The Impact Of Professional Development Education Essay

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The purpose of the study is to examine the impact of professional development through a three-day technology integration academy on the instructional practices of teachers of secondary core subject area courses and student use of technology in the classroom. The following relevant topics will be discussed: the evolution of instructional technology, technology and today's students, technology integration in the classroom, levels of technology integration, and technology professional development.

While the term "instructional technology" today implies teaching with computing devices, the concept of instructional technology is not new (Ely, 2008). According to the Association for Communications and Technology, "Instructional Technology is the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning." The evolution of instructional technology has occurred in parallel with the evolution of education theory since post World War II (Ely, 2008). As education theory evolved from programmed instruction to cognitive psychology to constructivism, instructional technology evolved and supported each philosophical wave. Programmed instruction met audiovisual technologies; behavioral psychology connected with teaching machines and education TV; cognitive science linked with personal computers and educational software; and constructivism connected with distance learning and the Internet (Ely, 2008).

Today's students are constantly connected to each other and to the world. Prensky (2001) coined the term "digital natives" to describe and characterize today's students who have never known a world without technology. Bennett, Maton, and Kervin (2008) argue two literature-based assumptions can be made about digital natives: (a) they have highly developed technology knowledge and skills; (b) because they have used technology all of their lives their learning styles and preferences are different than those of previous generations.

However, while students have experience using computers, they may lack basic technology skills to be productive in college and the workforce (Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009).

A primary goal of the Enhancing Education Through Technology section of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was to " . . . improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary schools and secondary schools." NCLB also called for teacher training in effective technology integration (2001). Yet, in spite of this requirement teachers have been slow to integrate technology. Teachers still use technology mostly for productivity rather than instruction even though there is evidence that student-centered, authentic problem solving improves performance (Kopcha, 2010).  

Hew and Brush (2007) studied barriers and solutions to technology integration in K-12 schools. They identified six categories of barriers to teachers integrating technology: (a) resources, (b) knowledge and skills, (c) institution, (d) attitudes and beliefs, (e) assessment, and (f) subject culture.

Access to computers was once considered a barrier to technology integration in the classroom, but as early as 2003 U.S. Department of Education data disputed lack of access to technology showed that at least 80% of U.S. teachers have access to technology (DOE, 2003). But, the availability of technology in the classroom does not change instructional practice. Ultimately, teachers define exemplary practice based upon their own classroom and school situations: access to technology, grade level taught, vision, colleagues' and use of technology.  Their definitions are not based upon current definitions in the literature (Ertmer, Gopalakrishnan, & Ross, 2001). It is a teacher's own interpretation of "good teaching" and beliefs about education that lead to change (Palak & Walls, 2009). For a teacher with "teacher-centered beliefs" students simply using technology may represent student-centered technology integration. In contrast, teachers who practice student-centered instruction incorporate technology as part of the process of learning and the development of higher order thinking skills (Palak & Walls, 2009). Other factors that predict technology use in the classroom are support of administrators and colleagues, as well as technical support (Inan & Lowther, 2009), time, technology training, and willingness to work beyond the school day (Wannatta & Fordham, 2004).

The TPCK framework serves as a model to help teachers understand that technology must be considered in the design of lessons along with content knowledge and pedagogy. Technology should not be considered a separate add-on to instruction (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

While there was little difference in student achievement, students who were immersed in technology rich classroom experiences were active learners who developed problem solving and critical thinking skills, which they were able to apply both collaboratively and independently (Lowther, Inan, Daniel Strahl, & Ross, 2008).

When teachers integrate technology into teaching and learning activities, the degree to which it is integrated is important. Several frameworks exist to determine the depth of technology integration. In 1994, Dr. Christopher Moersch developed the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LoTI) Framework. The LoTi Framework includes seven descriptors to measure classroom technology integration: (a) Level 0 - Non-use, (b) Level 1 - Awareness, (c) Level 2 - Exploration, (d) Level 3 - Infusion, (e) Level 4a - Integration: Mechanical, (f) Level 4b - Integration: Routine, (g) Level 5 - Expansion, and (h) Level 6 - Refinement. The Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow report described five stages of technology adoption: (a) entry, (b) adoption, (c) adaptation, (d) appropriation, and (e) invention (Dwyer, Ringstaff, & Sandholtz). In Teaching with Technology, Hooper and Reiber (1995) described six stages of technology integration: (a) familiarization, (b) utilitzation, (c) integration, (d) reorientation, and (e) evolution. All of these frameworks suggest that every teacher falls somewhere on the continuum in the practice of technology integration.

A variety of studies support the importance of technology integration professional development for teachers (Kimoyiannis & Komis, 2007; Gray, Thomas, & Lewis, 2010). Culp, Honey, and Mandinach cited providing " . . . more, sustained, high-quality professional development and overall support for teachers seeking to innovate and grow  . . ." as one of the seven most important recommendations for supporting technology investments. Likewise, teachers cited professional development as an important component of preparing them to use technology effectively in instruction (Gray, Thomas, & Lewis, 2010; Harris, Mishra, & Koehler, 2009). Most integration professional development is technology-centered and ignores the unique requirements of different grade levels and disciplines (Culp, Honey, & Mandinach, 2003). Such technology-centered professional development is often a one shot offering, and does not significantly impact instructional practice or student achievement. However, sustained, research-informed instructional technology professional development has the potential to transform instructional practice (Harris, Mishra, & Koehler, 2009). Teachers who experience sustained professional development are more likely to change their instructional practice to student-centered, research-based strategies, which include integrating technology. Teachers see value in instructional strategies reflected in student achievement (Lowther, Inan, Daniel Strahl, & Ross, 2008).  

In order for technology training to make in impact in the classroom, followup support in the classroom is needed. Sustained professional development through instructional technology coaches or mentors, who assist teachers in implementing the strategies learned in training (Zhao & Bryant), may result in more effective classroom use of technology and teachers using technology in more innovative way for instruction (Kopcha, 2010). 

With all of the time and money that districts have invested in instructional technology integration professional development for teachers, the question remains whether or not professional development is transferring to classroom practice.

Research Questions

What changes in instructional practices occur as a result of teacher professional development in a technology integration academy?

What changes in the frequency of student computer use occur as a result of teacher professional development in a technology integration academy?

What are the perceived benefits of technology integration to teachers and students?