I am currently the technology instructor at (a school in this district), where I am challenged and rewarded every day as a teacher, a problem-solver, an integrator, a mentor and a manager. I am impressed with the availability of iPads and laptops in our school, and especially in our kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, which are 1:1 this year. I appreciate the opportunities that these devices provide to the students at my school and I really want them to be used effectively.
For a recent graduate course I was asked to read a book called Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools written by Michael B. Horn, Heather Staker and Clayton M. Christensen. The book is about the power of technology in classroom instruction and the shift to a blended learning environment; one which combines online work with traditional classroom practice to create a system in which students have greater control of time, pace, and path of instruction.
The concept is not a new one. Globally, blended learning is a trend not just in education, but as a professional development strategy in the business world. Certainly a number of teachers in our district are taking advantage of the opportunities that our devices provide to our students, using technology in their own classrooms to create engaging and individualized learning experiences. But I think that there is much more that we, as a district, could be doing to encourage our students to think more independently and to make learning more meaningful for them with technology.
The elementary technology instructors in (our district) are incredible. Their combined experience makes them an amazing resource for innovative learning strategies and our teachers need to be encouraged to ask them for help in using technology in their own rooms. In my own school, my offer to help teachers in their classrooms has been well-received by many of my colleagues. But there is a noticeable reluctance among many other teachers to make a shift from what has been traditionally working in their classrooms.
In my research of literature regarding blended learning and today’s teachers, I’ve found significant evidence that (our district) is not alone. A new curriculum and the pressures of gathering data and meeting standards leave teachers across our country with very little time to disrupt their traditional classrooms for blended learning strategies. But there are things that we can do as a district to motivate and support these teachers. For that reason, I am proposing the following:
- Currently, while weekly PLC’s are meeting by grade level, the technology instructors are all meeting at one school. I’m proposing that once a month, PLC meetings should be dedicated to technology. On those Tuesday mornings, technology staff should remain in their own buildings where they can meet with grade level teachers to discuss the implementation of technology in their classrooms. I have learned through research that small group discussions and collaboration are a much better forum forum for helping teachers employ innovative technology-based instruction in their rooms than one-size-fits-all professional development instruction.
- I also propose that at least one monthly SIP meeting during the fall semester should be dedicated to professional development in the area of technology. This does not have to be a formal presentation with a pre-planned agenda. Instead, an “unconference”, would allow attendees to determine the topics of discussion and share what’s working and what’s not. If district teachers of the same grade level were to gather to share the strategies for innovative learning that they find successful in their schools, social influence may motivate their colleagues to try it as well.
With so many devices available to our students, it makes sense that we should use them effectively for education. Our teachers struggle to find the time to create new technology-based lessons, which are proven to be more engaging and effective for our students. The district could send a message of commitment to effective blended learning by providing dedicated time for teachers to work together and share strategies. For many, that may be the only motivation they need.
Thank you for your consideration.