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Effects of Introducing Technology on Teacher Professionalization

Increased Collaboration Among Teachers Within the School

Reflecting on her school's seven years of experience with the extensive use of technology, the principal at the Open Charter School remarked,

If we've gotten nothing else out of all of this [technology], it . . . gives teachers an invitation to share their ideas about instruction. This is something they're not expected to know already; it's not competitive. --Elementary school principal

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.

My team [other teachers working with the same group of middle school students] was the most supportive group. If one of us didn't understand, and somebody else understood it, during our team planning, we'd sit down and we'd teach each other . . . . We all felt a little bit overwhelmed, because a new school is overwhelming, but throw the technology on top of it and we really felt overloaded, but we had a wonderful team, we've always had a wonderful team, so we worked well together. --Middle school teacher

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.

We've had faculty meetings where we have presentations, so the teachers that have done projects using technology, they've presented it to the whole faculty and we saw what was going on so we knew and could say, "Hey! Maybe we could make it easier for you if we introduce this skill at this level and then in seventh grade take that skill and take it to another level, and by the time they get to you, it's going to be a snap for the kids." . . . . If we didn't have the opportunity to see [what others are doing with technology], there would be much more overlapping and not taking it a step further. We're trying to spiral it as much as possible. --Middle school mathematics teacher

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).

Increased Interaction with External Collaborators and Resources

Technology has the potential also to support a much greater degree of communication and collaboration between teachers and others outside the school walls.

I don't know of any other profession in the world that isolates themselves more from what others do than teachers. We walk into our classroom. We close the door, and there is no connection with the rest of the world. Networking is going to change that. --ShareNet teacher

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.

Professional Growth Activities

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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.

The only reason I stay here is that they give you all this training, the tech training and the science training. They're not afraid to spend money on it, and that's really a feather in our caps as teachers. --Fourth-grade teacher

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).

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