Surviving the Educational Technology Gauntlet

Copyright 1998 Miguel Guhlin

Go ahead. Ask yourself the big question. You're a superintendent or a technology coordinator. Was the workshop worthwhile? Did it really make an impact on student learning? If you're like me, responsible for providing and/or delivering professional development to hundreds of teachers a year, you have to ask yourself. The agony of the evaluation process, waiting for the little sheets of paper to be turned in at the end of the day. Hey, I've even made the process simple, putting the evaluation form into a database and making it accessible online so that workshop participants can finish the evaluation faster. But, the statistics of evaluation don't mean anything, as you know. The hard truth is that training presentations
aren't enough to cause change in the classroom. Real change can only take place at the campus level with sustained staff development, influenced by peer coaching, collegial support teams, mentoring study groups, audio-taping and video-taping to provide feedback. And, let's be honest: How many of you think that our workshop participants have the time or access to do this?
According to Joyce and Showers (1987), only ten percent of teachers are able to transfer new learning into the classroom as the result of effective presentations. It takes up to 20 follow-up coaching sessions to ensure successful implementation of particular teaching strategies. According to an evaluation of training guide, it's suggested that we measure technology integration using a four-level guide. I have used this guide to help me gauge where my workshop participants are in regards to technology integration. Here's the guide:
1) Reaction Level. We measure perceptions, opinions, beliefs, or feelings of participants. This can be done using questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups. The key question is, "What did learners think of instruction?" As I consider what this means for my class on webquests, I find that the hand-shaking "My name's 'Miguel,' what's your's?" at the beginning of class, the brief self-assessment of their skills helps me get a feel for where my workshop participants are at. Like the high school Spanish teacher who shared how his students were keypals with a class in Mexico, creating Powerpoint presentations that he wanted to put on the Internet, I find that I can quickly discover where my participants are by their reactions to what others have to say. This part of the workshop, which takes up to an hour, is critical to the success of the group because it assesses what their opinions regarding technology integration are. More importantly, it probes what they believe about teaching and learning. And, this is critical as we enter the next level of evaluation. But, as teachers aren't granted the time and may often lack the equipment record themselves and someone with the time to provide critical feedback, we have to find an alternative.
2) Learning Level. We measure how well participants could perform training objectives. This can be accomplished using test/exam results, performance checklists, and role plays. The question that best characterizes the learning level is, "What did learners learn from instruction?" The best way I have found to achieve this is to use short, journal-type writing activities that encourage the participants to write down how they would work with their students. For example, in teaching webquests, I quickly discovered that teachers were overwhelmed by the concepts of designing webquests (using the internet resources to solve a controversial and real life problem in cooperative groups). After careful thought and deliberation, I have stopped shoving teachers into webquests, and taken a step back, asking them to write down how they use cooperative groups to solve common problems. This reflection process on their own work appears to work. As they share ideas on how to teach, it's not so far-fetched to develop an introduction for webquests that meets focuses students on solving a real life, complex problem. Written reflections throughout the day on the process of webquest creation, then sharing with the group, can foster deeper level commitment and interest. This, in turn, leads to better webquests that will impact how teachers really work in their classrooms. At the end of the day, instead of just evaluation forms that deal primarily with workshop delivery, quality of materials, and the physical learning environment, you have some real insights into what teachers actually learned and thought.
3) Behavioral Level. We measure how changes in behavior after implementing the program. The key question here is, "What did learners take from instruction and apply on the job?" As I consider my response to this question, I mourn not being at a campus to see the changes that teachers make in how they teach. Yet, in reality, this is the point that teachers can escape poor workshop teaching, as well as dramatically change the way they do their jobs. While observation, checklists, and supervisor questionnaires may be used to gather information, I'd rather the student projects on the wall, the request from parents to move students to a particular teacher's class, the pride of both teacher and students as they share their work at conventions like TCEA's in February or via email to electronic lists, like this message
below:

