Creating “Our Space” and Putting Technology into “Their Hands”
by Terry S. Atkinson
During the past year, several colleagues and I have spent time in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms observing teachers identified by principals as “exemplary” for their effectiveness with technology integration. Routinely, we have observed little of what the NETS-T and NETS-S standards suggest in terms of facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity through the modeling of collaborative knowledge construction. In defense of teachers who are striving to integrate tech tools into their current teaching as best they can, most teach the way they were taught, dispensing knowledge while seeking to meet an array of testing and accountability mandates. Based on our observations, there is a serious lack of focused professional development (PD) fostering shifts from the lecture-laden model of “what has been” to “what might be.” This means that technology typically resides in the hands of teachers, rather than students. So what might a transformative PD model involve?
Jill Castek, post doc scholar at Berkeley, is currently involved in a university team/school partnership team piloting the use of iPads in Middle School science classrooms to examine the potentials and possibilities for teaching disciplinary literacy. To test ideas, she and project colleagues co-teach lessons involving a range of iPad apps. A member of the university team designs an iPad delivered lesson and implements instruction together with the teacher. Over the course of two to three days, the teachers become more comfortable/confident and gradually take on more responsibility for the teaching. Early pilot findings report that the most effective lessons involved the students actively engaged with the iPads (as opposed to demonstration by the teacher and target/limited use of the digital device).
Based on this pilot project’s example and the standards set forth in NETS-T, NETS-S, and NETS-A for administrators, adhering to several key professional development guidelines has the potential to foster huge shifts in literacy learning through technology. First, PD opportunities modeling collaborative student/teacher knowledge construction can morph classrooms formerly defined by teachers as “my space,” into “our space.” Additionally, aligned commitment to putting technology into the hands of students is key if we ultimately hope to transform classrooms into hotbeds leading to collaborative innovation, creativity, and leaps in both student achievement and teacher growth (for more about the “my space”/”our space” dichotomy, read Jill McClay and Margaret Mackey’s Chapter 9 in Assessing New Literacies).
Terry S. Atkinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.