Piloting, Polishing & Perfecting: Creating and Implementing a Technology Staff Development Model

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Various approaches to training teachers in the use of classroom technology have been attempted in our central Texas school district. Unfortunately, before 1997, only unstandardized technology training was provided to the district and neither scope nor sequence of training existed. Trainers were doing a good job training the teachers, who were learning some skills, but consistency was lacking. It was difficult to build on skills, because each trainer only did what he or she thought was appropriate for their training. But that changed when the district instituted the Technology Academy.

For several years, 30 teachers spent one Saturday each month learning to use the computer and software provided to them. In return, the Technology Academy gave the teachers desktop computers. The academies worked well, but training 30 teachers a year out of 1,300 was not practical if the ultimate goal was to get all teachers trained. Fortunately, Texas received more than $35 million through the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund to be distributed to school districts in the form of Technology Integration in Education (TIE) grants. These grants were intended to support the integration of technology into teaching and learning, assisting in the advancement of students' technological literacy. The grant application encouraged the formation of collaboratives, inspiring several small districts and private schools to participate in the first year of the three-year endeavor.

The Multiple Access Model was created by providing educators with incentives to participate in training that was accessible when they needed it. Through this model, teachers were able to train in a manner that suited their needs and learning style. Teachers attended training through multiple formats in a multitude of ways. They were able to:

  • Attend training at a district training facility;
  • Attend on their campuses where a facilitator delivered training;
  • Download the training modules from the Web and complete the training at home; and
  • Check out a videotape of the training module to view as they completed the training.

As members of this collaborative, teachers were also provided a laptop computer and software.

Basic Technology Training

During the first year of the grant, the Foundations Program was created based on the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) research. This research identified stages teachers go through as they learn to use technology and incorporate it into their classrooms. The ACOT stages are entry, adoption, adaptation, appropriation and evaluation. The Foundations Program was designed to move teachers through the entry and adoption stages. This model offered the consistency the district needed. A scope and sequence were developed that listed categories in which teachers should be proficient. Specific skills were defined for each category, and training materials were created to match the identified skills. After we determined the appropriate format for the training modules, technology specialists - who were also serving as facilitators - were trained in instructional design principles. Training modules were constructed as the training was being delivered.

The modules were written to provide basic technology training for teachers as well as a vehicle for successful training in all participating districts. Teachers were required to complete modules in the following areas: basic Mac/ Windows, word processing, database, spreadsheet, multimedia, presentations, e-mail/ Internet, assistive technology and graphics. A very important component of the training was a portfolio that the participants kept, reflecting their work on each module. Participants com-pleted a pre- and post-checklist of skills, and produced a product for each module. There were associated readings from publications and reflective questions associated with each module. Each applicant was also expected to complete classroom application pieces. These components were kept in a binder and assessed by each facilitator as evidence of the progress being made.

The Need for Expansion

Much progress was made in the first year of the grant project. Districts received equipment, teachers were trained, facilitators took a leadership role and modules were developed. However, more remained to be done. Additional modules needed to be completed and the completed modules needed to be refined. Teachers who had gone through the training wanted more training, and other districts wanted to participate in the program. The decision had already been made to seek funding for a second year and continue the work that had begun during the first year of the grant.

By the second and third years, the consortium had expanded to 15 districts. Level 2 training evolved into the Integration Institute and an Administrator's Academy. The Integration Institute focused on individuals who had participated in the Foundations Program the year before and wanted to integrate technology further into the classroom. The Administrator's Academy was added for principals and other district administrators. The Principals' Center at Texas A&M was assigned to evaluate the project. The evaluation process involved keeping monthly logs, holding interviews and assembling focus groups. Evaluators took the information provided by each school district and created a report that was distributed to the participating school districts, as well as to the project director, the project coordinator and the funding agency.

As part of the evaluation, teachers were asked to complete a technology questionnaire at the beginning of each project year and again at the end of each grant year. The surveys were used to assess teacher attitudes toward technology in instruction. Because the surveys were the same, and were never revised throughout the first three years of the project, the Principals' Center was able to compare attitudes at the beginning and end of a single grant year. The center was also able to compare attitudes for all three grant years.

