Models of Professional Development
It was during the Clinton-Gore administration that education technology began to play an important role in improving student achievement and influencing school improvement. In 1995, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment produced a landmark report titled "Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection" (online at www.wws.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1995/9541_n.html ),which discovered that most teachers did not feel prepared to use technology effectively.
A key finding of the report revealed that 30% of the technology budget should be used for teacher training. The focus up to that point had been mostly on purchasing hardware and software. This report helped bring the importance of effective professional development for teachers to the forefront. It is not surprising that during 1995, the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant (TICG) program funded the first 19 grants, which set the stage for the 91 that followed. From 1995-2000, 100 projects from 46 states and a total of $609.9 million invested have produced some of the most impressive, innovative education technology products, models and curriculum.
This article will focus on the models of professional development used by a variety of U.S. TICG programs. You will notice that a large number of 1998 projects are highlighted. This is because for that year's competition, grant guidelines specifically mandated professional development by providing support to consortia that had developed programs, or were adapting or expanding existing programs, for technology training. The models to be explored are coaching and mentoring, face-to-face, train-the-trainer, and Web-based training.
Coaching & Mentoring
Coaching and mentoring is a research-based, highly effective professional development model that has been used extensively by Project Venture (1998, www.creighton.k12.az.us/projectventure/index.html) in Ph'enix, which is a diverse consortium consisting of urban, suburban and rural school districts. At the heart of the districts' professional development model are 21 Technology Mentor Teachers (TMTs) who work with more than 330 teachers across the consortium.
TMTs are highly trained, certified teachers on assignment who use coaching and modeling techniques to help teachers effectively integrate technology in their classes. TMTs work one-on-one with teachers who are chosen through a rigorous application process, and receive five computers and a presentation system in their classroom. They build important relationships with their teachers that allow for the planning, modeling and reflecting of technology integration techniques with a focus on core curriculum and state standards.
This model has built great capacity and created a natural process of sustainability by having a significant number of highly trained teachers who are becoming technology leaders in their schools. Our project's evaluator, Dee Ann Spencer, Ph.D., found that 65.6% of teachers were integrating technology to a great or seamless extent by the end of the project's third year (2000).
Face-to-face training is a widely used model of professional development that can be found in the majority of TICG projects. The Alaska Reform in the Classroom through Technology Integration and Collaboration (ARCTIC) project (1998, http://arctic.alaska.edu) takes teams of teachers out of the classroom during the school year to attend an intensive immersion experience. During this four-week period, teachers work in a residential setting where they often work collaboratively for long hours to perfect their integrated units or solve their technology issues.
In rural southwestern Colorado, the RMOTE (Rural Mountain Organization of Technological Enhancement) project (2000, www.western .edu/rmote) works with six school districts and Western State College of Colorado. Most of their face-to-face training happens right in the teachers' classrooms. A substitute from within the community of each district is secured for the specified training days and is present in the classroom to support the training in a variety of ways. One way is for the trainer to model the integration of technology into the teacher's curriculum with the substitute and teacher present, which makes it a team-teaching approach. By having the same substitute on a regular basis, the substitute becomes familiar with the teacher and students, as well as gains technology skills that enhance his or her ability to support the district in the future.
The West Virginia TurnKey Solution: Phase 9 (1998, www.phase9.org) focuses on providing high-quality professional development that fosters the appropriate integration of technology, curriculum, teaching strategies, learning activities and student evaluation for teachers statewide. Phase 9 training consists of a five-day teacher-led workshop for interdisciplinary teams of three teachers. The workshop includes hands-on technology training, collaboration and development of interdisciplinary units, as well as dissemination of the units on The Solution Site (www.thesolutionsite.com). Phase 9 has positively impacted more than 13,000 teachers and 40,000 students throughout West Virginia.
The train-the-trainer model is extremely effective for reaching large audiences. The Alliance+ (1998, www.k12science.org/alliance) program is a consortium of more than 70 school systems in Arizona, Florida, Ohio and the Stevens Institute of Technology. The program is best known for its 30-hour "Savvy Cyber Teacher" workshop series, which introduces teachers to unique and compelling real-time data and telecollaborative projects. Once the trainers are trained, they offer the 30-hour course at their schools, as well as provide in-school and classroom support and mentoring. In Ohio, Florida and Arizona, 6,500 teachers have been trained in the "Savvy Cyber Teacher" materials.
Another project that is reaching a large audience is the Transforming Teaching and Learning Through Technology (T4) project (1999, www.ticg.cps.k12.il.us) based in the Chicago area. Two "master" teachers are selected from each of the 81 schools, and they provide professional development workshops that enable teachers to earn CEU credit for teacher recertification. In addition, master teachers have developed free technology-rich, multidisciplinary, standards-based WebQuests at the T4 grant Web site (www.ticg.cps.k12.il.us/index1.html). Web-Based Training
Many of the TICG projects use some form of Web-based professional development, often in conjunction with face-to-face training. One project that uses it exclusively is the Virtual High School project (1996, www.goVHS.org), which has been helping teachers integrate technology through its online professional development graduate courses - the Teachers Learning Conference and NetCourse Instructional Methodologies. The primary goal of these courses is to prepare classroom teachers to teach online in the Virtual High School, an Internet-based school.
In the seven years since the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment reported on the dire need for teacher technology training, the TICG program has impacted more that 60,000 teachers nationwide. It has also used innovative ways of helping teachers effectively use technology in their teaching. A school district looking to begin or enhance their technology with professional development can find great models among the 100 TICGs in the United States.
Spencer, D. 2001. "Project Venture Formative Evaluation Report: Year 3" September. Online: www.creighton.k12.az.us/projectventure/docs/evalreport2001.pdf.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.