Teaching teachers technology.

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If every student in your class had a computer, what would you have them do?

A Google search? Create a PowerPoint? How about something radical, like making a PhotoStory?

Supporting teachers to move beyond the absolute basics in a technology-rich school environment is a challenge, particularly when – just like in any classroom – there is such a diversity of ability.

A post by EdTech Researcher contributor Justin Reich two weeks ago really struck a chord with my own experience of teaching teachers.

Justin and his co-presenters highlight four “big ideas” that they believe are instrumental in working with teachers. I re-evaluated these four “big ideas” through the lens of my own school environment:

1. Technology needs to be in the service of learning. Too often professional development opportunities in the area of edtech are focused on how to use the functionality of a piece of equipment/software/application. It feels as if how the ‘thing’ impacts student learning is tacked on, an afterthought. In working with colleagues to develop pedagogies that support improved student learning, I try to move the focus away from the ‘thing’ and more toward  what student learning goals teachers want to achieve in their classroom and how technology could possibly assist that.

2. Teachers need a common language, a framework, for thinking of technology integration. Being in the Northern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne, Australia, my school utilises the Powerful Learning Strategies as the common language for thinking about improving classroom practices. The challenge with using a framework, however, is ensuring that all teaching staff support and buy-in to the strategies. A common language is only as useful as the number of people that understand it!

3. Teachers have a large variability is ability levels. I liked what Justin Reich proposed with challenge-based instruction. I am looking to begin implementing this in the PD sessions that we run with staff at school (starting tomorrow!) Providing differentiated learning opportunities is what we do for our students, why not do the same for their teachers?

4. Teachers influence teachers. Period. The whole idea of having teachers collaborating with other teachers within a school is fundamental to the successful integration of technology. External providers of knowledge have a place, but in order to achieve real engagement and sustained change, there must be time and opportunity for teachers to work together. We have created what are called TRIADs – small groups (usually three people) that meet in an open learning space where other TRIAD groups are working together. The aim of these groups is to utilise technology in developing richer, more engaging and more relevant units of learning. Only by giving teachers the time to sit, talk and play does this type of change occur. Proximity also means that – as stated in point 3, above – teachers with higher abilities can assist staff that need support.

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