Sunday, October 23, 2005

Improving Teaching Skills Through “Technology Integration” Professional Development

A school district hired me to do some professional development with its staff on the use of LCDs in the classroom since those teachers did not have LCDs in their classroom. These teachers would be sharing the LCD with a team or grade level. The technology director did not want his teachers to use an LCD just for lecture as some of them had done with the overhead.

I agreed to do the professional development as long as I could be creative. I changed the professional development from using LCDs to creating activities that engage students in high level thinking skills. Robert Marzano’s Classroom Instruction that Works. (ASCD, 2001) became my model. His research states that the technique of “similarities and differences” produces the greatest gain of any strategy in student learning, a 45% gain.

Each session I presented 15+ activities based on comparing and contrasting skills in their subject areas. Each activity involved high student engagement. I used the LCD as a catalyst for helping these 6-12 teachers to think differently about learning through the use of technology.

The Technology Director has arranged this professional development to be a series of sessions. After the teachers viewed and created some activities in the professional development session, I had the teachers try one technique in their own classrooms using the LCD and report on it the next session. As teachers reported their success with the short activities (developing the comparing and contrasting skill within one or two PowerPoint slides), other teachers commented that they wanted to modify the just presented technique for their classroom. One teacher acknowledged that she had not previously thought of using comparing and contrasting in her subject area and now she realized how easy it was. She had done three highly engaging higher level thinking activities when I had requested one to be done.

Many teachers will not go to “Improving Your Teaching” professional developments. However, each “technology integration” professional development can become an teaching improvement opportunity. The best way to improve how educators use technology is to improve their teaching skills first. As the teachers focus on high student engagement and higher level thinking skills such as comparing and contrasting, they use technology in very different ways than those who focus on low engagement and lower level thinking skills.

Do your “technology integration” professional developments develop teaching skills or technology skills?


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