Reflecting on her school's seven years of experience with the extensive use of technology, the principal at the Open Charter School remarked,
Staff at several sites reported that the introduction of technology had put them into the position of being learners again. Their common struggle to master something new led to increased contact, both in terms of receiving from fellow teachers the same kind of support for technology use that was described above for students, but also in terms of sparking discussions about what they were teaching and how technology fit into their instructional goals.
At several case study schools, joint activity in framing education reform and technology implementation grant proposals increased the amount of teacher interaction around issues of curriculum and instruction. Sites reported also that the provision of supported time for teachers to present and talk about their technology-based activities led not only to sharing of information and strategies dealing with technology, but also an increased sense of camaraderie and better articulation of the curriculum.
Another way in which technology can support teacher collaboration and cooperation is through the use of electronic mail for local teacher-to-teacher communication (see examples).
Technology has the potential also to support a much greater degree of communication and collaboration between teachers and others outside the school walls.
One of our case study sites--ShareNet--is a multi-district, multi-school network designed to help fulfill the need for interactions and sharing of resources across schools. Most of the materials in the ShareNet curriculum library were in fact developed by groups of teachers from multiple schools collaborating over the network. In this sense, the project offers demonstrable proof of the capabilities of telecommunications to support broader collaborations among teachers. At the same time, the majority of teachers in ShareNet schools are not using the network to interact with peers at other schools. The same access issues that limit the network's use by students, hinder its effectiveness in supporting teacher interactions. Most teachers in ShareNet schools do not have their own e-mail addresses, and many lack training in how to use the network.
Teachers at some of the other sites reported telecommunication with teachers (see examples) or others outside of their school around aspects of their technology-supported projects. In addition to telecommunications support for interacting with people outside the school's walls, technology-based innovations may provide the motivation for non-network-based collaborations (just as it can motivate such collaborations within the school, as discussed above). Technology projects bring teachers into contact with outside resources, including not only other teachers, but researchers, politicians, software developers, and administrators.
Teacher training at ShareNet
One of the major effects of the technology-supported education reform efforts for teachers was an increase in their involvement in professional activities. Activities that were part of the projects themselves included:
Such activities are important not just because of what teachers learn from them but also because of their effects on teachers' self-esteem and morale.
Some of the most rewarding professional experiences described to us took place at sites with strong on-going collaborations with external research or development groups (see examples).
Exemplary use of technology in ways that support education reform are not widespread. For this reason, the experiences and perceptions of staff from the case study sites have been of great interest to a broader educational community and, indeed, to the general public. Professional opportunities stemming from involvement in technology-supported activities have included participation in state technology committees; election to offices in regional and national educational technology associations; receipt of funding for disseminating instructional uses of technology; participation in additional state pilot programs; consulting contracts with software developers and others, including the Edison Project; publish articles in a wide range of education-related journals; being interviewed for broader mass media publications such as Newsweek, Fortune, Business Week, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times; and being the subject of national-level television documentaries (PBS).