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Technology Professional Development Necessitates More Research
posted by: Ruthie | March 07, 2013, 07:27 PM   

Technology in the classroom isn't just for catering to various student learning styles, nor is it simply engaging students through social media, YouTube, and email. Teachers across the country know that students must be prepared for a tech-integrated world and many are benefitting from professional development that incorporates 21st century technologies. In an effort to establish best practices for technology professional development, experts assert that we must research proper methods to benefit all stakeholders.

"There's a serious lack of data about online and other technology-related professional development," said Stephanie Hirsh, the executive director of Learning Forward, a nonprofit focused on educator learning. "Fundamentally, we need to do more research around the impact of these different, new learning opportunities for teachers."

A major player in instituting innovative professional development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding research that evaluates two different methods in the 103,000-student Memphis school system. In the first method, teachers videotape themselves in the classroom for 30 minutes, at least 8 times during the school year, and then send videos to a coach. The evaluator then reviews the video using a model called MyTeachingPartner to evaluate their instruction techniques.

In the second method, teachers are presented with access to an online environment that features instruction materials, videos, articles, and links to information. Using discussion boards, teachers can collaborate on lesson plans, teaching techniques, and best practices. This method is rooted in the Tripod Project for School Improvement, a survey of students that is especially effective in predicting student achievement.

While popular among education reformers, the results of the research are in development. Still, teachers have called the video training "the most transformative form of professional development they've ever received." Brittany Clark, an English teacher at Middle College High School in Memphis said, "the coaching made me more reflective and attuned to certain things."

Technology-focused learning is also being tested in teacher preparation programs. Implemented in the education department at the University of Central Florida, TeachME offers educations students the chance to practice their skills in the classroom before ever stepping in front of real children. The program shows students computer generated images of students that are controlled by professors. They ask questions, carry on conversations with groups, and even misbehave.

Interestingly, 85% of AAE members are incorporating technology in their classrooms at least part of the time. By taking advantage of the same methods for their own professional development, educators can gain a unique perspective on how students best relate to information in a tech-driven world.

What methods of tech-related professional development do you find the most useful?
Comment below.

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