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TNLI: Action Research: Professional Development: Professional Development in Technology: Where are the teachers being trained?

by Lexi McGill
AUGUST, 1997

I. Rationale: why is it important to train teachers in technology?
II. Technology training
III. The Barriers to teacher training: funds, time and other priorities
IV. Recommendations
V. Conclusion
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D
Appendix E
References and Resources
Additional Web Sites of Interest


This report focuses on technology professional development within NYC and District 4. An overview of existing projects and available training is put forth, in addition to commentary on what is lacking within the overall structure to support teacher technology training, the barriers of implementing successful training and recommendations to create a fruitful professional development program. Two of the main facets of successful professional development are commitment and planning. It is evident that the city is rich with opportunity, but it is scattered, disorganized and not well publicized. In order to move our children into the 21st century with the computer skills and knowledge necessary for their continued education and success, we first need to provide our teachers with effective training and appropriate resources in educational technology.

A recent report by the Benton Foundation1 (released on June 25, 1997) states that "If computer technology is to be a cost-effective aid to improving schools, educators must focus as much on supporting and training the people who use it as they do now on buying hardware and software."2 The Learning Connection: Schools in the Information Age was part of a 6 month study that examined how to make educational technology beneficial to students, teachers and communities. A separate endeavor, entitled Report to the President on the Use of Technology To Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States, "which was organized under the auspices of the President's Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology," states that "attention must be paid to content and pedagogy - not just hardware - and that a special focus should be place on teacher professional development."3

I. Rationale: why is it important to train teachers in technology?

Technology is ever-present in today's society. The World Wide Web has become a vast resource of information; the internet is a communication guru; and the world is readily infusing technology into our daily lives. In addition to these realities, educational technology is quickly seeping into schools, creating innovative and exciting learning environments. Technology is affecting how teachers teach and work with curriculum. It is affecting how students learn. In order to fully realize the potential of educational technology the issue of training teachers needs to be addressed in a thorough and cohesive manner.

Al Rogers, from Global SchoolNet Foundation, comments that "Teachers have simply not embraced the computer as a basic tool of learning" and that "one of the biggest failures is the lack of appropriate staff development."4 In his article, "The Failure and the Promise of Technology in Education," Mr. Rogers asks and answers "what are computers good for?" "Computers are great analytical tools. Large segments of our society use them to collect, produce, manipulate, analyze, synthesize, transform and report information in a vast variety of contexts and formats. With the advent of the Internet in the academic and research community, we now add the ability to collaborate, communicate, share and exchange....in ways that are truly transforming our economy, and increasingly, our culture." 5

II. Technology training:

Is it equitable, planned, and properly funded?
What is the availability of on-going training and resources?
Are teachers and administrators committed?

Technology training does exist but it is not equitable or consistent. It is coming from a wide variety of sources that vary in availability and depth. There are grants, such as the Goals 2000 and the Learning Technologies Grants, and initiatives, such as Project Smart and Project NOPE (see Appendix A), that are focused on and support technology throughout NYC. However, grants are competitive and a school must choose to compete and Project Smart is only targeted for JHS buildings. There are the individual endeavors of each district, such as District 4 (see Appendix B). And, to support much of the training there are independent technology vendors, such as Teaching Matters, Inc. and Media Workshop, Inc., (see Appendix C) that work with teachers and schools on all aspects of technology.

Two other organizations that play an instrumental role in training teachers are The Institute for Learning Technologies (see Appendix D) and the United Federation of Teachers (see Appendix E).