Last week I wrote to you about how our district was going to
participate in The Read In! an on-line chat with children's authors.
Well, the Read In! was on Friday. Students from 2nd through
5th grade participated. One of the 3rd grade classes actually had two
of their questions answered by Eve Bunting. The kids were so excited
about it. When R.L. Stine was on-line (you know him the Goosebumps guy)
the kids were going crazy trying to ask him questions :-).
When we first brought the idea to the teachers, the response was
lukewarm at best. We heard"It's the week before TAAS" etc..... But
luckily we had a couple of teachers that were willing to try it. Well,
they tried it, got a question answered and soon every other teacher was
begging to have the chat software set up IMMEDIATELY so they could
become a part of it:-}. It was a really neat way to use this fabulous
technology we have. The kids enjoyed it, and learned from it.
You folks have a great week:-)
It's easy to see that this particular teacher didn't just make changes in her classroom. . .she made them in grades 2-5. While we may avoid taking credit for enthusiasm, and some may say, "Oh, she's your one of a kind teacher," we also have to recognize that most of our teachers are desperately passionate about what they teach and how they do so. Getting them to reflect on their learning does impact how they teach, especially when we recognize them as one of a kind on their campus. And, if impacting how teachers teach is the bottom line for you, then you'll be sure to achieve the final results level.
4) Results Level. The results level encourages to ask, "Was there any impact on student learning?" Did we save time, energy, or money? Was there a quality improvement? This kind of improvement is often hard to find. As a friend put it to me once, "Technology isn't about improving TAAS scores. It's about making the process of teaching and learning more effective, more efficient, and productive." And, as I reflect on the four evaluative questions of technology integration, I realize that surviving the educational technology gauntlet isn't about students getting higher TAAS scores. It's about everyone in the classroom teaching and learning better. If students' behavior changes as a result of how teachers teach, then what should that behavior look like? If you adhere to behaviorist approaches, then it certainly will not look like the constructivist classroom where both teacher and student behaviors are certainly different:


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Teacher Behaviors
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Student Behaviors
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Focused on knowledge construction, not reproduction
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Students use semantic mapping tools to identify key components of real problems or problems that exist in the students' own environment related to specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
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Provide multiple representations of reality
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Students use identify differing points of view and hypermedia tools to offer differing viewpoints.
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Provide authentic tasks (contextualizing rather than abstract)
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Students deal with real problems that are specific to their learning environment and that they perceive as relevant.
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Foster student reflection
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Students may use journals to write definitions of terms or concepts which they misuse or misunderstand, as well as restate problems in their own words. This allows them to articulate to themselves what the problem is and they might do about it. At the end of the class, students could summarize what they have learned in class.

This improves learning especially in the areas of idea formation, decision-making, problem-solving, self-discovery, and retention.
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Provide means for context as well as content-dependent knowledge construction
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Students learn the essential knowledge and skills in the context of what they have to know to solve a real-life, relevant problem posed to them.
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Support collaborative knowledge construction
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Students work in cooperative groups to solve problems posed.
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As I think back over the last few months, I find to my amazement that the greatest obstacle to technology integration isn't the technology. Rather, it is the curriculum the technology is to be integrated into. The room full of teachers could not see how elements of problem-based learning, situated learning all fit into a model of curriculum-technology integration. The real work lies in getting teachers to know how to work with curriculum. When considering technology integration, one's first impulse is to put technology in the hands of the freshly minted teacher. Her enthusiasm makes her equal in all other tasks, and her use of technology in preparing research papers must surely have prepared her for using technology with students. And, at a simple tool-based level, this is true. But, the real potential for technology integration lies in the hands of the experienced teacher for whom student grouping, discipline management, and curriculum development isn't an issue anymore. The lesson I've learned is that the least technology capable teachers are the ones that have the greatest potential for surviving the educational technology gauntlet…of integrating technology into the curriculum.

References
Fulwiler, T. (1987). Teaching with writing. Boynton/Cook Publishers. Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH.
Fuentes, M.E. (1998, April 4). The Read In!. Discussion List [Type of medium]. Available E-mail: tif-tech@esc20.net
[1998, April 4].
Joyce, B. & Showers, B., & Rolheiser-Benneth, C. (November 1987). Staff development and student learning: A synthesis of research on models of teaching. Educational Leadership, 11-23.
Kirkpatrick, D. "Evaluation of Training," in Craig, R. L. (ed), Training and development handbook: A guide to human resource development. Sponsored by the American Society for Training and Development. 2nd edition, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1976, C. 18.
Shank, P. ( 1998) Constructivist theory and internet-based instruction. Web page [Type of medium]. Available http://www.gwu.edu/~etl/shank.html