Technology Professional Development:
Successful Strategies for Teacher Change
ERIC Identifier: ED477616
Publication Date: 2003-12-00
Author: Barnett, Harvey
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
The goal of any professional development program is to inform and change teacher
behavior as a result of new information. To this end, teachers and other educators
spend countless hours in professional development activities learning to use new
instructional strategies or materials. Sometimes there is change, and sometimes the
person goes right back to doing what he or she had been doing all along. Bob
Pearlman, Director of Strategic Planning, New Technology Foundation, said once in a
speech, "Anybody who thinks they can inculcate teachers with anything on a mandatory
basis is nuts." The trick then is to design your professional development activities in a
way that ensures that teachers' time and your investment in time and money pay off in
increased student achievement.
Getting teacher buy in is important when technology is involved, especially for those
who are not convinced technology is worth the time and effort. The first step of any
sound professional development program is to develop a belief about technology
professional development that includes the idea that the curriculum drives the use of
technology, not vice-versa, and that empowered teachers will find appropriate ways to
include technology with their ongoing instruction rather than view it as an activity
unconnected to the district's content standards. Research and best teaching practices
consistently show that without effective staff development and continuous support,
technology integration will never be satisfactorily achieved (Bailey and Powell, 1998).
Technology professional development programs are successful when they focus on the
teacher's stage of use. A teacher afraid of technology or a beginning user would be lost
in a class for power users.
In 1992, Mandinach described four stages of technology use: survival, mastery, impact
and innovation. Here is a description of the four stages:
- A teacher in the survival stage:
- Struggles against technology;
- Is assailed by problems (everything that can go wrong will);
- Doesn't change the status quo in the classroom;
- Uses technology only for directed instruction;
- Has management problems planning how to have 30 students access a few computers;
- Has unrealistic expectations, believing that technology use by itself will result in higher
A teacher in the mastery stage:
- Has increased tolerance to hardware and software problems;
- Begins to use new forms of interaction with students and class room practices;
- Has increased technical competence and can troubleshoot simple problems.
A teacher in the impact stage:
- Regularly incorporates new working relationships and class room structures;
- Balances instruction and construction;
- Is rarely threatened by technology;
- Regularly creates technology enhanced instructional units.
A teacher in the innovation stage:
These stages of use closely mirror those described by David Dwyer (1994) and Dwyer,
Ringstaff and Sandholtz (1991) in their Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT)
research. Even with extensive professional development and coaching it can take a
teacher from 3 to 5 years to reach the mastery and impact stages.
- Modifies his or her classroom environment to take full advantage of technology
enhanced curriculum and learning activities.
Here are six technology professional development systems implemented by districts
that will help teachers reach impact and mastery levels.
In addition, WestEd RTEC has developed a set of tools to assist you in planning,
monitoring and assessing the level of technology use by administrators, teachers and
- After school
This is the typical format for most districts. It is also among the lease
effective. Teachers are tired at the end of the day, and intense concentration can be
difficult. The system works best to raise awareness, introduce concepts or to learn
about easy-to-use applications.
- Technology Rover/Prep Shops
This delivery system brings just in time training.
Teachers sign up for an hour of individual coaching, indicating their training need. The
school hires a floating substitute for the day; the trainer provides the needed assistance;
and the teacher receives individual training targeted to his or her individual need. At
schools where teachers have prep time, they sign up during their prep period. This
system has been very cost effective for delivering training to help teachers with specific
hardware or software applications.
- Mini Grants
Teachers value the incentives of time and money. Provide a small
$300-$500 grant to a teacher to learn a piece of hardware, software application or
develop a technology-enhanced unit. As a condition for receiving the grant, the teacher
agrees to train others about what he or she has learned.
- Summer or Off Track Institutes
Research (Dwyer, 1994) found that teachers reform
their teaching practices when they have the time to learn new hardware and software
applications and reflect on their present teaching practices. Multi-day institutes are one
of the most effective delivery systems for supporting teachers in their efforts to fully
incorporate technology with the instructional program because teachers are not tired
from teaching or thinking about what a substitute is doing in their classrooms.
