Yesterday, we brought together a small group of teachers in my district who I would describe as innovative leaders in the integration of technology to transform learning. While we are not anywhere near 1:1 in our district, we will be piloting a 1:1 program in three of our schools next year. We hoped to gain some ideas from these early adopters on how to best prepare the staff at the schools piloting 1:1 to use technology effectively.
The day began with the group of 12 teachers describing the kinds of technology currently available to them, and ways that they use this technology with students. As the teachers described multiple innovative uses of technology for learning, I made note of some common themes:
- The technology enabled 24/7 learning – and students, on their own, extended their learning through the use of the device
- The projects the teachers shared, in addition to being technology-rich, all had some kind of personal connection for the students. For example:
- Using iBooks to create personal narratives
- Using the technology to connect with an authentic, sometimes global audience (Skype, wikis, blogs,etc.)
- Using technology to respond to student questions at the point of need
- The technology allows teachers to differentiate and blend learning
- Students are highly motivated – “sparked!”
- Technology is used to create and share
- Students have some element of choice in the process of learning with the technology, (freedom in how they researched, took notes, etc.) or the tool they use to create the final product i.e. – the less control a teacher exerted – the better!
What struck me most was that technology is used in these teachers’ classrooms to help students learn in ways that wouldn’t be possible without the technology. In other words, the technology wasn’t simply replacing an old way of doing things.
Here are some common characteristics of this group of teachers – including some that they expressed about themselves:
Tenacity: “It takes time to learn how to use the technology – but it’s worth it!”
Fearlessness: “I’m an all or nothing kind of guy!”
Reflective: These teachers are continuously evaluating and changing to meet the needs of the students. For example, two of these teachers were our earliest adopters of flipped classrooms. They now have moved away from this practice, but shared that it was a very important step in getting where they are now in terms of using technology to transform learning.
Learning-Centered: Technology is not the focal point. These teachers use backwards design, so they start with what they want students to know and be able to do, and then design a performance assessment that allow the students to transfer the understandings – often in completing an authentic task. Once these are determined, the learning activities are put into place.
What I am wondering now is this: How can we help all teachers in our 1:1 pilot be successful with integrating the technology in their classroom? If a teacher lacks the kind of tenacity and fearlessness that these teachers displayed, can they still learn and be successful in using the technology as effectively with students?
I’d love to hear from you! What kind of professional development has worked best for teachers of all abilities in 1:1 settings?