I'm teaching a graduate course on educational technology innovation. We've been discussing the how the overall conditions and contextual factors in schools can support of hinder innovation. For instance, we've been discussing the importance of a high quality professional development program for teachers. In addition we're also looking at school leadership, the curriclum and assessment framework, the learning goals, and - of course - the technology tools themselves. What do you think are the most important factors that can facilitate or hinder the success of an educational technology innovation? Have you personnally been a part of any initiatives where some of these factors were clealy used in support of innovation (or where the absence of some of these were the reason why the innovation did not succeed?) Thanks for your responses!
Most educators are very busy keeping up with professional learning in many areas. One of the factors that often hinders innovation is the lack of high regard for the knowledge, expertise, and the complex demands that are placed on all educators who are working within the community. If a technology specialist wants everybody to use technology, then why not provide tutorials on a website? That strategy will enable each educator to personalize his or her learning. It would be great if the educational technologist would work with the faculty on authentic projects that require collaboration and diverse expertise. Often innovations fail to work in schools because those who are technologically-proficient use (technology) funds to innovate their own projects. The training for other educators is parceled out in very small and insignificant packages. For example, too many of the folks with a background in technology show teachers how to set up a blog, discuss the value of blogging, and then try to a do some kind of a study in which they investigate how these novice users are learning to blog and/or using the blog in some lesson or project in their classrooms. Some tangential link is made to student learning and achievement. Often on the basis of these experiments recommendations are made to bring a particular technology to scale. Grand claims are made about the potential of technology to transform learning. This approach to training and innovation is an abuse of the educator's time and intelligence, and it disregards the complexity of learning and of teaching. There are open educational resources on the Internet, provided by groups like google, which really do a fine job of providing the educator with a fuller picture of the "how to", "when to", "where to go for further assistance," setting up a blog, for example. The focus in a professional learning community should not be on the technology or the innovation; it should be on achieving significant learning outcomes. Educators need colleagues who will collaborate with them to address significant challenges of educating people in ways that will make them knowledgeable persons, critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and self-regulating, strategic and flexible learners. If the colleague has a background in educational technology, he or she may have valuable expertise to share with the team, but his or her colleague also has valuable expertise to share. People learn to use technology to enhance and extend learning by using the technology in authentic and purposeful activity.
Thanks for your response. I think you've identified an important problem in the way educational technology innovations are promoted. It does seem that a lot of the interactive time between technology specialists and teachers takes the form of "training" without time necessarily devoted to broader issues of strategic curriculum planning. I think you're absolutely right of course that a lot of the training functions can now be accessed through free open source resources. The use of screen save narrated tutorials to demonstrate the basic use of e-learning tools has enormous potential for creating alternatives for the "training" needs and perhaps will help preserve some time for technology specialists and teachers to work together in the more purposeful ways that you described.
By the way I see that you are at Eastern Michigan Univ ? I was there for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Academy (SoTL) last May and was very impressed by Eastern Michigan Univ. I also had what might have been the best cheeseburger I've ever had at Sidetracks in Ypsilanti :)
Thanks for your kind response. You are 100% correct about the burgers at Sidetrack! You are also correct about Eastern!... Those who understand can support learners and learning even in a digital age....I think that SOTL has its place in the academy, but I generally study up! and go well beyond the information given!
Mary, thank you for your meaningful, well-thought-out, response. It is true; a lot of times the instructional technology person has his/her own agenda and is completely aloof and disconnected to what is best for students. I have found, though, that it goes back to leadership within in the school. If a school has an instructional technology person, educators should not only be provided with all the adequate supports but they should also be held accountable to implement these new educational technologies. The instructional technology person should also be held accountable to insure that he is doing his job.
You mentioned tutorials and self-regulation in your post; I believe in both of these. Unfortunately, some educators are not as professional in their thinking as you are. Consequently, these are the educators who, first of all, do not perceive the importance of tech integration for adequate 21st century skills. Secondly, they not only neglect to self-regulate but also fail to self-monitor and self-reflect. They typically do not give critical reflective thinking in their pedagogy. Consequently, these are the educators who are ineffective for years because they are failing to have a philosophical shift in the pedagogy because they are not accountable to sound professional development - for example. These are the teachers that you can usually find saying, "This is not the way we done it before."
Consequently, I believe that if valuable time and resources are going to be spent on sound professional development, then there needs to be an accountability tool in place for teachers to implement. When this happens students will always be the ones who benefit.
A gift from the Changemooc.ca to me and you..... http://internettime.posterous.com/... This node might be useful to you.
Peter, I have found that proper professional development and accountability are the keys in facilitating educational technology innovation. I can directly relate to the article of tech integration in urban settings. My first teaching assignment was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I clearly remember, like it was yesterday, the last day of school of my first year teaching. I signed out a laptop for summer use. In all honesty, I'm not sure why I was signing it out. All I remember is that they offered brand-new MAC laptops to be signed out for the summer. Initially, I signed it out to "play around" with it in order to see what I could do with it. Now that I have been teaching for some time, I realize that they most likely wanted me to use the laptop to develop units/lessons, assessments, and resources for the following school.