In addition to the equitable availability of teacher training and sufficient funding, we need strategic planning. Planning is one of the integral ingredients to the successful integration of educational technology within schools. As stated in the "School Technology Kit,"

"Computers need to be thought of as more than high-prices notebooks. Where they are adopted schoolwide, they must become part of the school's pedagogic culture, integral to teaching higher order thinking and analytical skills across the curriculum. In order for internetworked computers to achieve this position in instruction, collaborative strategic planning by the school learning community must be the cornerstone of technology implementation."6

Teaching Matters, Inc., in collaboration with the NYC BOE, has thoroughly undertaken the task of assessing the task of implementing technology within NYC Public Schools in a report: The Technology Challenge: A Guide for New York City Public School. Planning is stated as a "vital key to a successful technology program at the district or school level..."7 The following questions need to be addressed within the technology plan: "How will we support the staff? What professional development do we need for principals, teachers and support staff? What other measures will facilitate integration? How do we provide continuing support?"8

Providing on-going training, support and resources are also vital for attaining the technological goals that we aspire to. It has been recognized that the majority of classroom teachers are still at an exposure stage where they need the facilities and time to familiarize themselves with hardware and software before they move into the integration phase. It is also well recognized that one shot trainings are not the answer. "Short-term professional development is rarely sufficient to support successful implementation of new programs or the restructuring of organizations. Alternatively, ongoing, long-term professional development is essential to bring about major change in practice."9 Training needs to address the varying abilities of teachers as well as curriculum guidelines and classroom set-up. It cannot be expected that all teachers will start and end at the same place. As stated in The Technology Challenge, "Comprehensive, on-going, professional development is the key to the success of a school's technology program. It depends of providing opportunities for teachers to learn at a reasonable rate, practice extensively, stay current with upgrades, and collaborate with colleagues on new curriculum and new ways of teaching."10

Beyond providing the trainings and resources, it is necessary that both administrators and teachers make a commitment to educational technology. Without such a commitment, our students will not ride on the cusp of our technologically savvy society (or simply have access to a medium that will prepare them competitively for their futures). It is estimated that "fully 60 percent of jobs in (the year) 2000 will require a working knowledge of information technologies. "11

III. The Barriers to teacher training: funds, time and other priorities

The two most critical and obvious barriers to technology training are funds and time. Another barrier is that NYC Public Schools, and the Chancellor, have other priorities, such as literacy, reading by grade 3 and failing schools. Although it is possible that these latter concerns could be addressed using technology as an instructional tool. Isn't there a way for educational technology to support literacy programs and failing schools, especially since students are quickly motivated by computers.

Joanne Bernard-Wottaw, who teachers elementary special education in a one-computer classroom, tells of her positive and stimulating experiences: "I was excited by the writing my students had developed with the assistance of the computer and each other's coaching. I decided that I wanted to incorporate math, science and social studies software programs into my lesson. I would use the computer in a variety of follow-up and enrichment activities."12 Ms. Bernard-Wottaw continues to describe how she used "Where in the United States is Carmen Sandiego?" (Borderbund) for an interdisciplinary project. She says that "their experiences (of using the computer simulations) were teaching me how to be a more effective teacher for them.....incorporating the computer into our classroom enhanced students' learning of the curriculum, helped foster cooperative learning, reduced discipline problems, increased attention spans and built self-esteem."13

Some of the money and time issues are directly related to a school's priorities and decisions. Thus, the Principal or Director needs to take an active leadership role to infuse technology successfully into the school. This does not mean that schools can have as much hardware and training as desired, but it does mean that if a commitment is made to integrate technology into the classrooms and curriculum that a school's allocations can be directed towards the cause, and grants may be written.

There is also resistance to technology for a variety of reasons, ranging from fear to "why learn this when I'm retiring in 2 years?" The Technology Challenge report states that teachers "also worry about loss of authority, lack of administrative support, little on site assistance, competing curriculum priorities, and, most of all, lack of time. " 14 The report continues that "a successful professional development effort should focus on concerns of staff and build in appropriate incentives such as certifying accomplishment, peer recognition, private sector internships, and even providing personal computers for home use." 15

IV. Recommendations

The following recommendations are based upon my experiences as a computer-lab teacher; conversations with colleagues, members of SESP, and Teaching Matters; and finally, the reading and research that I have done to support this position paper.

