In the constantly growing and changing realm of teaching, learning, and technology, teachers are expected to embrace strange new technological mediums with enthusiasm and confidence. It is asking a lot! In our combined 10 years of working with teachers in the Virtual High School at the Marlboro College Technology Graduate Center, and in teaching the “Pedagogy of Online Learning” at Cambridge College, we have arrived at a few basic conclusions about what teachers must know and be able to do in order to have the best chance of success in the new millennium.
Second: Effective Professional Development That Fosters Collaboration Between Teachers
No one learns well in a vacuum; why should teachers be expected to do so? A single afternoon workshop to train teachers in how to create a PowerPoint presentation, for example, is not enough. Learning opportunities should extend beyond a single lesson.
Professional development should model effective teaching and learning practices, and involve groups of teachers in projects that are relevant for use in their own classrooms. Training sessions should bring teachers together (face-to-face or online) to work toward a common goal. A sense of cooperation and collaboration should exist between them as they work in small groups to learn and create a technology project together. Far more learning will be accomplished in this way, rather than by having teachers struggle separately and on their own.
Teachers need to be able to sort through all the “garbage” that is presently being sold on the market, and find software and Web sites that will enhance thinking and learning skills in their classrooms. Schools that establish collaborative networking practices between their teachers ultimately end up saving time and money. Teachers discover that technology and the Web are not new-age replacements for work pages, but rather opportunities to foster greater work collaboration and critical thinking in their students. By sharing both positive and negative technology experiences, teachers extend and deepen their understanding of the technology, and save each other from having to constantly reinvent the wheel.