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Click, Developing an Online Professional Development Program for Teachers

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Imagine the seemingly insurmountable task of training 3,000 teachers within a year and a half. That is one of the challenges that Indianapolis Public School’s Telecommunication and Instructional Media team, directed by Dorothy Crenshaw, was facing approximately one year ago. Numerous training initiatives had already been implemented, focusing on training teachers on the use of various software packages. However, the teachers were ready to move to the implementation stage. They were ready to learn about integration techniques for technology. So instead of bringing 3,000 teachers to a specific location on Saturdays or weeknights, the team decided to implement the training online.

In 1999, the Indianapolis Public Schools, under the direction of Superintendent Dr. D.N. Pat Pritchett, wrote a comprehensive technology plan for the school district. A significant portion of the grant focused on professional development. The technology plan was named CLICK (Community of Learners, Information, Communication and Knowledge), which indicated two major goals regarding the implementation of technology into the curriculum.

The planning for project CLICK began. In order to create a success story, this project incorporated an amazing array of resources.

For one cycle of the project, it took:

· About 40 staff people working on various aspects of the project

· Six semi-trailer loads of computer tables

· Warehouse facilities the size of two gymnasiums

· Anywhere from six to 12 installers working at any given time

· Coordination of product purchase and delivery up to six months ahead of first delivery date

· Two secretaries coordinating registration and most other aspects of the project

· A purchasing department in charge of getting all products in at the right time and coordinating deliveries

· About 15 dedicated instructors from IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis)

· Educational technology students from IUPUI working in the labs

“It has been a pleasure to be associated with such a fine and innovative project,” says John Kern, supervisor of instructional media and telecommunications. “When a plan of this magnitude is fully implemented, it really takes the teachers to a new level of technology use; thus something ‘clicks.’ It’s my vision that the online environment will begin to enrich teachers’ curriculum and release them from some of their administrative tasks.”

A K-12 and University Collaboration

At the onset of the planning process, a collaboration was formed between the Indianapolis Public School and the Office of Instructional Technology at the IUPUI School of Education. The university provided the school district with a cutting-edge online environment developed by IU’s Cyberlab (www.cyberlab.iupui.edu) called Oncourse. This software allows for collaboration where users communicate via coursemail, bulletin board discussion forums and online chats. Course information and Web sites that teachers can visit can also be posted, as well as online quizzes or surveys.

Using IPS Curriculum as the focus for the planning of the professional development, Julie Bohnenkamp, director of instructional technology at IUPUI School of Education, met with the Instructional Media Team in the months before the implementation. During the planning process, many details needed to be worked on. Bohnenkamp consulted with university directors to plan training for IPS’s Help Desk technicians to provide the technical support that teachers would need. Graduate credit for the project was offered to the teachers for teacher recertification or graduate programs. Once goals and objectives had been set, a team of IUPUI School of Education instructors began developing the online environment. The courses were categorized by grade level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) in order to develop a team of participants with common curricular frameworks.

CLICK is a wonderful collaboration, which could serve as a model for other districts and universities who would like to implement similar projects. In providing a cutting-edge online environment for the implementation of staff development for a school district of this size, we are bringing teachers into the information age while creating a “smaller community” within a large urban environment.

Teachers Get Involved

After months of planning, the project was ready to be implemented. Teachers attended an initial meeting that trained them on the use of the Oncourse online environment, and then began working. As some may imagine, a totally online environment may not meet the needs of every learner. Therefore, additional activities were planned during the professional development activities. Open lab hours were established, manned by high school tech students and computer students from the university to answer technical questions. Teachers could attend any open lab time to get some face-to-face help when they were having difficulties with tasks such as downloading files, creating Web links, and inserting graphics into their Web quests. During the open lab time, a “teacher on call” was available to answer questions about the project guidelines.

In addition to the face-to-face open lab times, scheduled video presentations on a variety of “hands-on” topics were available to the teachers via the district’s cable channel. Within the online environment, teachers began sharing ideas, problem-solving, and experiencing success stories as they attempted to create a more integrated technology environment for their classrooms. Jeff McMahon, coordinator of technology programs, IPS, commented, “it is exciting to see teachers move from the productivity level to the integration level of technology use into their existing curricula. Teachers are now focusing on curriculum and using technology to enhance it.”

One of CLICK’s goals is for the teachers to become familiar with the district’s resources. Sixteen resources were outlined. The teachers were asked in their online class to integrate eight of those resources into their existing curricula. Teachers could choose from a variety of integration activities, such as a distance learning event, using the district video library to integrate a video into a lesson, using the classroom telephone as an instructional tool, integrating online resources into the lesson, or taking a field trip to the district or high school lab.

As the teachers logged onto the university Web portal, they were asked to participate in discussion groups, access list serves, and e-mail other teachers in the class for a total collaborative project. Their final project was a Web quest creation that supported the existing curriculum and the recent district-adopted ISTE Standards. A help desk was also available for phone support. One teacher states, “The CLICK program is a great way for teachers to learn how to use technology effectively in the classroom. This course offers hands-on experience, which allows the teacher to experiment and try new, innovative ways to help students. While learning through CLICK, I gained a better understanding of what my students face. I thoroughly enjoyed this program and look forward to the next phase. After developing my Web quest, I was able to give my students fun, independent work that I created. I recommend this program for teachers who want to enhance their classroom to a level of excellence.” As part of the goal for ongoing collaboration, teachers’ Web quests are published on the district Web site to share with other interested teachers.

Teachers’ Roles Redefined

After participating in this unique online experience where curriculum is driving the technology, teachers have begun to redefine their role, as well as the role of the technology. “CLICK combines the very best professional development with the latest technology to allow teachers to learn at their own pace, with plenty of support, in a collegial environment where they have access to a wide range of instructional resources,” says Dorothy Crenshaw, director of telecommunications and instructional media for IPS.

After such an extensive ongoing project, one might ask, “What’s next for this team?” Behind every successful project is a supportive leader. Therefore CLICK for Administrators — Online Principal’s Leadership in Technology Academy — is the latest project. Thirty principals will begin online training in this virtual environment, with lessons that explore effective use of technology in the classroom. These principals will write their own personal technology plans as well as explore innovative ways to use an online environment to support their teachers. They will gather for three face-to-face meetings, as well as three full months of online participation. After the completion of these activities, they will receive a laptop and knowledge that will assist them in supporting their classroom teachers.

Developing a model that works continues to be the goal for these innovative projects. The team meets after each “round” to brainstorm what went well and what needs to be changed. This continuous evaluation keeps the staff development program moving in the right direction.

Julie Bohnenkamp
E-mail: jsykes@iupui.edu

Jeff McMahon
E-mail: mcmahonj@mail.ips.k12.in.us

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2001 issue of THE Journal.

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