Classroom Technology Usage Pilot

In my continued exploration of professional development and evaluation, I partnered with the Educational Technology and Media department from my university to conduct a pilot survey on what types, and how faculty use current classroom technologies. The results of this pilot will inform necessary modifications to the data collection tool prior to faculty-wide administration at a later date. This is a summary of the project outcomes.

Purpose and Objectives

The aim of this pilot study was to assess current classroom technology usage at a private university in Seattle, Washington. A secondary purpose was to test the data collection tool

Five study objectives, including two related to data collection, were created:

  1. Assess current level and type of technology usage by faculty.
  2. Assess readiness for online teaching (through analysis of objective 1).
  3. Determine if current technology offered to faculty meets the needs of the faculty.
  4. Collect feedback from pilot participants on survey questions for improvement.
  5. Determine if pilot survey collects intended data.

Methodology

A survey was distributed to a convenience sample of 20 participants with the ability to recruit others. The participants were asked questions regarding areas of teaching where technology is incorporated, types of classroom technology use, student use of classroom technology, and self-identification of rate of technology adoption. Descriptive analysis was run to determine characteristic technology use of the sample along with correlation tests to beginning understanding use profiles.

Results

The results of this pilot study indicate that of the eleven (11) participants that completed the survey, most professors are fast to average technology adaptors indicating that they are open to technologies in the classroom and use technology in at least one area of their teaching/student learning. 

Bar graph describing self-identified rate of technology adoption"
Figure 1.1 “Self-identified rate of technology adoption”

Professors feel mostly comfortable with supported classroom technologies unless they do not have access to them.  If they do not feel comfortable with a technology, students will also not be exposed to these technologies which may include those that all professors have access to but are not part of every classroom such as mics and webcams. Professors also tended to rely more heavily on supported technologies as opposed to social media, which is true even when factoring into technology adoption identification. Professors used on average five (5) of the supported technologies where Canvas was the most commonly used. In comparison, professors only used one (1) social media platform on average, YouTube was the most preferred.

bar graph describing faculty use of supported classroom technology
Figure 1.2 Faculty Use of Supported Classroom Technology

V.S.

The faculty in this study were supportive of student use of technology in the classroom, allowing students to use all types of technologies only discriminating when in the classroom period technology may be used.

Recommendations

These findings cannot be generalized to the entire faculty demographic.  Recommendations to clarify survey items for better responses include definitions of major technology terminology and changes to the Likert scales for inclusion.

Full Report

An Administrator’s Role in Professional Development Implementation.

Good professional development just doesn’t happen on its own.  Along with timely execution by a knowledgeable instructor that respects adult learning, to meet the ISTE coaching standard 4, professional development also needs support by administrators. While it is clear to me that administrators inform policies and procedures that govern culture in an institution, I must admit that I do not have a lot of background knowledge nor intimate understanding of the process administrators use to determine professional development. For this post, I’d like to investigate that process a little more closely.  In particular, I would like to take a closer look in to understanding what role administrators play in the successful implementation of professional development.

Through my investigation, I gathered insight into what administrators face on a daily basis. Much like the changing landscape for teachers in implementing strategies and methods needed for 21st century skills, administrators are faced with the same predicament in engaging students and teachers with these skills. What is unique to the administrator’s challenge is that they have the added responsibility of initiation. Change starts with them so their attitudes and behaviors mirror the rate of success in improvement. Administrators who value technology and the development of 21st century skills are then viewed as technology leaders who must demonstrate willingness to learn, be flexible, and accept on-going change for technology adoption and implementation to occur, (Grady, 2011).  An administrator’s role as a technology leader begins by setting a clear vision and understanding the standards that govern that vision, (Grady, 2011). Grady’s view on the administrator’s qualities mirrors that of the ISTE standard in the fact that not only are vision and goals to be communicated to faculty but good administrators model good technology use in various modes, provide engaging professional development, and engage in continuous professional development themselves as a lifelong learner, (Grady, 2011). Grady also shares that administrators that are good technology leaders also recognize faculty at the cornerstone of implementation, (Grady, 2011).  Therefore, while professional development may create awareness about specific policies, it is understood true implementation requires more action and evaluation.

