reaction: “Educators, Technology and 21st Century Skills: Dispelling Five Myths”

[O]n-the-job technology training for teachers focuses on how to operate new equipment, but not necessarily on how to integrate it into the fabric of their instruction. For this, schools would need to have technology professionals and academic staff, such as master teachers and instructional coaches, working side by side with teachers as they learn, practice and refine their use of technology to support student learning. (28)

Research out of Walden University (http://www.waldenu.edu/Degree-Programs/Masters/36427.htm see “full report”) points to an increasing trend of support for technology acquisition and use, but insufficient implementation support.  The report demonstrates that while administrations may be supportive, teachers do not have enough confidence in their classroom implementation of technology that could help develop students’ 21st-Century skills that better prepare them for a technology-powered workforce.

Even pre-service teachers do not feel that they know how to wield technology.  I was surprised by this finding, only because graduating college classes are now going to be the ones who have grown up with technology and the Internet facilitating their memories, interactions and/or relationships.  New teachers will need to translate that experience with modeled, professional as well as social behavior in the classroom.  For that need, too, new teachers turn to professional development or professional relationships with master teachers.  Here, universities should take notice of the survey results and perhaps retool some of their required curriculum or at least provide more elective courses with special focuses on technology experience in the field.

Frequently when working in schools, we feel that a deployment announcement reads more like, “We’ve decided to go this route… let us know if you need anything when things go wrong.”  rather than “We’ve gone through all of this transition time (thanks for your patience), and now here’s how a great lesson will look with our new tools.”  Where teachers report as not being supported is in the modeling of the technology / 21st-Century skills that they themselves are then expected to model for students.  (We might even feel similar to how we did in our pre-service days when we were asked to translate state standards into a hands-on lesson for students.)  When teachers are confident enough to implement, they most often turn to peer technology specialists (certified or informal) in the field.  So, as technology specialists ourselves, we need to be designing our school technology programs to provide accessibility to our own knowledge.  Sure, we can even use technology to facilitate staff development, but we need the accessibility to be clear and apparent.  A school-accessible blog or social bookmarking service might open up the communication and provide a resource on where to find materials, models or tools; at least there would be some starting point of inspiration for the teachers we would serve.  Commenting tools open up for community involvement with suggestions or different points of view.  (I think to the growing model that Jim Burke’s English Companion Ning is developing at http://englishcompanion.ning.com/)  Again, however, the accessibility needs to be clear and apparent; teachers must have the resources communicated clearly, and the implementation suggestions must be apparent, too.

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