Often, professional development programs for teachers focus over hardware-usage and certain software applications. However, there is another aspect to educational technology training- developing teachers’ knowledge and skill in using the technology tools in their classrooms. And, in this aspect professional development programs considerable changes are required.
Quality professional development matters
For the success of a technology integration program, it’s critical that efforts be made to develop effective professional development programs. Teachers should be trained not only about how to use technology, but also about how to integrate technology with everyday teaching practices. Moreover, schools must ensure that these training programs provide teachers with a variety of learning opportunities.
Best professional development choices are based on the individual needs of schools and their staff. To set clear goals, schools should begin by determining the needs of their students and staff.
Rather than concentrating on ‘how to use a technology’, the trainings should focus over strategies which teachers could implement in a digital environment.
There is a clear need for schools to create ample learning opportunities for teachers. A few days of intensive summer training may seem like a good idea; however, until teachers get a chance to implement them in their classrooms, and return with feedback, the training cannot be termed as complete.
Ongoing teacher training facilitates collaborative learning
The educational technology professional developments have to be an ongoing effort, so that teachers get a chance to practice what they have learned, and subsequently, implement it in their classrooms.
Ongoing trainings allow teachers to reflect upon student-experiences and their own needs as teachers. Moreover, ongoing sessions allow teachers to collaborate with their peers. This way, teachers across the school, get to share their experiences with the technology. And, everyone gets a chance to understand the effectiveness of the integration program in terms of teaching and learning experiences.
Promoting such collaborative experiences allows teachers to draw experiences from across the grades and subjects. And, the instructors get to customize their training programs to meet the needs of the school.
Tips to create the most effective professional development programs for technology integration
It should help teachers establish a direct connection between using-the-technology and student-achievement.
It should offer teachers with hands-on technology experience; and engage participants with concrete tasks within realistic classroom scenarios.
It should train teachers for a variety of learning environments. Moreover, it should be sensitive to different learning-styles and starting-points too.
It should help build core technological skills and competencies, and help teachers with actual application of the acquired skills in their classrooms.
It should help teachers envision themselves as facilitators and guides. And, it should help them develop mentoring skills.
It has to be ongoing.
It should enable teachers to learn at leisure.
It should promote a collaborative training environment.
It should help teachers develop their metacognitive skills- as teachers and as learners.
It should be sensitive to the cultural and social diversity of the school.
It should help teachers develop a variety of instructional and classroom management strategies.
It must emphasize- how using technology in their everyday life could facilitate their professional and personal lives.
Professional development is the keystone.
To create a digital learning environment you need to ensure that teachers get what they want. It could be a refresher course, or a series of intensive technology training sessions. They could be about the tools, or about integrating technology with their curriculum. The decision depends on the starting point for your technology integration program.