Learn By Doing: A Hands-On Approach to Help Teachers Use Technology

As a professional developer, you may have the same 15 percent to 30 percent of teachers, the early adopters, participating in all of your workshops. These teachers are hooked on technology and would probably use it with or without your encouragement.

But you want to reach the remaining 70 to 85 percent and convince them of the blessings of technology. And you are concerned not only about whether these teachers are using technology, but if and how they are using it with their students.

To reach more teachers, model a lesson with the appropriate resource for the curriculum; show how it can improve their students' learning; and provide opportunities for teachers to learn, plan, practice, experiment, reflect and share the use of technology.

Ideas to Get Teachers to Use Technology

  • Review content standards so teachers can make sure the topic meets what they are supposed to be teaching.
  • Model several lessons with student examples, including some simple lessons so teachers are not discouraged or afraid to jump in.
  • Show teachers how to find rich, relevant and appropriate resources.
  • Provide templates, support materials, and a mentor or coach.
  • Team an early adopter with a teacher new to technology so the excitement rubs off.
  • Give teachers lots of hands-on time to practice, plan and reflect on what they learned.
  • Feed them and provide incentives such as prizes and stipends.
  • Provide "talk time" so teachers can share what they learn.

Next are a few examples of professional development programs, some of which include some of the ideas just mentioned.

See it, Learn it, Make it, Take it

Teachers need hands-on experience; they need "to do a thing" to really remember it. At Chico State University this July, the Summer Teaching and Leadership Collaborative (STLC) provided over 300 teachers many hands-on opportunities based on the "See it, Learn it, Make it, Take it" model. The first day began with students from around the region showcasing projects and spotlight sessions on CLRN, CTAP2, CTAP Online, Effective Professional Development Programs, and much more. Then teachers selected from 30 sessions of two full-day workshops such as "Unleashing the Internet" specifically for K-4, 5-8 or 9-12. Participants were mostly from Region II and III, but there were attendees from all over the country including from Washington, D.C. Each session had two or three presenters who were classroom teachers and available technicians for any troubleshooting concerns. About 30 principals participated in one of the first AB75 trainings, where they gave lots of positive feedback. Participants and presenters were treated as professionals with everything they needed including continental breakfasts, delicious lunches, snacks and lots of raffle prizes. There was also lots of time for teachers to network and share. For questions about STLC contact Steve Klein or Brian Ausland. To request information about CTAP2 and CTAP Online, contact Paul Haas.

Teams Creating Curriculum Projects

Orange City Schools in Ohio developed an integrated Pre-K to fifth-grade scope and sequence of skills, required classes at the middle-school level, and has electives for grades nine through twelve. Technology Integration Representatives at each grade level facilitate the integration of technology by sharing ideas and resources for integration and by modeling effective use of technology. Some worked this summer to develop a database of lessons designed to assist teachers in utilizing district technology resources more effectively. Orange City's goal is to have a laptop for all 223 teachers by school year 2002-2003. All teachers and students have access to any tools and resources they need to meet curriculum goals including Interactive Video Distance Learning.

The Instructional Technology Academies

With choices of incentive packages, these academies were designed to meet the time requirements, equipment needs and skill levels of participants. Teachers signed up in teams of three or four and submitted a plan for a curriculum-based project showing technology integration. Participants in the Foundations Academy worked on basic skills and received additional individualized training. For those who were more adept at integrating technology there was the Innovations Academy which provided an opportunity to pursue a unique curricular project. Also included in the academies were offerings for trainers, new teachers, support staff and administrators. Contact Mary Ann Guidos or Kurt Bernardo for more information.

A Variety of Approaches

Visalia Unified, a K-12 district with 30 schools, is using a variety of approaches for professional development. This summer, 50 teachers participated in a typical weeklong (institute-type) setting with the usual technology-rich curriculum unit as the finished project. The unique feature was that the teachers took their computers home for the summer (then back to school in the fall) to polish their final unit. Visalia has ongoing technology and instructional support via e-mail or on-site during the school year. Once the unit is finished (and meets the district's specs), teachers are rewarded with a $500 classroom technology shopping spree. Side benefits to this program included giving technology coaches more teaching experience and creating a cadre masters program that builds internal leadership. The VI CSTP (BTSA) standards are emphasized in each training so that technology is understood/practiced as an expression of good teaching. The technology coach/mentor program and a stable level of tech support work hand in hand. The principal leadership academy drives the culture change from the top. For more information about Visalia's program, contact Scott Smith.

Make it Relevant

You probably have some resistant teachers in your school or district. However, they may come around when they see how technology can motivate their students and be a clear solution for delivering instruction. If the first lesson they try is simple to do and is aligned to their standards, they may use it and take the next step: adapt it or create their own lesson with technology. Yet, many teachers have other priorities and need a little convincing on the value of technology in their classroom. To encourage your teachers to attend any professional development opportunity, provide incentives such as stipends, raffle prizes, paid time beyond the school day to work on projects, a person they can lean on when they cannot figure something out, and ideas to help them take the next step.

Teachers are more inclined to use technology if it is the most appropriate resource for their curriculum, if it is not too difficult for them to figure out, and the lesson they use or adapt is relevant for their classroom.

Email: Barbara Bray is president of Computer Strategies, LLC and My eCoach. She moderates the CUE techstaffdevelop listerv and writes PDQs for TechLearning.com where you can also submit tips.

Copyright 2003, CUE, Inc. Reprinted with permission.