In reflecting upon everything I’ve read thus far involving technology in teaching practices, I keep thinking to myself:
This sounds great, but how to we get there and get people on board?
Many of these teaching practices and models for technology integration make sense to me. As a special educator, I see numerous benefits for students with exceptionalities and their abilities to access curriculum and present what they know. However, I find in practice that many teachers are resistant to incorporating things into their teaching practice that are in students’ IEPs for various reasons, the most common being “I don’t know how” or “I need more support.” When I often see this as a response for implementing things like breaks for students, extra time, or incentive plans, I have a feeling there may be a similar reaction to implementing a new methodology or bringing in technology into the classroom. Given the commonality of this mindset and potential response, I wanted to look more into the “how do we get there?”
In thinking about how to make this all a reality in the classroom, I think it starts with mindset change and adequate training opportunities for teachers and leaders. I was interested to see what policy had to say in this area, given the high need for it. In December 2016, the US Department of Education released a policy brief called Advancing Educational Technology in Teacher Preparation: Policy Brief. The purpose of this brief was to identify key challenges and solutions to integration of technology into teacher preparation, provide guiding principles as to how to move towards effective integration of technology, and identify opportunities for collaboration across the field. The vision of this policy brief is to create a system in which pre-service and in-service teachers, as part of their teacher preparation programs, school and district leadership, and faculty to collaborate and discover ways to integrate technology as an effective tool to enhance learning for all students. While the brief is primarily targeted towards teacher preparation programs, its principles may be applied to other aspects of adult learning and development as well. The brief is targeted towards this specific aspect of training in order to prepare the next generation of teachers for the embrace of our rapidly developing technology in order to enhance the student learning experience.
The first guiding principle of the brief is to focus on the active use of technology in the classroom. Active use of technology refers to methods of technology integration in which there is heavy interaction between students or students and program. Passive use of technology refers to use of technology that is not highly interactive and students act as consumers, rather than produce anything new back. With the push towards higher level of interactions and for students to also be producing work, there needs to be an increased emphasis on active use. With active use of technology, students are forced to think creatively and critically and develop new ideas to show full understanding over content taught. The brief suggests that to train teachers to do this, pre-service teachers should experience this kind of active use themselves to grasp a full understanding.
The second guiding principle of the brief is build sustainable, program-wide systems of professional learning for higher education instructors to strengthen and continually refresh their capacity to use technological tools to enable transformative learning and teaching. This guiding principles discusses that, due to the rapid changes of technology, not only should pre-service teachers receive instruction, but also their teachers to ensure new educators are being provided the most up-to-date information. The brief mentions that some educators may find the use of the TPACK model helpful to think about integrating technology into their foundation of pedagogical and content knowledge (see model below).
The third guiding principle is that pre-service teachers’ experiences with educational technology must be program-deep and program-wide rather than one-off courses separate from their methods courses. Occasionally in teacher preparation programs, there are individual courses on individual concepts. Instead, this brief is proposing that not only should technology be introduced and taught, but it should then be woven into each course and assignment moving forward. Given that this is something we are hoping to see happen in classrooms regularly, teachers should have as much experience as possible with these methodologies to feel adequately prepared for teaching.
The fourth guiding principle is that these efforts to integrate technology should be done in alignment with research-based standards, framework, and credentials widely used and recognized across the field. While adding a new component to practice, it is unwise to change and restructure everything all at once. It is important to keep this integration in alignment with practices supported by research that are already in place. Technology has the potential to be seamlessly integrated to enhance student learning, not necessarily change it.
In reviewing the policy brief and its guiding principles, I think beginning with creating provisions for teacher preparation programs is a good first step. As we move forward in the education field, I can see great value in better preparing “future generations” of educators to integrate technology in an active way to change practice moving forward. However, we also need to be making these same strides with those already in the field. The first step, as something I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, is a mindset change and leadership needs to begin this charge. Occasionally teachers display a fixed mindset when it comes to new practices and technology. By educational leaders making a change in their mindset, attending professional development, leading by example, and providing adequate opportunities for professional learning. In providing these opportunities, they should align with guiding principles outlined in the policy brief. Teachers should be given as much experience and practice with these tools and the push should be towards the active us of technology in the classroom. I think it is certainly possible for us to move in this direction, given teachers receive adequate training and support. While there may be challenges, it will be worth it in the long run to see the benefits to students’ learning.
In thinking about all of this, I pose to you: How do you see this principles carrying over into professional development opportunities? Realistically, how long do you think for schools to be ready to roll out these types of programs and what limitations will they have to overcome?
U.S. Office of Ed Tech. (2016). Advancing educational technology in teacher preparation: Policy brief.