  1. Establish a Technology Teachers Center at the district level. This type of organization would provide for long term support and training in technology. Teachers from all schools within the district would be able to access the Center for training, technical assistance and other technology related issues. It would allow for a cohesive building of technology within the district.

    The center would offer a wide range of courses, from basic introduction to computers and word processing to web publishing and integrating the internet into curriculum. Mainly, it would provide a site for teachers to become familiar with hardware and software and reach a comfort level in using technology.

    All new teachers would be able to access the center for appropriate-level classes for new teacher credits. An incentive program would be created for the more seasoned teachers.

  2. Establish technology requirements for incoming teachers. All teachers entering the profession should have a basic understanding of technology and relevant ways to infuse technology into their disciplines. Teachers lacking such qualifications would be required to take classes at the district's technology center during their first year.

  3. Establish equitable access to professional development in technology This would be done by creating a Technology Teachers Center at the district level which would offer courses at no expense to the teachers.

  4. Technology planning is critical, therefore the district has to establish an overall technology plan guideline with a staff development component. Each school would be required to submit a plan, based upon school needs and philosophy, that addressed staff development , the barriers to meeting staff development needs and possible ways to accomplish training. The plan must have a realistic time frame as well as on-going support plans. The Technology Teachers Center would serve as a consultant for technology planning, a resource for training and provide on-going support.

    The district plan would need to address the training needs of staff development instructors, as well as the long term goals of integrating technology within the schools.

    We find support for technology planning in more than one place:
    The Technology Challenge report, under the philosophy section of the Chancellor's message, states "where we find a sense of clarity and purpose about what students ought to know and how they like to learn, how teachers need to be trained, what parents should do in partnership, and what leaders can perform, we find some of the most exciting reform efforts in the city today."16

  5. Administrative commitment to technology. It is of critical importance that Principals and Directors take a more active role in the development of technology within the school curriculum. In order for technology to succeed as a medium with learning it must be integrated within the structure (curriculum) as a whole, not treated as a separate entity.

  6. Re-certification program that has a technology component. Perhaps this recommendation is jumping the gun in lieu of the fact that the majority of teachers are at a basic level of technological competence, however, it is important that educators, as other professionals, remain abreast of the latest methodologies and trends in pedagogy.

  7. City commitment to technology by making resources and funds available. Project Smart is a city-wide initiative coming from Central, however, is the funding reliable? Will it be there next year? What about non-JHS buildings?

  8. Dissemination: How to Solve the Dissemination Problem? Union liaisons, Principals/Directors, and Computer Coordinators need to have a more active role in disseminating available resources and opportunities. Within each school building there needs to be a bulletin board dedicated to staff development. All training opportunities, whether UFT, District or School based, need to be posted. Responsibility for this should be shared by the union liaison (for UFT information) and the Director or Principal, who receives mailings on this.

V. Conclusion

In order for educators to use instructional technology to its fullest potential, and students to reap the greatest educational benefits, teachers need to be trained. Without such training, the educational system is doing a disservice in preparing young people for their futures. There are statistics that support integrating technology into classroom instruction. "A review of New York City's Computer Pilot Program, which focused on remedial and low-achieving students, showed gains of 80 percent for reading and 90 percent for math when computers were used to assist learning."17

It is necessary to make a distinction between recognizing and stating that staff development is important and actually doing it. All too often one reads about the importance of training teachers, yet it is hard to find programs that are successful on a wide-spread basis. Cohesive technology planning .is the first step towards implementation, once a commitment has been made by administrators and teachers and funds have been allocated. The administrator needs to take responsibility for establishing technology as important and provide opportunities and supports for teachers to learn and converse about educational technology. Resources need to be made available so that teachers can learn from other teachers experiences; software can be tested; and problems trouble-shooted.

Teachers also need to take responsibility for staying abreast of new methodologies and trends in pedagogy. A teacher's interest and vision are critical to the integration of technology or any new form of pedagogy. Without the teacher there is no starting point. Teachers need to embrace technology and actively seek out training in order to get started.

