Technology Skills for Teachers
For ten years, we've known that teachers
need professional development to use technology. Integrating
technology into the classroom is a K-12, higher education and
Schools of education have been asked to
add courses, but continue to graduate technologically unprepared
teachers. Their new districts become responsible for their technology
development. New teachers are historically overwhelmed the first
year they teach. They shouldn't have to spend the first year
learning technology as well. Yet, most schools of education have
few courses where technology integration is taught or modeled
by professors. It's hard to be a role model when you have the
same problems as the people you're instructing (no equipment
or professional development).
District superintendents and county offices
of education have tried to provide the professional development
for new and experienced teachers, but there is not enough funding
for technology and sufficient professional development.
Why is professional development for teachers
our lowest educational priority?
How can new teachers, experienced teachers,
and professors develop the skills that they need?
The problems are obvious, but the magnitude
New reports are routinely released saying
that teachers need to receive massive instruction in technology
use. Recently, the US Department of Education awarded millions
to train 400,000 new teachers in classroom technology use. The
per head amount is about the cost of a three credit hour course
at a land grant university. That's not much given estimates that
schools will hire 2.2 million new teachers over the next five
years. That leaves 1.8 million new teachers without the proper
training. That's progress.
The reason that teachers need training
has been pointed up in recent evaluations conducted by TEC across
the nation. Teachers are comfortable using word processing applications
in front of students, but they aren't comfortable with presentation
programs, databases, spreadsheets and other content application
Reports and evaluations have consistently
shown that classroom technology is not used if the teacher has
not had minimal training. This goes for chalk, posters, and overhead
projectors which were once "technology." Teachers are
comfortable with word processing because they've had the most
experience with it. They use the applications with which they're
the most comfortable in front of students.
That makes sense, no one wants to be embarrassed
in front of students. Why are teachers embarrassed? Because the
teaching model is still traditional and that model requires the
teacher to know everything. If the teaching model is facilitative,
the necessity to know everything diminishes. It becomes acceptable
for students to help classmates and even the teacher as they
collaborate and learn together.
While reports show that 88 percent of schools
have internet connections and computer ratios are dropping to
5.9 students per computer, that still translates to a classroom
with thirty students using five computers. Do the math. Five
students can use the computers; 25 students cannot use the computers.
Teachers face a new set of classroom management
problems; what do you do with the 25 who aren't on the computer,
or for that matter, the five who are? How do you put lesson plans
together that make this a better learning environment? It was
easier when there was only one computer
When teachers do receive the massive professional
development they need, it inundates them with information (the
core dump method of instruction), and too little time is left
for computer skill development, Internet exploring, and lesson
writing with peers. The one and two week summer seminars are
necessary, but the most useful professional development takes
places over a period of time such as Wednesday afternoons or
Saturday mornings for ten weeks. Teachers need the time to learn
the content, process the information, apply it with their students,
and assess what they need to learn next. Then they return for
more and go through the same process. That is the way adults
learn best (kids too). Think of it as just-in-time training for
What is going to make a difference? One
of the best ideas we've seen that has produced validated results
is the mentor/coach who is on call to help teachers. It's built
on the idea of just-in-time training. The teacher wants to do
something for the class, calls the coach, discusses the content.
The coach can coach on the phone, through e-mail, or go to the
school for a one-on-one with the teacher. It gives the teacher
a second chance at perfecting skills that don't sink in the first
time (not everyone intuitively knows how to run slide presentation
software). The coach can provide guidance in finding Internet
resources, lesson plans, ideas that students like and try to
meet the student needs that the teacher has identified.
Another method that works well is the faculty
development area with the technology to produce multiple media.
A technology coach/ mentor runs the center and helps instructors
convert traditional lessons to mediated lessons.
Teachers ask for time to plan together
to develop full lessons that meet district curriculum frameworks.
Since each teacher is presumably doing this alone now, one wonders
why teachers haven't banded together across schools to do this.
The coach can organize this as an e-mail collaboration and role
model how to do it.
A major problem for low-income districts
is teacher attrition. The district hires new teachers, invests
in their technology professional development, and two years later
the teacher moves to a more affluent district. Many technology
directors believe they can stop this if the level of technology,
professional development, and coaching is substantial. If it
can reduce the high turnover that plagues the poorer districts,
it would be a real win for the students. It seems simple, but
it's difficult to accomplish as most teachers feel that the technology
and support should be a given. Maybe they're right.
from "Prism on
the Future," Teleconference Magazine, September 10, 1999,
by Carla Lane, Ed.D.