Former teacher turned administrator, Lyn Hilt, shares her investigation and thoughts on the administrator’s role in implementing successful professional development. After reflecting upon her experiences undergoing professional development as a teacher and having no recollection of anything that she implemented from those experiences, she concludes that rather than engaging in “development”, institutions should adopt the idea of “professional learning.”  One key facet that Hilt wishes the reader to consider is that “teachers are not vehicles through which schools deliver programs and policies,” (Hilt, 2011).  Instead Hilt offers the idea that teachers are individuals with passions and interests, so an administrator’s true role is to foster a desire to learn, (Hilt, 2011). Hilt buys in to the notion that teachers are adult learners and therefore effective “development” should take this into consideration.  When teachers elicit true excitement about learning, that learning becomes implemented into their teaching, (Hilt, 2011).

Both Grady and Hilt agree that building community and shared experiences are key to successful professional development.  Grady offers the “teacher-to-teacher” model where technology modeling takes center stage.  In this model, teachers demonstrate learning activities to other teachers (their audience) while allowing their audience an opportunity to explore and implement these activities, (Grady, 2011).  While it may seem that the role of the administrator in this model is minimal, successful implementation is dependent on allowing teachers opportunities for repeated activities as this model does not work well in isolation.  In addition, administrative support is crucial by providing key resources and time to practice the skills learned in each “teacher-to-teacher” session, (Grady, 2011). While Grady’s model fosters community through localized support, Hilt emphasizes community and collaborations supported through professional learning communities (PLCs) that represents a broad network of professionals learning from each other in addition to the local resources. In the PLC model, teachers are viewed as experts and therefore are afforded active participation and choice in professional development. Hilt offers several characteristics of teachers as experts as summarized in figure 1.1 below.

qualities of teacher experts in shaping professional development.
Figure 1.1 Abilities of Teachers as Experts in Professional Development

In both of these models described above, the teachers are in control of the learning itself while administrators support that learning. As established, successful implementation of professional development, or learning, relies on the administrators’ ability to establish a clear vision, communicating that vision while modeling good technology practices, and finally providing resources.  When teachers are allowed an active role in an environment that supports on-going learning and fosters community, learning that shapes teaching occurs. 

Resources

Grady, M. (2011). Principle’s roles as technology leader. Available from: https://www.seenmagazine.us/Articles/Article-Detail/articleid/1800/the-principal-8217-s-role-as-technology-leader

Hilt, L. (2011). Out with professional development, in with profession learning. Available from: https://plpnetwork.com/2011/08/18/out-with-professional-development-in-with-professional-learning/

Applying Formative Assessment in Professional Development

In these past few weeks, I have been exploring professional development (PD) models that optimize adult learning. The primary focus of these posts has been on the characteristics of adult learning and various professional development formats that honor these characteristics.  While understanding these models is important so that participants gain the most out of their professional development, in this post I’d like to focus on applying these concepts to incorporate content, exploring educational technology best practices described in the ISTE coaching standard 4b:  “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment,” (ISTE, 2017).

In investigating digital age best practices, formative assessment appeared as a reoccurring theme. Formative assessment as part of a feedback loops empowers learners to engage in the trial and error of learning safely and with minimal risk. Applying formative assessment to professional development could offer similar results. In applying this idea to the ISTE standard, I began wondering what digital tools could be implemented to teach teachers about the importance of formative feedback?

What is “Formative Assessment” and why is it a best practice?

Feedback loops are often used as a teaching best practice in aiding students build 21st century skills. As described in other posts in this blog, of the four different types of assessment, traditional, or summative, assessment measures learning after an assignment has been turned in.  Summative evaluation assumes that a student has “learned” after an intervention (such as teaching) and the educator evaluates the extent of that learning, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). While summative assessment is useful for formal evaluation, it may not be timely nor help students improve if only offered as one-time feedback, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Where summative assessment is formal and final, formative assessment is more casual and on-going as the evaluation occurs during the learning, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Formative assessment therefore provides a checkpoint for student understanding, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.)

