Professional Development Introduction

One thing we can consistently do in technology and education is call for more professional development. However, one thing we have not done very well is invest in the people who will be using and managing the technology in our schools. The effort over the last 20 years or so has been focused on providing technology to students. This seemed logical at first since education is for students, and most of the software that was developed at that time was for the students. Despite these efforts, we have not gotten the promised revolution or even minor reform. Significant change has not come about because educators were left out of the technology equation.We know from research what professional development, with or without technology, should look like. Effective professional development:

  • Involves teachers in the planning and selection, but balances the needs of individual educators with the needs of the campus and district;
  • Provides a practical, utilitarian component to all efforts;
  • Links educators to each other to create a larger learning community;
  • Offers ongoing support; and
  • Provides opportunity for experimentation and reflection.

Technology affects professional development in a positive way. First, unlike training, professional development is more concerned with helping teachers learn to use the technology in order to help students learn. It also focuses on helping teachers learn to have students use technology effectively in their learning. Second, technology is being used to deliver professional development through online courses, some of which contain robust video of best practices. Finally, policy-makers, states and districts are starting to provide incentives or requirements for professional development.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Title II, Part D, requires that all grantees for formula and competitive grants use a minimum of 25% (at least $137 million) of the funds for professional development aligned to program goals. Although many states have had strong professional development programs for many years, the NCLB requirement has accentuated the importance and need to ensure that teachers and administrators receive the learning opportunities that are essential to successfully integrating technology into teaching and learning. Several states have implemented creative approaches to engage teachers and administrators in professional development activities, some of which are detailed in this section.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.