As technology continues to become increasingly pervasive in our schools, teachers need to learn how to use new instructional technologies and applications and how to integrate them into the teaching and learning processes. The professional development is one of the most essential elements of a school’s technology program. According to the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, the role of the classroom teacher is critical to the full development and use of technology in schools. If teachers are not the focus of the technology training, then technology will fail. Harold Wenglinsky, in his monograph “How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back into Discussion of Teacher Quality,” states that effective professional development does make a difference in student achievement. The more extended the professional development, the more it encourages effective classroom practices.
If technology integration is the goal of schools, then a technology training program is imperative. Teachers must be trained in the use of technology before they can begin to integrate it into their curriculum. National statistics have shown that teachers receive far less on-the-job training in technology than any other professional group. The business community knows that for every dollar spent on hardware and software, another dollar must go toward staff development. But on average, school districts spend only about 5 percent of their technology budget on teacher training. Integrating technology in schools requires more than the investments of technology infrastructure, hardware, and software. A key finding of the landmark report “Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection” revealed that 30% of the technology budget should be used for teacher training. School districts need to bring the importance of effective professional development for teachers to the forefront by allocating adequate budget, resources, and support.
There are many successful technology professional development models implemented in schools throughout America. Some of these are: Teachers Training Teachers (T3), Technology Mentor Teachers (TMT), Staff Development Center, Extended Summer Workshops, Online Professional Development, Lighthouse Method, Building Technology Leaders, and Information Repository. Nonetheless, an effective technology training program requires a careful design and implementation. Here are 20 points to be considered in the design and implementation of a technology training program:
- Begin with a needs assessment. Find out the current training needs from the faculty and staff.
- Develop a campus technology plan that allows time for teachers/staff to explore and learn the technology. Has adequate budget (approximately 20% to 30% of technology budget) and support from administration.
- Plan your technology training program carefully. Training should be regular and ongoing. It should derive from the school’s technology plan.
- Do not let vendors dictate your training needs; negotiate to have training meet your school’s needs. Enlist faculty support. Use local technology experts and teachers, rather than outside consultant, whenever possible.
- Provide a non-threatening environment and schedule training sessions at convenient times.
- Provide incentive, release time, or extra planning period for teachers.
- Provide monetary incentives for teachers who are willing to take technology training and then train other teachers.
- Offer a variety of training courses and workshops. Consider several short courses rather than one long course.
- Offer summer and weekend loan programs for teachers. Allow teachers an opportunity to take school laptop computers or their classroom computers with CD-ROMs home for practice, provided they return them when school is back in session.
- Make sure the technology is readily available to teachers before training is provided. Teachers should be able to immediately employ the technology skills covered in the training.
- Provide sufficient equipment for everyone in training. Also, provide copies of the software and manual that teachers are trained on.
- Provide a meaningful context for using the technology. Focus training on improving teaching and learning processes, not on the bells and whistles of new technology tools.
- Maximize hands-on learning experiences. Training must be practical, useful, and realistic.
- Involve a series of activities, with opportunities for guided practice, exploration, and feedback.
- Introduce ways to use technology for specific instructional tasks.
- Present information in steps, with opportunities for practice and mastery.
- Allow time for whole-group/class follow-up sharing.
- Keep appropriate records and evaluate all workshops and training courses.
- Provide follow-up support and feedback.
- Provide individual follow-up modeling in the classroom.