Signs of Things to Come
A summer spent observing high-quality professionaldevelopment portends good things for 2007-2008.
MAYBE BECAUSE it's the end of summer,and the Olympic Mountains lookglorious with their white tops in theclear air, or maybe it's because I'm aterminally obnoxious optimist, but I'minspired. I think it's mainly due to thegood things happening in technologyand education I've seen this summerthat I'm sure will impact school districtsfor a long time. Here are but two.
It is my good fortune to serve on an advisory board for the Florida Educational Technology Conference. Recently the board gathered to determine the program for FETC 2008 in Orlando, which runs from January 22 to 25. Hopefuls from around the country submitted nearly 700 applications to present at the conference. I was heartened by the quality of the proposals and the examples of good teaching and learning and technology use provided. I also was excited about the range of topics put forward. Not surprisingly, 21st-century skills drew a large number of proposed sessions, as did web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, and podcasting. Some of the most interesting proposed topics were in the leadership category, both at the school and district levels. Professional development, digital content, future and emerging technologies, and technology management and infrastructure all will be addressed in depth at what promises to be a content-rich FETC 2008.
On another occasion, I found myself wandering on the campus of the University of California-Berkeley. As I whistled Grateful Dead tunes and occasionally raised a fist in a power salute, I found the building I was looking for. A school dorm was playing host to a Discovery Educator Network National Institute, a weeklong workshop for educators looking to integrate multimedia into their lessons. I spent time watching teachers learn camera techniques as they created video to use in class. It was the epitome of project-based learning, as the teachers were given instruction, worked in small groups to solve problems, shared results, and received critiques from experts as well as peers. The instructors at the institute, all former classroom teachers, served as facilitators, moving from group to group, answering questions, offering encouragement, and generally modeling the behavior they expect to see in the classroom.
While Discovery Education clearly has commercial motives in providing these workshops, the organizers did not let those interests get in the way of high-quality instruction. They used content from all over the web, and a variety of technology-based tools—and provided those tools to the class. Discovery Education is not alone in providing such workshops. The Intel Teach professional development program has provided thousands of teachers with technology skills to carry into the classroom. Many other companies do the same.
We all look for signs of hope at the start of a new year, and I have seen them in the form of highquality professional development. I expect there will be many more before the year is up.
-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of THE Journal.