Teachers see technology as integral to education and want to use it. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by GfK on behalf of Samsung Business, 90 percent say that modern technology is an important tool in achieving success in educational programs.
Using Chromebooks or tablets in the classroom gives students the digital age skills they'll need after they graduate. It’s also such a strong component of students’ lives already that leaving it out of educational programs would seem unnatural. This is the generation of digital natives, after all.
However, the nationwide survey of K-12 teachers revealed that while schools are putting more technology into classrooms, not enough is being done to ensure that teachers know how to integrate it into their lessons. Six in 10 teachers feel they are inadequately prepared to use technology in classrooms, according to the survey, and those over 43 express less confidence in their ability to harness technology effectively.
The findings point to the critical need for professional development programs to assist teachers in the transition to digital teaching and learning. More than 90 percent of teachers believe that up-to-date training on using technology in the classroom is important to achieve success, while nearly a third are not satisfied with the support they receive from their schools in integrating technology.
The need for professional development extends beyond simply helping teachers become familiar with the basics of the technology. It requires an ongoing program to support, encourage and inspire teachers to explore the possibilities of technology while providing the necessary resources to transition to digital curriculum.
Use best practices to guide professional development
Teachers’ reports of what they need to know, along with observed best practices, indicate that certain key professional development tactics will have the greatest effect when training educators to use technology in educational programs. These educators know what works for learning: ensuring that everyone is working at the appropriate level of understanding, allowing students to construct learning and providing learning in easy-to-digest nuggets. Those principles will also help build effective professional development.
Start by assessing the basic technology and technology integration skills of the entire teaching staff. Include open-ended questions in your assessment tools to get richer responses than multiple choice would. Try to ascertain which members of your teaching staff need training on specific technology tools or techniques and determine which are comfortable using technology but need more help integrating it into instruction.
Next, design training to fill in gaps and give teachers what they want. Ensure that each session is designed to be self-contained so that teachers can choose to attend workshops only in the areas where they need extra learning. For example, if 25 percent of your teachers need help creating presentations, deliver that training just to those teachers. Don’t require the other 75 percent to complete that session. Instead, offer them classes for skills they do need.
Make sure your in-person training sessions include ample time for teachers to use the technology. Have them create real lessons and activities to use with their students. This constructivist approach to professional development will help teachers see how technology will enhance their educational program. It will also help them retain the skills learned in training because they will have used them for a real purpose.
Finally, offer ongoing, short training sessions throughout the year. This will help your teachers process information without overwhelming them. Follow-up materials, such as online tutorials, help sheets or short videos will allow them to review the training on their own if they do forget how to do something.
Jennifer Roland is a freelance writer focusing on education, technology, lifestyle and marketing content. Her work has appeared in Learning & Leading with Technology, ED Tech: Focus on K-12, Mind-Shift and edCetera. Her first book, The Best of Learning & Leading with Technology, was published by ISTE in July 2009. Roland blogs at edtechcopywriter.com. Follow her on Twitter @jenroland.