When we debuted our first Daily Edventures Web Show last week, the focus was on building teacher capacity. This is, without a doubt, one of the most foundational issues on the path to meaningful transformation in schools. Because while technology and tools are growing ever more powerful, they’re of little value unless teachers are able to apply them effectively in the classroom.
Today, I’m pleased to share the thoughts of Tracy Immel, a former teacher, school technology director, and now, an independent education consultant. Immel’s broad range of experience in working on this particular issue gives her a uniquely well-rounded perspective. She’s seen the issues from every angle, and has drawn some insightful conclusions about building teacher capacity through a smart and strategic approach to professional development. Here, Immel explores what’s lacking in professional development for educators, and what needs to happen to ensure that schools’ technology investments pay off for students. Enjoy!
Building Capacity for a 21st Century Educator
“Capacity building is anything that is done to increase the collective effectiveness of a group.”
When I was a student, my learning community was made up of my teacher, the library, my parents and my friends (though the knowledge imparted here was often wrong). The learning community for my children looks very different:
We often talk about what skills students require to be successful in the 21st century workforce, but what skills does the 21st century educator need to deal with a student who has all of these resources available to them? As my colleague, Adrian Blight says, “If they show up in class after experiencing this type of learning ecosystem, and the teacher asks them to turn the page, you’ve lost them.”
Today’s teacher can’t simply know how to use a word processor, show a PowerPoint and email students and call themselves a modern educator. The 21st century educator needs to be a risk taker, an innovator, a leader, a coach, a collaborator, and willing to learn from their peers and their students.
So how can we help educators acquire not just the skills, but the competencies needed to be a 21st century educator? Continuing professional development in the teaching profession has always been a priority, after all, how can one expect to create a classroom full of life-long learners if one isn’t a life-long learner himself? However, the way professional development continues to be structured is ineffective and expensive at best. Focusing on technology skills in one-size fits all workshops is no more effective than the teacher who greets his students with “now turn the page.”
com·pe·ten·cy [ kómpət'nsee ]
- 1. ability: an ability to do something, especially measured against a standard
Often, the words “competency” and “skill” are used interchangeably. While they are related, they are not the same. A competency is a demonstrated ability to perform a particular job or task. A competency includes skills, but also includes behaviors and the ability to apply those skills in order to perform a job or task. For example, a teacher may know how to use a computer and productivity software (skill) but may not know how to use those skills to increase collaboration and critical thinking in their students (competency).
Here are some challenges and solutions to achieve more effective professional development of ICT integration:
- Many teachers are aware that they should integrate ICT into their teaching practices, but are uncertain as to what that actually means and why it’s important. Teaching 101 says first tell the students what they need to learn and why. We need to utilize the same “best practice” methods when designing professional development programs.
- “One-size-fits-all” training fails to address the needs of individuals. Teachers have different needs with regards to ICT training. While some may have never used a computer, others may be using multiple devices and applications to achieve desired outcomes. Assess your educators before asking them to participate in training.
- Mandating training which is not relevant to a teacher is not effective. Buy-in by the learner, including the assessment and planning of their development goals, increases the likelihood that what is presented will actually result in a change in teaching strategies.
- Training that happens at a point in time and is not ongoing is not effective One of the most effective methods of learning a new skill, according to teachers, is practicing the new skill. To feel comfortable practicing a new skill, teachers need support.
When presented or modeled by a trainer: 85 percent will understand the concept, 15-18 percent will attain the new skill and 5-10 percent will apply it in the classroom. When coaching/mentoring is added to the model: 90 percent learn the concept, 90 percent attain the skill and 80-90 percent apply it in the classroom (Showers & Joyce, 1996). Peer coaching programs are some of the most impactful professional development models being utilized today, IF the coaches are appropriately trained and supported.
Microsoft offers a range of globally tested, research-based assessment, professional development and certification solutions that can be used in a blended model, with peer coaches or studied and practiced by individuals over time. The Partners in Learning Network provides educators with virtual learning communities and support from some of the world’s most innovative educators.
“The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other one somewhat higher.” Thomas Henry Huxley
Tracy Immel, Education and ICT Consultant