I've mentioned all that to say this: There was not a clear objective as to why I was supposed to sign out the laptop; there was no professional development in place to direct me on how to use it; there was no accountability on how and when I was going to implement new technologies, and there was no follow-up discussion as to the necessary adjustments I would need to make in my pedagogy. Sad to say, many urban schools and districts remain in the same dilemma to this day. There is a definite need for educational leaders and educational technology leaders in the urban setting.
Hi Peter, Mary and Ibrahim,
It's a pleasure to read your responses. I'm a teacher but have been responsible for and involved in projects for implementing elearning initiatives (I'm also a software developer and elearning consultant). I agree wholeheartedly with the points you've made especially about providing teachers with professional development for implementing learning and teaching approaches online.
In all of the elearning projects I've been involved in, I've pressed as well as I could for professional development to get teaching staff on board at the earliest opportunity so that they can familiarise themselves with what's available and what they can do with it, how to get help and support, and to try to cultivate communities of practice so that everyone can share ideas and collaborate in developing effective curricula to meet their learners' needs (phew, long sentence!). However, academic management rarely see the value of this and generally want their teachers to just transfer their existing classroom/homework/test-based resources to the LMS/learning platform and maybe make some new ones with some multimedia and games thrown in to make it "less boring".
I'd like to hear what you think are some more productive ways to address the lack of support, training and professional development for teachers who want/have to use online learning platforms?
On a more positive note, I'm inspired by the work by Randy Garrison et al at the University of Alberta with their Communities of Inquiry project: http://communitiesofinquiry.com/
The University of South Florida also has an interesting programme going here: http://fcit.usf.edu/
This is an interesting question and something I have been struggling with for years at my school. Being the building technology specialist I am charged with training, troubleshooting (to a lesser degree), and teaching technology for the last 10 years. I have doen the last 2 rather well but have struggled with the training part.
My struggles in training have ranged from limited knowledge on my part or some of the things teachers want to be able to do which is an easy fix for me as I simply go out and learn it then bring it back. However what I see as major struggles are not so easily overcome but going out and learning. I have found that some of the hinderences are brought on by decisions made higher up or by the tech industry itself. I find that often times teachers struggle with adopting new technologies or integrating technology because of the "I just want it to work" syndrome. They are reluctant to try it because they have seen others struggle with it not working or experienced this struggle first hand. They claim that until it works they will stick with what they know works. This is are hard issue for me to deal with at the building level becaue often times the reason things don't work is because of policies and practices set at a district, state, or national level. For example in my school we are looking at trying out the use of Quest Atlantis as part of our language arts class to support persuasive writing. The program works great and has been tested over time and is fairly reliable. However due to restrictions, filters, and type of computers we have it is a struggle to get it to work. I am blessed with a tech team who is open to finding a way to make things work but not all districts are blessed with such a district level team.
Another struggle is with providing training to teachers at an approprite time. I have struggled with finding a time to offer professional development at a time that works for both myself and for my teachers. I have tried the before and afterschool times and found that neither time works well because of all the other distractions/training/meetings that are going on. What I have found is that providing training during the day in short mini-meetings is working best. This is where I get a sub for the day and then hold "office hours" (for lack of a better term) where staff can come in and ask questions, get help etc. This coupled with providing the web-based support/training mentioned in a previous post helps address the time issue. I am finding and my staff is finding that doing screen castings of repetative tasks is very helpful.
The other struggle that is out there is a lack of interest/value from a building level. Often time I find that technology is paid lip service by buidling administration. In the past I have been told that the focus is on high stakes test scores and support of those areas. I have been told that even if I have innovative and unique ways of supporting are areas involoved in high stakes testing that they are dismissed as novelty and not having time because the test doesn't cover things like script writing, storyboarding of digital stories, blogging, designing websites, etc.. When in fact research shows that incorperating these activities can have a dramatice impact on student's high stakes test scores. However I am now blessed with a building level admin who is focused on integrating technology and even pushing it.
I am curious as to others thoughts and strategies for overcoming these struggles.
Hi Peter, Ibrahim, Matt, and John,
This is a thoughtful discussion of factors that promote or hinder the use of technology to enhance and extend learning in classrooms and schools. Peter acknowledges the importance of high quality professional development programs. I suggest that the manner in which people work together to support learners and academic learning within a context will influence the nature and development of the learning community. My strategy..."Be hard on issues; easy on people." People work toward purposeful and authentic goals and outcomes. Ibrahim is concerned about accountability. This is a word that has many meanings and means very different things to different stakeholders. He makes reference to leadership. If that is your intention to work with school administrators and teachers, then, you might want to take a look at this volume: Joseph Murphy (2002). The Challenge of Leadership. Chicago: The National Society for the Study of Education, p. xi. Words of wisdom:
"Every Enemy is a potential ally in a different situation, so..." John's post gets at some of the school level factors that can influence whether or not an innovative strategy will take hold. I got to thinking about the learners.... Teachers are, after all adult learners. The situated context is important, isn't it? Listen to what Bob and Sue have to say about the factors that are affecting their learning and how they address them -- VLE vs PLE. Must get back to my other screen. Much work to be done today!