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How can we motivate teachers to see the benefits of adapting and changing to meet the needs of today's students?

I really feel like it's all about support within the teachers' classroom environment.

When introducing new tools or teaching methods to teachers in our school, I believe a good process looks like this:
1) Model Lessons - Admin, curriculum specialist, tech facilitator, or other teacher leaders go to classes and model the tool or strategy with students
2) Coteaching Lessons - Teachers work with above specialist to create a lesson that incorporates the tool or strategy being introduced. Both then execute this lesson with teacher's class(es).
3) Observe Lessons - Specialist observes teacher while they utilize the tools/strategies

After each step, reflection and discussion is a must. Talking about what worked, what didn't work, how the teacher might approach things differently, etc., is crucial to success.

It's also important to note that this should be done with just one tool or strategy at a time! Don't overwhelm teachers with more than one specific item to master at once or else you're bound to fail.

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Replies to This Discussion

Great observations!

Yes... for the purposes of motivating "teachers to see the benefits of adapting and changing to meet the needs of today's students," do not overwhelm the teachers with more than one new tool at a time. Teachers who are introduced to a single new tool and "get it" will be motivated to learn more on their own.

The most persuasive way to convince teachers of trying new things is to demonstrate a tool in action. Too many times, educators receive and inservice on the new tool and then follow-up fails to occur. Points listed in #2 and #3 play a key role in truly demonstrating a tool in action.

The challenge in all of this is time and flexibility of teacher schedules. How many specialists are needed to accomplish these goals? If expert teachers can assist in training, how are their schedules able to mesh with teachers ready to test new tools in class? How much inservice time is needed and will it be pushed aside by more pressing inservice topics?
So when building this school, we should really think hard about how the day is set up for both teachers and support staff. If we expect true collaboration, staff needs the time to make it happen.

Really, what we're talking about is how to implement a better model of professional development through modeling and coteaching. If it is recognized that this is the way to go, then the school day needs to reflect it.

We'll also have to think about how do these curriculum specialists/facilitators work with teachers? When hiring those positions, we'll need folks who have a proven track record of being patient, supportive, etc. I've seen several schools where the wrong person was hired for this type of job- teachers can smell a fake a mile away. The person needs to be welcoming, patient, and have great respect for the classroom teacher's job.
Time is crucial! With our current set-up and the demands put on teachers and staff, they don't have time to talk, discuss, collaborate, or reflect. Everything we learn about good teaching shows those things. The facilitator and the teacher need to to support and trust each other. Many want to learn, but they need to be met on their individual level. We have to work with teachers in their comfort zone, before they are ready to venture outside of it.
May teachers I have talked to have a fear of classroom management with technology. I think that it is great to model how this can be done for teachers WITH students so that this will not be the excuse that keeps them from trying it. Teachers also feel like they have to know everything there is to know about the technology before they introduce it to students. Modeling that it is okay to inquire in front of students is key as well.
I feel it is extremely important that teachers are able to observe not only what is occurring in their own school but have the opportunities to view OUTSIDE as well. This PLN is a great example of that...sharing best practices and results from educators all over the world opens eyes, minds and possibilities! Social Networking should be a key component and since money is not an object (if only), attending / presenting at regional / state / national conferences should be considered as well. Tim and Steve call tell attest to the fact that most teachers who have attended our local Summer Technology Camps come back energized, excited and have put new skills to use in their classrooms with great success.

Of course, with all that said, a large challenge will be how curriculum specialists/facilitators support these new initiatives and technologies that are learned and wish to be implemented. As Steve mentioned, they will have to be extremely supportive, welcoming, patient, and have great respect for the classroom teacher's job; a proven track record. This also falls back to their having stellar skills to Model, Coteach and Observe....
It is definitely a wonderful idea for teachers to see how technology is being integrated and implemented outside of their immediate community. I have learned so much from my PLN members who are in different states and sometimes countries.

That said, part of the problem is that teachers need to have someone as their 'go to' person. Someone who is available whenever needed and wherever needed. Many of our public schools in Philadelphia do not have such a point person for technology. As such, there is not safety net or support for teachers. The result: little to no technology integration. As the Technology Teacher Leader in my building I teach 6 classes a day, fix computer issues that arise, train teachers and troubleshoot all technology in the building. No way do I have enough time to do any modeling, observing or co-teaching.

I think you're up the right alley, Steve. Those are the necessary methods for ensuring successful implementation and positive reception of new tools. In the ideal 21st Century school..........
So, a question about time-

What should the actual school week look like for teachers, as far as time/support for instruction is concerned? I'm implementing a new way of targeting PD this year that, at least at this early stage, seems to be going well. Twice a month, I go into specific PLC meetings (Professional Learning Community for those that aren't doing this yet- it is basically a way to get more collaboration/planning for teachers in similar content areas, both vertical and horizontal). I introduce a tech tool for about 10 minutes that is targeted directly at their content/grade level (for example, I showed Google Sky to 6th grade science, showed Wordle for L Arts, etc., etc.). I tell teachers that if they see something they'd like to tackle with their kids either in the lab or their room- we will sit down and plan. Then I sit down with the teacher, talk about what concept they're working on, then I'll start the model/coteach/observe plan with them.