- Distance Learning
Anytime, anywhere learning can be an alternative to face-to-face
instruction. Districts can contract with either a profit or non-profit provider or develop
their own. Distance learning has the advantage of allowing teachers to access
professional development at a time and location convenient for them. The Distance
Learning Network (www.dlrn.org) is a good place to begin your search for distance
learning professional development courses. A non-profit source for online courses is
CTAP Online, a site devoted to helping teachers understand, apply and teach
technology in their classroom (www.ctaponline.org).
- Research based professional development programs
These programs can provide professional development that will make a difference for teachers. EMints
(http://emints.more.net) and Environmental and Spatial Technology
(www.eastproject.org/Portal/) are two examples of research based professional
development programs that are successful.
(visit http:// www.edgateway.net/cs/tk/print/rtec_docs/prof_dev.html).
As you consider your technology professional development program, the following lists
of what works and what does not describe some issues to ponder.
What does not work:
- Getting input from stakeholders;
- Helping principals to be champions for professional development;
- Grouping teachers by grade level or subject;
- Evaluating all professional development activities and reorganize as needed;
- Providing time for hands-on activities;
- Focusing content on curriculum instead of software;
- Modeling classroom examples;
- Being flexible and listening to teachers needs;
- Creating a technology enhanced lesson plan;
- Providing access to appropriate hardware and software.
You have reviewed the research, listened to teachers and principals, and provided time
for learning. To determine if your technology professional development program is
making a difference in how teachers incorporate technology, look for the following
indicators of success:
- Top down decisions without teacher input;
- No involvement from principals;
- Little or no planning;
- "Spray and pray" - a one-hour workshop with no follow-up;
- Lots of instructor talk with little time for hands-on;
- Show and tell sessions;
- No evaluation or feedback.
If these factors are in evidence, then your technology professional development
program is impacting how teachers use technology in their classrooms.
- Classroom instruction is redesigned.
- There is a change in the learning environment, from the teacher as the director of
learning to the teacher as a facilitator of learning.
- How many teachers who receive training become trainers?
- Teacher renewal and enthusiasm.
- Increased teacher collaboration.
- Technology is a catalyst for more powerful student learning.
This publication is funded in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of
Education under contract number ED-99-CO-0005. The content of this publication does
not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education nor
does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply
endorsement by the U.S. government. ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Harvey Barnett is a Senior Research Associate in the Regional Technology Education
Consortium (RTEC) program at WestEd. He has served as a consultant to state
departments of education for technology planning and policy issues. He has also served
as principal of Stevens Creek School in Cupertino, California, one of the first Apple
Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) project schools in partnership with Apple Computer
Inc., and as Director of Technology for the Cupertino School District.
Assessing staff technology competence from now on. (1993). "The Educational
Technology Journal," (3)9.
Bailey, G. D, & Powell, D. (1998). Technology staff development and support programs:
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26(3), 47-51, 64. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 579 995)
Dwyer, D. (1994). Apple classrooms of tomorrow: What we've learned. "Educational
Leadership" 51(7), 4-10. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 508 281)
Dwyer, D. C., Ringstaff, C., & Sandholtz, J. H. (1991). Changes in teachers' beliefs and
practices in technology-rich classrooms. "Educational Leadership" 48(8), 45-52. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 425 608)
Mandinach, E., & Cline, H. (1992). "The impact of technological curriculum innovation
on teaching and learning activities." Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the
American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, California. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED 345 717)
Sandholtz, J., Ringstaff, C., & Dwyer, D. C. (1990). "Classroom management: Teaching
in high tech environments: Classroom management revisited first-fourth year findings
(ACOT Report #10)." Cupertino, CA: Apple Computer, Inc., Advanced Technology
Group, Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow.
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