Technology training has to be made a priority within the schools, districts and across New York City. in order for the successful advancement of pedagogy. Our students' futures depend upon our guidance and teaching, which, without a strong foundation in technology, will leave them in the dust.

Throughout the city there is a broad range of serious and focused efforts to improve technology training. However, it is in bits and pieces and not wide-spread. Certain schools reap the benefits of specific initiatives and grants which may or may not sufficiently address staff development. Our system needs to be proactive to the advent of educational technology, versus reactive.

Appendix A

Grants and Board of Education Initiatives

Project Smart is an initiative to put 4 computers and 1 printer in all 6-8th grade classrooms located within a JHS building. Two thousand teachers are receiving training this summer. Is the training adequate and on-going? Should we count how many 6-8th grade classrooms didn't get these computers or the teacher training? How organized is Project Smart and will it be available next year? Four Junior High Schools in District 4 are Project Smart recipients:: 45, 99, 13, 117.

Project NOPE (Nynex On-line Project for Education), is a collaborative effort by New York Institute of Technology, Board of Cooperative Educational Services, NYC Board of Education and NYS Teacher Resources & Computer Training Centers, funded by the Nynex Foundation, to "develop a train the trainer program to support NYWired Training Program."18 This Project is focused on "strategies to enable teachers to help students meet the learning standards through Internet enabled activities." 19 The training for "the trainers" was a one day event last Spring at Washington Irving High School. The agenda allotted 9:15-10:30 a.m. for an overview of professional development, NYS Learning Standards, Integrating curriculum and the Internet and a lesson plan model. Is 1 hour and fifteen minutes a sufficient amount of time to cover that material? I do not think so.

Another training this summer is TLCS (Technology, Literacy, Content and Standards) which is for schools that receive Title I funding. Three hundred teachers are participating in this program.

In terms of grants, Goals 2000 is a staff development grant that this year, for the first time, allowed monies to support equipment. Therefore, grant recipients were able to purchase hardware and software and then be trained to use the technology. However, a Goals 2000 grant does not have to focus on technology.

Another 1997 grant is the NYS Learning Technologies Grant which 2 schools in District 4 won. This money was used for purchasing equipment and trainings.

Appendix B

District 4: What's happening

Technology at District 4 is underway, although some schools are far more technologically adept than others. Last Spring an after-school program on web publishing was offered. Attendance and interest were high. This summer a Summer Technology Institute was offered; courses ranged from basic introduction to using a computer and word processing to multimedia and the internet. Again, the turnout was high and teachers were motivated. All trainings were voluntary and teachers were paid at teacher training rate. Programs were supported by USI (Urban Systemic Initiative) funds.

District 4 receives funding from 2 sources: tax levy monies and reimbursable funds. Reimbursable funds consist of allocations (such as Title I and Title II) and competitive grants (such as Goals 2000, National Telecommunication & Information Administration). Grants are highly competitive and a school must make a commitment to apply, as it takes time, planning and organization not only to complete an application, but also to fulfill the grant requirements. Below is a list of some of the sources available for technology staff development within the District:

  • Urban Systemic Initiative Program (USI) - staff development in math, science and technology
  • Title II - Math, science and technology staff development
  • Title I: Schoolwide projects - school could choose tech staff development
  • American Hero in Action - private grant that school choose to use for technology
  • Learning Technologies Grant - used for technology training and equipment
  • Community Schools Program (NYS)
  • Goals 2000 - option for technology

a closer look at one school.....

Room 501, at 19 East 103rd Street, is a place of excitement, creativity and learning. It is Manhattan West Art Institute's computer lab. In June 1997, fifteen new Power Macs 6500's arrived are for the lab and ten 5400's for 4 classrooms. The teachers receiving the classroom computers have had informal training with the technology teacher, as well as formal training with TMI. (Teaching Matters, Inc.) Are they ready to fully integrate computers into their curriculums? Probably not. Training has been focused on basic software programs and was for a limited time. As each of these teachers has sound pedagogical principles and methodologies we do not need to worry. The point is that training needs to be on-going and supportive of the classroom environment. Training also needs to address the classroom management challenge of having 4 computers for 32 children, as well as supply teachers with continuous resources (appropriate software, teachers guides, web site addresses).

