I enjoyed Sylvia Martinez’s presentation for the K12 Online Conference, Challenging Assumptions About Technology Professional Development. I’ve submitted my complete Professional Development Record at the PD Tracker and would like to share my reflection here.
When it comes to technology professional development, I think a combination approach is best. There is not one right solution. Teachers do need pd from their peers, but could definitely benefit from the support of students. Teachers can benefit from just-in-time, real life support and virtual support. Teachers can leave a workshop with a unit integrating technology ready to implement in their classroom. Yet, teachers do need instructional support in the classroom.
It has not been my experience that all students are born with an inherent ability to use technology. Just like the adults I know, some have a pension for tech and some don’t. I can see how younger people would naturally choose to use technology. It is not new to their world. A teacher might automatically look for a phonebook when needing a number, whereas a student may naturally turn to Google. As the GenYES program suggests, I think a student tech club that provides a support system for the teachers would work. A member of the tech club could provide just in time support in any of his/her classes as needed. A teacher would feel reassured knowing that a member of the geek squad is in the house.
I have a hard time visualizing students paired with teachers, one-on-one, developing lesson plans as suggested by the GenYES program. But maybe that is just my inability to see over the box lid. The logistics of scheduling time for these pairs to meet, and visualizing one student working with a teacher on lessons plans, just doesn’t work for me. I can see class brainstorming sessions in which input from students is considered. I can see teachers giving students more choices on what tools they use to create, and what products they publish, to demonstrate their learning. Teachers giving up some control, but in return engaging their students. Making students a part of a learning community by valuing their input is a powerful strategy.
Students shouldn’t come to school to see teachers work. They should come to school to participate in a learning community. As Sylvia said, teachers need to be transparent in their learning, modeling problem solving, trial and error. I think this is challenging for some teachers because of their perceptions of what a teacher is. Did any part of their education experience include a teacher modeling problem solving, making mistakes? Teachers are used to being taught, expect to be taught. They want to be experts in using a spreadsheet before asking their students to do so. Technology changes too quickly for this to work. It is okay to just know the basics and let the students take it from there. In addition, the time constraints put on teachers to cover a long list of concepts makes it difficult to use class time to discuss choices and model trial error. It takes less time and is easier to give everyone the same assignment and model how to successfully complete it.
As a parent, I know that I want my daughter to grasp certain concepts and develop schemata. More importantly, I want her to develop problem solving skills, know how to choose the best way to present information, effectively evaluate resources, know that learning is never finished and does not require an instructor. So I feel that taking the time to model learning for students is a priority.
I see my position as Tech Curriculum Director to be very beneficial to teachers. I provide staff members with a variety of pd opportunities from real time workshops to online tutorials and classes. I am available to provide instructional support in the classroom or lab, with the students or during the planning process. I think inside the classroom support is an important component. I also think technology can help teachers overcome the isolation of classroom. The collaboration opportunities provided by Web2.0 are practical and easy to use. I frequently email short screencast tutorials to provide virtual just-in-time support. I have found just-in-time support for myself through my virtual learning network, specifically Twitter. I can post a question to my network and have several responses in just minutes. I use the collective intelligence of my online learning network nearly every day.
I enjoyed Sylvia’s presentation. It is always good to think outside of the box.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/27695419/