At the heart of my current studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University is ISTE Coaching Standard 4, which focuses on how professional learning can be best support teacher practice and, ultimately, student learning. Professional development is often associated with the administrators who orchestrate it. As a result, recognizing how paramount administrators are to the implementation of good professional learning is the key to its success.
My exploration on this topic began by examining an additional set of ISTE standards, the standards for administrators. An excellent resource, these standards explore everything from modes of establishing a learning culture at one’s school to the development of school improvement plans. Most relevant to this post is ISTE Administrator Standard 3, which specifically calls for, “Educational administrators [t0] promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.” How is this achieved?
How can administrators best support professional development in education technology?
Vision for Student Learning
Administrators should know where the school is headed, and more than anyone else in the school, they should promote this vision (Creighton, 2003). Additionally, student learning should be the preliminary focus for all technology pursuits, whether this comes in the form of integration modeling or the procurement of resources that directly impact students (Creighton, 2003). In his book, The Principal as Technology Leader, Creighton (2003) emphasized that administrators should focus on this goal first and any tools second. Another major theme is that technology training needs to be tailored to meet the goals of the school and the current skill level of the teachers (Crompton, 2015). While many often seek to bring in outside consultants and speakers, this type of learning can sometimes lose relevance if it is too general or intended for too diverse of an audience.
Professional Learning Components – Modeling, Time and Opportunity, and Specificity
Administrators should integrate the use of technology in the same manner that teachers are expected to use it (Starr, 2009). Rather than simply holding the expectation that teachers should already possess any needed skills, time and opportunities must be provided for teachers to learn not only the technology itself, but how the technology is to be used within their own curriculum (Starr, 2009). Professional learning needs to also be grade level, content area, curriculum, teacher, and student specific in order to succeed (Creighton, 2003). Sharing technology tools with teachers is far less valuable than modeling how to effectively utilize them within a specific curriculum (Crompton, 2015). Further time is also needed for teachers to plan and collaborate on integration methods within their specific departments, teams and professional learning communities (Starr, 2009). Since, educators, themselves, regularly confirm that they too often they are taught how to use a tool rather than how to integrate it into instruction, Burns (2010) shared what are referred to as the 5 J’s, established by http://www.sedl.org/, as a means for administrators to address this.
Professional Learning needs to be…
Job-related: Tailored to specific content and curriculum areas.
Just enough: Designed to be appropriate in scope for noted skill levels, in an effort to avoid overwhelming anyone or dissuading use. Expertise is not as important as developing a willingness to experiment.
Just in time: Relevant now and into the future.
Just in case: Plans for the likely failure of technology.
Just try it: Emphasizes that willingness to experiment is more important than expertise.
Continuous and Cyclical Approach
Technology integration techniques and resources will only lead to increased comfort and understanding when it is presented in all relevant circumstances and on a regular basis (Creighton, 2003).
Funding needs to be allocated to ensure technology is up to date and supported. Otherwise, even the best laid plans can have unfortunate setbacks (Starr, 2009).
Encouragement of Teachers Leaders
Encouraging educators to be peer coaches and teacher leaders will best influence and guide other teachers (Creighton, 2003).
PD for Administrators
Administrators should make their own professional development in education technology a priority, as current knowledge in emerging technology methods and research will only serve to mentor the rest of the school’s teachers (Creighton, 2003). Additionally, administrator knowledge, commitment and modeling can influence ambivalent or skeptical teachers, while teachers can also be dissuaded by those administrators who place little value on technology (Starr, 2009).
While these are all great ideas in theory, they do require a potential shift on the part of administrators. This is not something that a singular teacher can directly influence necessarily. That being said, some of these ideas can be shared with administrators in isolation, including: requesting professional learning that is curriculum specific, offering to be a teacher leader in the building, or requesting to know what the educational technology vision for the school is.
While change can’t be forced, more learning opportunities that meet some of the needs above can be sought. And, usually requesting more professional learning is met with praise and support by administrators, not resistance. As educators, we can continue to ask these important questions within in our schools. It is also possible to garner support from our colleagues, as remaining an island certainly benefits no one.
Creighton, T. (2003). The principal as technology leader. Corwin Press.
Crompton, H. (2015, January 7). Know the ISTE standards for administrators: what does the research say? Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=264.
Starr, L. (2009, September 23). The administrator’s role in technology integration. Education World. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech087.shtml.
Burns, M. (2010, September). How to help teachers use technology in the classroom: the 5J approach. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1865476.