As we begin our Summer quarter looking at ISTE Coaching Standard 3, I can’t help but connect to our last assignment of looking at Professional Development. Just like my intent to find more personalized PD, this week I’m looking for inspiration in classroom design, functionality, and management. Perhaps it’s because I’m no longer a new teacher, but I rarely have the opportunity to tour other buildings and classrooms now. Diving into the unknown with a new classroom and adding digital devices this upcoming Fall, I wish I could have toured other sites to see classroom configurations, in particular schools that have successfully implemented blended learning.
Immediately, my mind is filled with images of traditional classroom, perfect rows of desks, all facing the front. Technology typically desktops, secluded, facing walls. But does this environment promote collaboration?
How can teachers explore alternative classroom configurations to promote collaboration amongst students? In particular, how can we promote student-led collaboration? This image with the empty chairs serves as a reminder of classrooms where the teacher dictates and students are expected to sit quietly in their seats, waiting to be called upon.
You mention adding more devices to support personalized learning and people fear a scenario like a call centre, filled with dividers, headsets, and limited face-to-face interaction. So how do we find balance?How can we create a classroom environment that promotes digital learning and collaboration, while maintaining effective classroom management?
I found a great article from 2 years ago that really speaks to my vision for this upcoming year, How to Kick Off Blended Learning (Hint: It’s Not Just About Tech). As I begin planning for a blended learning classroom, this article reminded me of how important procedures are to the success of any rotation model. Perhaps the most poignant point made is to begin the year with foundational skills and routines before introducing technology. It’s so easy to get excited to launch a new program, but to avoid daily challenges, we need to remember to establish clear expectations and teach strategies for self-regulation. The last thing a teacher wants during small group stations is to be summoned to troubleshoot tech issues. So how can teachers add technology and find the training/coaching support they need to make the transition?
How Does Research Drive Professional Development?
Education Week Research Center surveyed around 700 K-12 teachers regarding technology in the classroom. They discovered that teachers are eager to embrace technology in the classrooms but feel cautious due to lack of devices, professional development on integration, and lack buy-in due to whose presenting. Recently I ran into other ELL teachers at a Summer Training and when I mentioned my program in Digital Education they immediately assumed I’m trying to leave students to work independently on computers, which is a common misconception about the potential of technology in the classroom. One teacher was quick to question how just reading books online is really helping children develop English language acquisition. Ed Week’s research also supported these common assumptions that we are simply digitizing existing skills such as reading, writing, math facts.
However, there are so many ways to promote student production and creativity through technology development. Sanina’s article offers further support to teachers by creating a 21 lesson plan for teachers to not only introduce procedures and classroom expectations, but delves into troubleshooting. Beyond procedures and tech, we’re reminded to be intentional about our grouping of students. The intent is to have one group working collaboratively independent of teacher support, so if all the low students are grouped together this becomes problematic.
This begs the question, how do we move beyond common assumptions about technology and student accountability for learning? Teachers want more personalized PD. Offering tech devices, just like new curriculum, without teacher-led PD leads to frustration. Teachers spend hours each year attending PD either district mandated or self-elected. In my personal experience, the worst PDs make you quickly realize you’re getting a sales pitch and it creates an “us versus them” vibe. My thoughts turn to “How does this apply to me?” or “Do they realize what type of school I work in?”
Many recent studies have asked teachers what they want. As we shift to personalize learning for students in the classroom, we need to also shift to personalize professional development to increase active participation from teachers. Teachers need confidence to move away from being the authoritarian in the classroom and have opportunities to learn from teachers who work in similar environments.
Make Professional Development Meaningful
For example, having someone from a private school with 1:1 devices try to sell me on the benefits of technology may not be successful, do to my environment of working in a Title 1 school that still lacks a computer lab. However, having someone come in and model how blended learning can work with shared devices, using student anecdotes relatable to urban diverse populations, will at least peak my interest.
In conclusion, if we want to encourage teachers to use digital devices and promote collaboration, we need districts to offer trainings applicable to their demographics and building needs. This requires planning between administration, coaches, and teacher input. In future, I’d like to see more options on how to support teachers in the classroom and less PD on curriculum implementation or testing. I want to be able to develop strategies to support all learners in my classroom and continue to learn about technological advances that can differentiate student production.
This leaves me wanting release time to visit other classrooms and learn from those who have had success creating a blended learning environment. Imagine if every teacher could be identified for a strength that others seek out to learn from. In contrast to dreading annual observations, teachers could become leaders within their community and model their strengths for others.
Dorr, E. (2016, December 12). How Administrators Can Design the Best Learning Experiences for Teachers – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-11-04-how-administrators-can-design-the-best-learning-experiences-for-teachers
Johnson, K. (2016, July 10). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them-If Implementation Improves – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves?utm_content=bufferfa66c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Rebora, A. (2017, February 08). Teachers Still Struggling to Use Tech to Transform Instruction, Survey Finds. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/06/09/teachers-still-struggling-to-use-tech-to.html?tkn=SUNF3xA1W22FFtjNlbjUg5JOX4Y8vP7i4W5T&intc=es
Sanina, E. (2016, July 10). How to Kick Off Blended Learning (Hint: It’s Not Just About Tech) – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-09-28-how-to-kick-off-blended-learning-hint-it-s-not-just-about-tech