The Principals' Center evaluation team also conducted interviews with teacher facilitators, participating school administrators and executive committees for each year involved with the evaluation of the TIE grant. The purpose of the interviews was to complement the information obtained through participant logs and technology questionnaires. The variety of data produced a thorough description of the TIE program and its effects. Using action research methods as prescribed by Argyris and Schon (1974), and Erlandson et al. (1993), plus descriptive data, the Principals' Center was able to derive important themes and insights into how participants were impacted by the TIE project training.

Conclusions

The initial vision and plan for technology training and staff development grew and evolved into a very successful and workable model. Programs were created, piloted, refined and polished through a collaborative process across many miles. Thousands of teachers and students were positively impacted during the length of the program. All the schools involved had the opportunity to use the developed products in a way that would work best for them as a district. Participating districts realized an additional benefit - leadership.

Those who assumed the roles of Foundations Facilitators and Integra-tion Institute Faculty continued to grow professionally. In addition, each district sent representatives to bimonthly meetings to serve as members of the Leadership Team. These representatives provided input to guide the project director, coordinators and fiscal agents in making decisions for the group. They also gained information to take back to their districts.

The best parts of the project were the growth of teacher leadership and the opportunity to work with many professionals across a great distance in developing a quality product that has been beneficial to so many, including districts. Each can take the products from the consortium and fit them into their district plans however they choose. Within one of the participating districts, the Foundations modules are the standard for basic training at the district lab. All additional district technology training is created with the Foundation training modules in mind. A Technology Staff Development Committee has been formed at one district to evaluate all district modules. That committee makes sure that all Technology Applications Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TA TEKS) through grade 8 are covered by the training modules, so teachers can become competent in these TA TEKS.

The committee is also working to evaluate and modify all modules, so teachers who attend technology training gain the necessary skills, as well as provided guidance on how to implement them into their classrooms and involve students in learning these TA TEKS. The collaborative was a massive undertaking. Considering the scope of the project, facilitators were able to build on participant suggestions as well as past and present TIE training experiences in designing their fourth generation TIE program. Incorporation of participant feedback and evaluation data positively affected participants' overall views of the project.

References

Argyris, C. and D. A. Schon. 1974. Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey -Bass.

Erlandson, D. A. et al. 1993. Doing Naturalistic Inquiry: A Guide to Methods. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.

Resource Links

- Apple Learning Interchange
http://ali.apple.com

- Brazos-Sabine Connection
www.brazos-sabine.org

- Texas Education Agency
www.tea.state.tx.us

- Texas A&M University Principals' Center
www.c'e.tamu.edu


TIE Program Summary

The following is a summary of the major themes for the first three years of the grant project.

The first year of the TIE program resulted in a general increase in the frequency of technology utilization during the course of the project. This was evidenced by the pre- and post-technology questionnaires. Interviews indicated that the teachers were eager learners and faithfully attempted to use their new technology skills. Furthermore, facilitators expressed a need to continue with additional technology training and support for teachers. In addition, the evaluation team discovered that information from the participant logs indicated campus trends in technology utilization. Schools reported that the majority of computer usage was at the training and practice levels, while participant logs indicated the computers were used mostly for administrative purposes.

Information gathered by the evaluation team during the second year of the grant showed that teachers had become more comfortable in their use of the computer. The questionnaires also indicated that teachers increased their use of the computer for writing lesson plans, logging grades and personal use. Participant logs showed that teachers appreciated the training and saw benefits of applying the module activities with their students. In addition, facilitators expressed strong support for the computer training they received as a result of the TIE grant. They also expressed the desire for more opportunities to informally share training strategies, facilitation strategies and development of training modules. The interviews revealed that facilitators supported the idea of administrators participating in similar technology training. However, the participants and facilitators during the second year had some complaints. Participant logs showed that many teachers were dissatisfied with computer break downs, computer repairs and return time of their computers, which significantly hampered training.

In year three, the technology questionnaires indicated that TIE technology training was the impetus for teachers desiring additional technology training opportunities. The technology questionnaires also indicated that most teachers felt at ease in augmenting class instruction with computer technology. Participant logs indicated teachers increasingly used the computer for different areas of classroom instruction. Additional benefits of the three-year TIE grant revealed that many viewed the grant as an opportunity for more widespread networking with teachers across school districts in Texas. Participants also were grateful for the skills provided to them through TIE training and mentoring.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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