Classroom teachers know that for learners to proficiently apply new information, opportunities for practice and continuous support are necessary. Yet, the pedagogical practices that are known to be effective for students are frequently absent from the professional development and training sessions provided to teachers to support adoption of new education technology tools.
Too often, teacher training occurs in the form of one-time informational sessions that do not accommodate collaboration with peers or provide ongoing mentorship. Such training does little to help teachers achieve the best outcome possible from powerful education technology innovations.
Fortunately, research has laid out a clear path forward for better teacher professional development that applies whether training involves supporting curricular initiatives or adoption of the latest EdTech tools.
Preparing Teachers Effectively
The Learning Policy Institute has identified the key components that make professional development sessions effective, many of which stand out as particularly crucial to EdTech implementation. These strategies can help all school stakeholders to ensure that they gain the most value from the technologies put in place in today’s classrooms.
Two characteristics of effective professional development that the organization identified are direct connection to instructional content and modeling of effective practice.
eSchool News points out that when schools roll out new technology, “Barriers to successful implementation often have little to do with the technology itself or teachers’ comfort with technology overall. Instead, success is impeded by a lack of strategy on how to integrate the technology into the classroom.”
Using the Right Tools
It is not enough for teachers to know how to use a tool – they need to know how the tool will help them meet learning objectives in the specific subject that they teach, and to witness clear examples of how to use it. Sample lesson plans, student work, and guidance for integrating use of a tool with a classroom management plan can all offer the clear vision teachers need to put the knowledge they gain during training into practice.
Active learning and collaboration are two more factors that contribute to successful professional development. Just as classroom teachers know that lecturing students is not a recipe for success, training providers must acknowledge the need for their audience to do with the technology they are demonstrating, and not only to see or hear about it.
“Make sure your in-person training sessions include ample time for teachers to use the technology,” advises the International Society for Technology in Education. “Have them create real lessons and activities to use with their students. This constructivist approach to professional development will help teachers see how technology will enhance their educational program.”
This approach is more likely to promote retention and immediate implementation than merely providing examples is, and offers time-strapped educators a way to prepare for the week ahead as they learn.
Retaining New Skills
Finally, the Learning Policy Institute recommends that training programs have a sustained duration and provide ongoing coaching or expert support. At worst, single-sessions can leave teachers overwhelmed with information they do not know how to use. At best, they may provide a few helpful tips and initial excitement that fades with time.
Rather than offer training in single sessions, schools are better off if they invite a guest speaker to train teachers via a staggered workshop series. Fresh ideas brought in from outside can be complemented with mentorship by an on-staff instructional specialist. Digital Promise points out that instructional coaches contribute to technology adoption’s success by acting as staff leaders, working with teachers side-by-side, and encouraging digital citizenship.
When it comes to education, technology is only as effective as the teacher using it. The right training strategies empower teachers to use the latest innovations with confidence, so that every child has a chance to experience the best that EdTech has to offer.
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