Pros of this- targeted PD has much more relevance and buy-in from teachers, can work on some great projects, teachers learn the tool so they can tackle it on their own in the future.

Cons- super reluctant teachers are still not taking me up on my offers and are slow to get on board, there is nothing requiring them to try some of this stuff out at my school. (this might be more of a leadership issue).

So, in our school- how often should PD be given to teachers? How long? Is the way I'm doing it too short? I have great respect for teachers' time having been there myself and been meeting'd to death, but maybe more time is needed with support from admin. How much time should we spend on PD in this school?
I am very impressed with your format, Steve. At the same time I am not surprised that there are those willing to scout out the new territory and those who don't want to leave the comfort of the settlement. The process you are going through will help lead to the answers to your questions - that would be your learning : )

I think there are two serious, and fundamental, questions underlying your situation.

First, if society doesn't tend to view teachers as professionals, how can a desire for professional development be part of how teachers see themselves? Drawing from that, do the parents of the students in your school support the idea? Do teachers have the opportunity to showcase their experience? You are offering the necessary support for your teachers to develop a professional development plan and test the ideas and tools you present to them, but is the larger school community supporting this (and how might that look)?

The second question is, "Why are teachers reluctant?" There may be a variety of reasons for teacher reluctance:

- They don't use technology themselves
- They view it as the "latest fad"
- They are suffering from educations version of the boy crying wolf - the "Reform du jour"
- The system demands a focus on standardized testing, leading to a "I don't have time for this" syndrome

and no easy answers.

But, I think that when technology and education meet, the most significant factor that leads to teacher apathy or discouragement is that it is often presented as an add on or worse yet, as a tool to do what you have always done, just in a slightly different way.

Technology is application neutral. Often it can be used to do what you have always done and thus, a teacher may see it as superfluous. Technology should be seen as a tool to do something new. When education moves from a content curriculum focus to a process curriculum one, then the doors get thrown wide open. When the focus on lesson planning moves from being content driven (or worse, test driven) to process driven, the "what" that gets taught becomes fluid and mailable. This fluidity allows for viewing content in entirely different ways and technology finds a natural fit. When the curriculum is focused on the processes of learning - meaning, what drives content choices are processes like Research, Communication, Diplomacy, Innovation - the fit of technology is natural and the resistance can't find a logical footing.

Just a few truncated thoughts . . . bravo for your supportive program!

The barriers you describe are real. Many teachers do not want to venture outside of their comfort zone or they see technology as a fad or a 'reform du jour' or something they don't have time for.

Technology is a broad definition. What these teachers should ask themselves is: Would they have been one of those teachers who thought that the advent of the pen would ruin children's handwriting? Would they have said "I don't have time" when the first overhead projectors were brought into the classroom? Would they have considered film strips a 'reform du jour?' Technology is always evolving and if we are to be professionals (we DO hold one or more degrees!) then we need to stay current with the tools of the time just like we keep current with teaching strategies and research of the time.

That said, you're right. We can't overburden them. Steve's approach is the right amount of content delivered in a non-threatening way.

I hope that my district moves toward more school-based support like his!
Greg Thompson said:
I think there are two serious, and fundamental, questions underlying your situation.
First, if society doesn't tend to view teachers as professionals, how can a desire for professional development be part of how teachers see themselves? Drawing from that, do the parents of the students in your school support the idea? Do teachers have the opportunity to showcase their experience? You are offering the necessary support for your teachers to develop a professional development plan and test the ideas and tools you present to them, but is the larger school community supporting this (and how might that look)?

Great thoughts, Greg. I also love the above idea- we're always showcasing student work, why not teachers? How can we showcase for the community the time and effort put in by the teachers at our school? This is definitely something I want to explore further....

I'm also going to throw another thought out there- the idea of giving teachers a certain number of "credits" worth of staff development seems outdated to me (this is how it's done in North Carolina, anyway). We need to move more toward a showcase of skills learned rather than a checklist of whether or not you were able to stay awake for an entire training. What would "teacher advancement" look like if the focus was on the outcomes of the training rather than simply participating and signing your name correctly?
I have always found that when teachers initiate/feel included in initiating PD it is highly successful. Many teachers appreciate being part of the initial PD process. I have seen wonderful ideas go down the tubes simply because the teachers felt they were "forced" to be part of the PD process and were not asked for any input. On the other hand, I have seen a few schools (unfortunately not more) use "shared leadership" models whereby the teachers, curriculum leaders, and other administrators all met and decided PD goals at the beginning of the year. These schools were highly successful in PD initiatives as well as student success. They had great "buy in", participation, and follow through.
I have been a big fan of the "train the trainer" concept that was pushed with the implementation of the EETT grant here in Cabarrus County last year. An issue I feel I'm always contending with is the fact that as a Technology Facilitator, I am not in classrooms using the technologies I teach as much as I'd like. Modeling, co-teaching and observing here and there doesn't really lead to a "big picture;" that's where training others to train their peers comes in so strong. PD where the trainer is stating "this is how my students react," "after a lot of lessons, this is their favorite use of (insert tech tool here)," "I see the biggest increase in learning using this tool" at times tend to keep participants more focused, interested and "buy in" more so than if a TF would say "studies show," "I saw this once," "your kids will love it!"



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