Appendix C

Independent Non-profit organizations that offer training:

The NYC Board of Education has vendor contracts with the following organizations:

Teaching Matters Inc.
is a non-profit organization that supports technology staff development throughout NYC. TMI is accessible to any school or district that makes a commitment to training teachers, as Title 1 funds, as well as other sources, may be used for the training. Over the past year TMI has grown tremendously in response to demand. Technology training is in demand! Jane Condliffe, Director of External Affairs, says that the role of administration in supporting technology training is of critical importance.

TMI staff works with a range of schools and teachers and therefore they have a good sense of what teachers want and need. A common feeling is that teachers need to become more familiar with technology on a basic level. The 3 main areas of technology most demanded of by TMI are word processing (data bases and spreadsheets), internet and multi-media.

The four other contracted vendors are: Computer Logic Group, Inc., Custom Computer Specialists, Inc., IBM, and Jostens Learning Corporation. Each of these organizations has a price tag which varies in relation to the "task." For example, Comprehensive Technology Planning ranges from $200 to $900 (per diem); Staff development ranges from $375 to $800. Some of the higher end fees depend upon "level of expertise of consultant."20

Media Workshop New York (www.mediaworkshop.org)
is a non-profit professional development organization that trains teachers in all aspects of media (computers, video, internet). They prefer to work with a school as a whole and create a technology foundation based upon the schools philosophies and needs. They tailor training to meet the school's needs. They also believe that involvement of administrators (the Principal) is a critical component to implementing a successful technology program.

Media Workshop spent the first 2 years of their existence in research and development, working with focus groups (such as IS 70, NY Lab School, NY Museum School and the School for the Physical City). Therefore their approach to fusing media and curriculum is based upon 2 years of research. The Media Workshop trainers focus on using software, the web and the internet in relation to classroom curriculum. They believe that media has to connect to and support the classroom.

This summer they offered a "Critical Basics of Media" course (for "G" credit) and 4 media seminars: I. Intro to New Media and the Internet: Humanities focus (August 11 &12), Science focus (August 13 &14); II. Multimedia Authoring; III. The Accomplished Novice; and IV. Building a WEB Page.

Appendix D
The Institute for Learning Technologies, Teachers College and Columbia University
ILT , under the leadership of Robbie McClintock and K.A. Taipale, has established the Advanced Media in Education Project. Specific projects within this initiative are: The LivingTextbook Project, the Harlem Environmental Access Project (HEAP) and the Eiffel Project. The Institute has undertaken "a program of specific initiatives to improve dramatically the educational experience of disadvantaged children by connecting an increasing number of urban schools - public, parochial and private - to the information superhighway as a national testbed for educational innovation."21 Teacher development is an integral component these initiatives:: "successful educational reforms, especially ones combining a new pedagogy with mastery of new technological tools, requires a concurrent program of teacher training, professional development, and in-school teacher support. Prevailing modes of teachers preparation are poorly adapted to technologically dynamic practice."22 The Institute's approach to teacher training is as follows:

"....Teachers College will create a fellowship program for master teachers from school connected to the network testbed. These Fellows will come together to study how students and teachers can best make use of network resources and tools. Upon completion of their studies, they will return to their local schools able to teach others how to take full advantage of these materials and technologies. At the same time they will continue to participate in the overall networking strategy and will be able to call on experts, the Institute and elsewhere at Columbia University through the innovative use of electronic mail, discussion groups and network video conferencing....The whole effort of teacher development will provide a model of general practice..."23

Has teacher development been successful for the Living Schoolbook, HEAP and the Eiffel Project?


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