Teacher Professional Development


Still in OZ – I presented a MasterClass session to about 50 educators at the Technology School of the Future in Adelaide last night. I had some really interesting discussions with some of the people there around the whole issue of teacher professional development, identified by them as the critical area to be addressed in schools as we seek to successfully integrate ICTs into our education system.

It seems to me that, after almost three decades of work with ICTs in schools and classrooms, there is still confusion about why technology actually matters. We are still facing the same challenges with regards to how we successfully integrate them into our practice in schools, about how we understand the value they add to what we do, and, for some, why we’re even bothering with them in schools in the first place. The focus inevitably comes to the professional development of teachers and best we can prepare them in their thinking and practices.

One example of this was Hank, an assistant principal at a local Senior College that is in the process of placing 6-8 computers in every classroom through funding obtained from the (Australian) Federal Governments ???Invest In Our Schools??? grant. Hank is in charge of these ICT developments, and sees the biggest challenge is to change classroom pedagogy so that ICTs become an integral part of what occurs in the classroom without it taking over the classroom. Hank has set up a blog where he hopes to engage with other educators who may be able to help him make the right decisions in his school – so if you have some experience in this area he’d appreciate your help.

While musing on these thoughts this morning, I read with interest the recent Teachers Talk Tech report that has tracked and measured technology trends in education from the teacher???s perspective for the last four years. Key findings are reported as:

  • Technology is bridging the gap between 21st century skills and the core curriculum
  • The teaching process is fundamentally changing as professional development takes teachers from learning how computers work to using technology to change how they teach
  • Teachers believe technology is increasingly influencing how they teach thinking and learning skills to develop lifelong learners
  • Education is today where businesses were 20 years ago – on the cusp of radically transforming their fundamental environments

The report paints an optomistic picture, emphasising that it is teacher development that is the key to success – and that the teacher development must be sustained over time – the most significant thing for me in the reporting was a quote from one of the researchers:

“I think the biggest ‘aha’ of the study is that we are starting to see a direct correlation between hours of professional development and how thoroughly technology is being integrated into the classroom,… These are things we’ve always suspected, but now we have some actual statistics through the surveys that validate the correlations.”

On a more pessimistic note, an article titled In a globalised world, mediocre teaching is doomed predicts that by 2036, the forms of teacher preparation that currently prevail in Western nations will have sunk into oblivion. We will have discarded schools of education, the pedagogies they teach, and the certification apparatus that they serve. The article is worth a read as it presents a view of a possible future scenario – one in which the very existence of schools themselves is questioned.

The issue here is that again, the focus of attention comes on teachers and their ability (or inability) to cope with the expectations placed upon them by the “system” and by the pace of change and innovation that is occurring.

Speaking of the the “system” – another comment made to me last night after the Masterclass has got me thinking… I’d spent much of the night discussing changes in pedagogical practice, and the need to re-examine our understandings of basic things such as our ideas about knowledge, about minds, and about learning. The challenge of moving away from thinking of knowledge as “stuff”, and minds as “containers” and learning as the process of filling “minds” with “knowledge” was at the heart of what I was saying. Afterwards one one of the attendees pointed out that if you compare the amount of money being invested in the development of “stuff” (eg online learning objects) with the amount being spent on Teacher Professional Development, it becomes apparent where the emphasis of the “the system” is in this debate. Food for thought.

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