners were teachers from the staff development course. However, it could have been students. They were motivated to learn technology skills in order to complete their projects.
The vanguard team members took the opportunity to reflect on their experience and learn how they could use their knowledge to create integrated lessons. They were also given the chance to design a unit of instruction that integrated technology. These redesigned units gave them the opportunity to try incorporating technology into their teaching. They were impressed by the new method of teaching and decided to redesign other units.
These vanguard team members have become more comfortable with technology integration in their classrooms, and are now ready to be role models for other teachers. Fulton County has begun the second year by expanding its vanguard program and providing integration training to other teachers. This also empowers the vanguard teachers to share the knowledge with their colleagues.
This seeding approach, which has at least two teachers in each school who can mentor their peers on the site, has been effective in motivating teachers and allowing them to take the risk to integrate technology into the classroom.
The Star Chart of the CEO Forum on Education and Technology establishes a “target level” for schools that will allow students consistent and regular access to technology. This would enable them to learn and provide educators with technology to communicate with parents and students, and access information. All schools are challenged to reach this level by 2005.
It is not enough to simply put computers in schools or train teachers how to use software programs. Technology integration is about supporting educators to create instructional models that integrate technology. Teachers must be able to use technology to enhance their teaching and learning. They also need to have access to professional development programs that allow them to experience the benefits of using technology to improve their teaching methods. When teachers use technology to help their students learn, collaborate, and analyze information, it will be clear that technology can be used for learning and teaching. We will then take advantage of technology’s potential to help our students become the knowledge workers of tomorrow.