Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Plan for Pro-D

It is clear to me teachers at my school have different levels of readiness with regards to learning about using Web 2.0 tools in their teaching. In Online-Learning Communities: The Next Generation of Professional Development, Melinda George reminds us that “…every educator has different skill sets, goals, and challenges at various times in their professional lives, so their desire for information, knowledge, expertise, and technical competence varies accordingly. No one professional development offering is appropriate for all.” Offering a whole group professional development on blogging, with everyone expected to participate, would be ineffective with my staff and would likely create some resistance. At this point there are some teachers who are excited about learning to use these new tools, eager to explore ways these tools can enhance student learning. In our conversations around school goals, there is consensus that there is a need for teachers to build capacity in their ability to integrate technology into the classroom. These teachers are ready to begin building that capacity.

Evan M.Glazer and Kathy Page (2006) in Collaborative Apprenticeship, have found that “after-school workshops and one-on-one assistance to teachers have not enabled many teachers to become self-reliant in their regular use of technology.” Glazer and Page found that following a process they call Collaborative Apprenticeship, where the technology coordinator and a teacher leader facilitate the learning of a group of teachers to advance and sustain their collective knowledge, teachers have become more comfortable solving problems and developing ideas to integrate technology rather than relying on the technology coordinator as their sole source for new ideas and technology training.

I think the Collaborative Apprenticeship model would work very well in the context of my school. I have volunteered as the lead teacher, working with our district Technology Instructional Support Teacher (who likes this idea) to provide ongoing support and development for teachers as they integrate technology into their instructional practices. To start, we will ask teachers from different grade levels to volunteer to be part of a “Technology 4 Learning Team”. In establishing this group, we would need to address the readiness criteria established by Glazer and Page of:

Shared time
Variety of Experience
Structured agenda around a shared curriculum topic

Once the volunteers are identified and a commitment is made to both the shared time and the learning, we will bring our varied experience together to structure our meetings and activities around the first shared curriculum topic, perhaps “Blogging to Improve Student Achievement in Reading”. PSSSST! I am told by my principal that it is possible we will be able to provide incentive for the team members - perhaps a laptop? That might help with commitment!

During the Shared Time the lead teacher will mentor peers, and the Technology Instructional Support Teacher (IST) will consult with the group by giving advice, sharing strategies, and providing feedback. Teachers will explore blogging tools, discuss anticipated challenges, brainstorm new ideas and collectively plan lessons with the lead teacher and the Technology IST acting as guides and facilitators.

Two resources will be used to introduce teachers to blogging in the classroom, Blog Basics for the Classroom and the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Initially, we will have teachers explore how blogs are used in classrooms by looking at the samples in Blog Basics for the Classroom. Next we will have them read and make comments on a blog I have created for the “Technology 4 Learning Team”. Then we will have them set up their own blogs where they will post their monthly class newletters. Once the teachers are comfortable managing their new blogs, we will begin adding their students to the class blogs, addressing security issues and district policies, having students post their work and comment on the work of other students. After this introduction stage, we will work together to: plan lessons using blogs, implement the lessons and reflect upon them. Gradually the teachers will gain independence and the capacity to mentor others. Throughout this process we will present blogging as a tool that can be used to improve student learning by simply enhancing what teachers already do, rather than adding more to their responsiblities. We will look at how blogging can replace some of what is already happening in the classroom with a more efficient, effective, collaborative approach.

To maintain administrator support (which is strong at this point), we will invite our administrators to group planning sessions to participate in the collaboration and brainstorming and will encourage them to observe lessons that illustrate how technology can be used to spark students’ interest and learning.

Teachers will progress through the four developmental phases of Collaborative Apprenticeship. Glazer and Page believe the first three phases should be accomplished in nine-week intervals with the last phase being ongoing throughout the teachers’ careers. We will attempt to accomplish the first phase before the end of this school year so that we can begin a new cycle by the middle of the next school year. The four phases are:

Introduction - teachers become comfortable, lab based, mentors modelling, hands-on experience to anticipate and address student questions

Developmental - collaborative lesson planning integrating technology, the technology coordinator provides advice and feedback to teachers learning to design technology rich lessons, implement, reflect, repeat, mentor needed less and less

Proficient - teachers develop lessons independently, consulting with mentors when needed, mentors continue to promote peer development, teachers expected to generate original ideas, implement and share (4 weeks to a year)

Mastery - teachers are competent, comfortable and begin to mentor other teachers

As M.A. Anderson in Jump Starting Staff Development states, “Staff development is as much about providing opportunities as it is about direct instruction.” As novices work closely with more experienced peers in Collaborative Apprenticeship, they will be provided with opportunities to explore and build understanding so that they can design, develop, and implement technology-rich lessons within their curriculum.

In “Training” is for dogs: Teachers Teach: Teachers Learn, Janet Murray concludes, "Educational practitioners, researchers, and reformers agree that effecting change and infusing technology in schools cannot be accomplished through simple skill training. Professional development must be grounded in interdisciplinary curriculum which is locally and personally relevant, staffed by experienced teachers who are patient mentors willing to provide ongoing support, and flexibly structured to allow for independent exploration as well as cooperative learning activities. Genuine rather than simulated research of meaningful questions which use technology as an essential tool rather than the goal of instruction will provide the basis for effective professional development."

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I really liked Mary Alice Anderson's approach to professional development. The step-by-step guide to promoting professional growth is an excellent resource. Thanks for the link Elizabeth!