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Effective Professional Development for Technology Integration

I'm part of the team that is rolling out a new web based report card to all 5,000 elementary teachers at my school board. There are 8 of us who will be working in our school board's training labs and at schools in-servicing teaching staff. With the in-servicing and support calls, I know that it is going to be a very busy October and November. If you have any tips for large rollouts I would love to hear them.

I have just finished reading "Innovative Approaches to Literacy Education." It is a book that includes chapters from a number of different authors. While I didn't find very much new information I did enjoy reading Tim Lauer's chapter journey from web pages to blogs and RSS, and Dale Hubert's Flat Stanley project.

Julie Coiro's final chapter really stood out. She reflects on effective professional development for technology integration and outlines four things that she has learned through her own experiences.

1. Most effective when professional development is determined by teachers around their own needs of professional study.

2. Listen to teachers needs and provide resources that address those needs from a realistic classroom perspective.

3. Teachers are seeking research-based effective practices that support integrating technology into instruction.

4. Teachers learn best when provided with models for linking technology with purposeful reading and writing activities.

She points to the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow study which suggests that teachers move through a developmental continuum in their integration practices:
1) adoption – use technology to support traditional instruction
2) adaption – integrate technology into existing classroom activities
3) appropriation – developing new approaches to teaching by taking advantage of technology
4) innovation – discover new uses of technology tools

Julie also advocates for the study group model of professional development which she draws from Lyon and Pinnel's book "Systems of Change in Literacy Education: A guide for Professional Development", where facilitators guide teachers through a professional development program framed in ten components.

1. Assessing the context for teaching and learning
2. provide basics of a new approach with concrete examples of organization and routine
3. demonstrate with explicit examples
4. establish clear rationales for the approach
5. engage teachers in active learning and exploration of new techniques
6. invite teachers to try new techniques and share their analysis of process and results
7. establish procedures for pursing a plan of action
8. coach for shifts in teacher and student behavior
9. coach to support teacher reflection, and continual refinement
10. extend learning through small group conversations that connect theory with practice and build networks among educators.

Constructivist Theory in Simple Terms

Some authors divide constructivist theory into two main areas: cognitive constructivism, which focuses on the individual learner, and social constructivism, which emphasizes learning as occurring within the context of dialogue and social interaction.

Cognitive constructivism based on the work of educational psychologists like Piaget, who views knowledge as being created through experience. Knowledge is not transferred from teacher to student in a ready-made format, but actively built by each learner. The internet makes this process much easier than in a non-wired classroom. By using hyperlinks, educators can connect to several resources, scaffolding students’ construction of knowledge.

Social constructivism looks at learning from a social perspective. The Vygotskian concept of zone of proximal development is an appropriate example. It stresses elements of learning which cannot be accounted for by a learner’s own intellectual activity, but grounded in interpersonal exchange. As students engage in discussion and social interaction they construct their knowledge by considering other peoples’ opinions and actions. Educators have the opportunity to “eavesdrop� on ideas that are going back and forth between students, give feedback and guide student understanding.

Using Flow Theory In Learning Object Design

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to “flow� as a situation when someone is so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; they become totally unaware of their surroundings, but are enjoying the task at hand.Students can be given opportunities to work through activities in a way that they will forget that they are even learning a concept. In the construction of learning objects, I often concentrate on engaging students and keeping them engaged by adding a range of online synchronous and asynchronous options that will hopefully create flow. I really like the idea of students being so engaged in a concept that they lose track of time.

One indication of a successfully designed learning object “for me� is a learning object where student concentration is directed at a concept, and students become so immersed in the task that they feel the need to go back and try it again and again, in order to feel captivated one more time.

ADDIE Instructional Design Model

ADDIE stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. It is an acronym for a five step method for designing instructional materials. It can be used for the design of any type of instructional materials. There are many other models of instructional design that I can draw upon, but this model seems to be a workable format that I can easily follow as an instructional designer.The first phase in this design model is analysis. The instructional designer defines the audience, what they need to learn, the way in which instructional materials will be delivered, and the constraints on the project.

The second phase is design. In this phase the subject matter, instructional objectives and the type of web environment are selected. During this phase the interactive elements of the learning object are designed. I often use PowerPoint to help me organize the layout of my learning objects and design the interactive components, drawing upon the works of June Lestor in “Math Design: the what and why of it.

The third phase of this model is the development phase. This phase is when the learning objects are created and the developer concentrates on the appropriateness of user interactions for learning. The developer may also reflect on the effectiveness of the design and make changes in order to suit the goals of the learning object. During this phase I use my technical knowledge to create the learning object and make changes that are necessary to the design of the object.

The implementation phase is where the learning object is published and distributed to the learner. At this time, any technical or organizational issues that may arise are resolved.

The final phase of this design model is the evaluation phase, when the developer tests for the success of the learning object in helping the learner to attain the appropriate concepts. This might be done through formal or informal evaluation methods.

Equivalency Theory In Learning Object Design

Equivalency theory relates to the types of interactions in classrooms: student-teacher, student-student, and student-content. If one of these three forms of interaction is in a learning object at a very high level, then the other two can be offered at lower levels or even eliminated without the loss of educational experience. If possible, including more than one type of interaction at a high level could mean a more satisfying educational experience for the student.

This theory helps reassures me that if I remove the student to teacher interaction from the learning object that successful learning can still take place. Just how far seems to depend on the class that is being taught. A few students seem to work independently in a student-content relationship while most others seem to excel in a student-student relationship.

As I stated previously, equivalency theory provided me with some scaffolding to aid in my design of my learning objects. The student to student connection can be supported by creating opportunities for students to rely on each other through online communication tools. I also try to create content that allows students to explore concepts in greater detail accentuating the student to content connection.

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