This case will focus on the following situation: As the technology coordinator for a school district you receive a state grant to provide technology resources and professional development for every teacher in the intermediate (Grades 5-6), middle (Grades 7-8) and high school (Grades 9-12) classrooms in your district. Your superintendent and school board have asked you to: (a) Design differentiated professional development to meet all teachers' needs; (b) Include some outside consultants but quickly build teacher capacity so future professional development can be facilitated by district employees; (c) Provide educational materials for teachers and parents about internet safety and legal issues; and (d) Determine that the use of technology has positively impacted student learning outcomes. This case study describes the story of how one school district responded to this challenge.
While the general outline of the professional development was written into the grant, once it was funded the technology coordinator needed to determine how to provide effective professional learning experiences for over two hundred teachers in all three schools. Using a framework of learner-centered professional development (National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching, 2000; Polly & Hannafin, in press), the professional development was targeted to:
Address problematic areas regarding student learning outcomes
Provide explicit connections between technology use and concepts that teachers taught
Give teachers choices about where teachers would focus their attention
Facilitate collaboration among grade levels and subject areas
Include follow-up support during the school year based on teachers’ needs and
Administrators’ analysis of technology use
These goals were carried out in a few different ways that will be discussed later in this chapter.
Building Teacher-Leader Capacity
As a result of the need to build teacher-leader capacity and serve a large number of teachers, a team of teacher-leaders–called the Vanguard team–was formed. The Vanguard team consisted of early adopters and technology-using teachers in the district who were already using internet-based activities, interactive whiteboards, or teachers who had expressed a passionate interest for integrating technology into their instruction. These Vanguard team members participated in one week of professional development that was designed to mirror the same type of experience that they would co-facilitate with their colleagues during the remainder of the summer.
The Vanguard week included sessions that were facilitated by district leaders, teacher-leaders and higher education partners. Vanguard members learned about higher-order thinking skills and Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, designing effective technology-rich lessons, Web. 2.0 tools, and educational games. Further, Vanguard team members also spent a day preparing professional development sessions that they facilitated to their colleagues later that summer.