5) How has the professional development from this graduate program added to your professional growth, leadership in your educational setting, participation in local and global learning communities, and self-renewal as an educator, researcher, and collaborator?
The professional development from this graduate program, has added to my professional growth leadership in my educational settings, participation in local and global learning communities and self-renewal as an educator, researcher, and collaborator.
Professional development in this graduate program made me much more knowledgeable about and comfortable with technology application and incorporation. Additionally, I feel commutable with the roll out of new technology, such as becoming a Google-based district, because I have the background and skills to help implement such a change. Through my course work I have learned to ask the right questions and to think critically about the implications. With the addition of new technology into schools it is important to consider the “use [of] technology not just for the sake of technology”, but instead choose “the right tool for the job”. Additionally it is important to have teachers be on board with and understand the purpose of new technology as “teachers need a variety of supports to make effective use of educational technology”. One issue in the school I currently work is that when opportunities for technology PD are being offered they are not taken advantage of. It is easy to assume teachers aren’t interested but teachers are “by no means opposed to using educational technology”(Zucker, 2008, p. 14-15). Instead it often stems from teachers having other time commitments, including evaluations, curriculum development, teams and committees and personal commitments that make one more item stressful and time consuming. Developing Technology PD opportunities that are available for teachers (whether creating them myself or collating a collection of resources) that can be accessed digitally at the teachers convenience is an area I feel comfortable with because of my course work.
As my district becomes a Google district, there is also discussion about developing a 1:1 program. One of the debates is whether the district should choose Chromebooks, iPads, or some combination of the two for teacher and student use. Right now, there is a sentiment towards iPads for teachers, and Chromebooks for students. Joining the technology team, my concern is how the iPads and Chromebooks will be used in the classroom – is there a need for this technology? If teachers are not attending technology PD the district is offering and feel overwhelmed by other concerns – we need to ensure that buying the technology is a worthwhile investment – “the strategy for acquiring new gear must, as noted already, focus on the desired learning outcome” (CDW-G, 2013, p.8). Do we really need 1:1 or should we just buy one classroom set per grade? As Zucker explains “less than 10 percent of teachers who have computers in their classrooms were serious users” (2008, p.12). Before delving into a 1:1 program I would want to find out what the percentage in my school and district was who are serious users – do they use the computers in their classrooms? Do they make use of the computer labs or the iPads available in the LMC? If no, what would make them make use of these resources? Is it that they don’t feel comfortable? Is it that they are unaware of how to best incorporate them into everyday instruction? Is it the technology itself (i.e. computers are less used than ChromeBooks/iPads because of the versatility and mobility of the technology)? Because of the coursework and professional development I received through the master’s program, I have learned to think critically about such issues and feel comfortable working with the rest of technology team to make these decisions.
Additionally, with the professional growth due to the program, there come leadership opportunities. After completing my research, others in the school saw me as someone who had technology know-how. In many cases, I am able to on a peer to peer level explain and provide guidance on the use and implementation of technology from simple items, such as how to access and use email on Google Chrome versus Internet Explorer, to manipulating student data on Excel to administering and troubleshooting during computer based tests such as SBAC. Other times I wasn’t able to help – for example, as a paraprofessional I wasn’t familiar with the BloomBoard evaluation system, and when people approached me with questions, I directed them to someone with more know how – the administrators and technology teacher. I was recently hired to be a technology teacher and in this role I will continue to develop my knowledge and skills and put the skills and knowledge I learned in the educational technology program to practice.
The skills I learned during my research project and through my readings have also lead me to critically analyze technology before deciding to use it on a more personal level with my own students. I have the critical skills to know what tools are appropriate for what situations and when. For example, in EDU 553 and EDU 622, I analyzed websites and tools for best use and ease of use. In EDU 556, when searching for manipulatives for student use, I learned how to select manipulatives that met a set criteria, including appropriateness to task, access, and ease of use. The more I learn about technology in educational settings, the more I share with others. The more I share, the more others see me as knowledgeable about educational technology. Therefore, they ask questions and look to me for support. Some questions I know the answers to, while others I am not afraid to start where I am and explore and learn alongside the person asking. I am in way an educational technology expert, but the more I embrace educational technology, the more I become knowledgeable and I become more of a technology leader on the local level.