Before teachers can integrate technology in their classrooms effectively, they need training on how to incorporate new pedagogical approaches and strategies using technology1. Multiple teacher surveys and studies both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic have reported that many teachers in the U.S. do not have enough experience, resources, or training to use technology in the most impactful ways. Teachers who serve low-income schools have fewer resources resulting in a greater need for training in how to use technology2.
According to the 2017 National Education Technology Plan, many teacher education programs do not provide the preparation future teachers need to use technology to support teaching, learning, and classroom management. The in-service PD opportunities offered in many districts often are traditional one-time workshops that do not provide sufficient time to help teachers effectively use technology in their specific context3.
Creating an environment where teachers are supporting one another in learning and implementing new teaching strategies, tools, and frameworks throughout the year will both increase collaboration among teachers and help to spread best practices. This environment can be created and maintained through the use of instructional technology coaches, teams of teacher leaders, or other systems of support.
Research in the area of adult learning has identified four key principles for high-quality teacher learning activities4:
- Use of concrete experiences (i.e., coherence): Activities that are explicitly linked to curriculum teachers use, their classroom/school context, and their individual needs and interests.
- Continuously available feedback (i.e., sustained duration): Activities that provide teachers with sufficient time to learn and reflect on strategies that improve their practice.
- Encouragement of teachers to take on new and complex roles (i.e., active learning): Activities that provide teachers with opportunities to get hands-on experiences in designing and/or trying new instructional strategies.
- Collaboration (i.e., collective participation): Activities that give teachers the opportunities to share their ideas, work collaboratively, and help with each other’s learning.
These four principles are needed for effective PD opportunities around technology integration and use5.
Having a framework for teacher practice, such as the Technology Integration Matrix from the University of South Florida’s Florida Center for Technology Integration and frameworks for designing student educational experiences like Digital Promise’s Powerful Learning principles will help to support and guide the ongoing professional learning practice engaging coaches and teachers.
Strategies for success:
- Harness the power of instructional technology coaches: Evidence across multiple studies shows that instructional coaching can provide teachers with high-quality opportunities to effectively learn different practices, including meaningful use of technology6. A successful instructional technology coaching program is sustained, job-embedded PD structured around active participation of teachers. Our research on the VILS program shows that by harnessing the power of instructional technology coaches, districts can help educators not only use technology more frequently but also more skillfully.
- Leverage the expertise of teacher leaders: At smaller schools, instructional technology coaches can provide sustained support in use of technology by coaching all teachers consistently, without sacrificing their reach. However, in larger schools there is a dilemma of depth versus reach. Moreover, in Title I schools, there often is high teacher turnover. These schools are at risk of losing sustained culture change in using technology as part of teaching and learning. In districts where budgets and other limitations prevent hiring dedicated instructional technology coaches, leaders can build and maintain a network of change agents comprised of teachers who have already received coaching support. These teachers can collectively take on the responsibilities and professional development support normally provided by the coach. By offering their knowledge and experiences in team meetings, sharing resources and tools, and opening their classroom doors to their colleagues for observations, these teacher leaders can extend the reach of the coach while also building coherence across grade levels and departments.
- Provide opportunities for peer-led professional learning: Another strategy is to implement peer demonstration classrooms that allow teachers to use new tools and teaching strategies while being observed by peers who can provide feedback and get ideas about how to use those same tools and strategies in their own classrooms. Posting a calendar in a common space for teachers allows them to select which rooms to visit based on what new tool or strategy will be shared.
In Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, the Teacher Leader Corps (TLC) is a team of teacher leaders who embrace new teaching and learning methodologies, regardless of their level of prior experience with technology. They are not necessarily the most tech savvy, but they are willing to try new things and to open their classrooms to other teachers so they can learn together. Schools often select teachers who are informal leaders across grades and subjects to join the TLC. This helps to extend their reach and ensures that teachers who are reluctant to embrace technology in the classroom can identify with peers on the TLC.
Darling-Hammond, L., Zielezinski, M. B., & Goldman, S. (2014). Using technology to support at-risk students’ learning. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
Vega, V., & Robb, M. B. (2019). The Common Sense census: Inside the 21st-century classroom. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media. PwC (2018). Technology in US schools: Are we preparing our kids for the jobs of tomorrow?
Desimone, L. M., & Garet, M. S. (2015). Best practices in teacher’s professional development in the United States. Gates Foundation. (2014). Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development. ERIC Clearinghouse.
Trotter, Y. D. (2006). Adult Learning Theories: Impacting Professional Development Programs. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 72(2).
Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Learning Policy Institute.
Bakhshaei, M., Hardy, A., Ravitz, J. & Seylar, J. (2020, April 6-10). Instructional coaching holds promise as a method to improve instruction with technology [Paper presentation]. Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education 31st Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA.
Kraft, M. A., Blazar, D., & Hogan, D. (2018). The effect of teacher coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Review of Educational Research.
Young, V., Schmidt, R., Wang, H., Cassidy, L., & Laguarda, K. (2017). A Comprehensive Model of Teacher Induction: Implementation and Impact on Teachers and Students. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Bakhshaei, M., Hardy, A., Ravitz, J. & Seylar, J. (2020, June 19-23). Fostering job-embedded teacher learning: Essential features for effective instructional coaching. International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Nashville, CA.
Bakhshaei, M., Hardy, A., Ravitz, J., & Seylar, J. (2019). Scaling up classroom coaching for impactful technology use: Results from Year 2 of the Dynamic Learning Project. Digital Promise.