I explore the benefits of feedback loops for students in this post, I’d like to expand the investigation to including formative feedback as a tool in adult learning.  The Office of Educational Technology found that formative feedback when coupled with technology tools may be more complete than traditional assessment and may “reduce time, resources, and disruption” to conduct the assessment, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.) These benefits help educators as formative assessment may provide an avenue for capturing teaching qualities that open opportunities for “self-reflection, peer reflection, feedback, and supervisor evaluation,” (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.). Extending these concepts further, formative assessment can be used in professional development as a means to inform instructional practice where participants track their own learning, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.). This means that meaningful evaluation can occur more rapidly and frequently, offer more insight, and help guide professional development needs.

Tech tools that can be used for formative assessment.

There are several educational technology tools that can be used for formative assessment. Common Sense Education created a list of the top 27 tools for formative assessment available here.  These formative feedback tools include the following features: student progress tracking, interactive and collaborative activities, student-paced learning, and instant feedback to both students and teacher. Formative feedback is given by utilizing interactive slideshow presentations, video responses, multi-multimedia platforms, content-mapping, quizzes (including clickers and polling), and backchannel chats. In creating the list, Common Sense Education agrees with the Office of Educational Technology stating that the best formative assessment tools help students (and participants in this case) self-reflect and assess so that they understand their current level of learning and self-identify areas of improvement, (Common Sense Education, n.d.).

Integrating formative assessment into professional development.

Incorporating formative assessment in adult learning must assume that participants are learners who are joining the professional development for a variety of different motives that are relevant to their work situations. Though are quite a few professional development resources available on the internet on formative feedback tools, I’d like to use this professional development video I found through YouTube entitled, “10Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology: Meaningful, Sustainable, & Scalable” as an example. In the video Dr. Monica Burns walks participants through her tips by highlighting main features and how to use some formative feedback tools.  A summary of her tips is provided in figure 1.1 below.

infographic on tips for incoporating technology tools with formative assessment.
Figure 1.1. Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology

Though the video is purely informational as Dr. Burns lectures for about 30 minutes on her ten tips, this could be a useful resource for participants that are highly motivated. The professional development model used assumes that the participants already have an awareness of formative assessment and simply need guidance or ideas on how to implement this in their teaching practice.

According to the ISTE standard, best practices for the effective PD includes modeling, (ISTE, 2017). While the workshop above may model ways to use each tool through verbal and visual description, it fails to include participant buy-in and interaction. Formative feedback could have been included into the professional development itself, allowing participants an opportunity to experience instant feedback through the lens of a learner. For example, demonstrating how to gauge comprehension to better understand the audience’s needs could have been accomplished by using a backchannel chat or using the polling/quizzes apps described in the video.  This tangible and experiential approach could help increase self-efficacy of technology tools for mixed audiences where the presenter modifies their role to facilitation at certain periods of the professional development.  When presenters start thinking about their participants as learners, professional development becomes stronger, more impactful which can yield better improvements in teaching and learning.

References

Common Sense Education, (n.d.) Top tech tools for formative assessment. Available from: https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/top-tech-tools-for-formative-assessment

Office of Educational Technology, (n.d.) Section 4: Measuring for Learning. Available from: https://tech.ed.gov/netp/assessment/

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Incorporating feedback loops to develop an empowered student [blog]. Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/incorporating-feedback-loops-to-develop-an-empowered-student/

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Instructional coaching: Using rubrics to quantify qualitative data for improved teaching outcomes.
Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/instructional-coaching-using-rubrics-to-quantify-qualitative-data-for-improved-teaching-outcomes/

Honoring Adult Learners: Could a Facilitator Model Improve Professional Development Outcomes?

In my last post, I discussed at length the characteristics of effective professional development (PD) which should include “…interaction, relevancy, purposefulness, and focused on the learner,” (Vlad-Ortiz, 2019). Since learning requires effort, professional development models that include a social context and an active component tend to be the most successful models, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2019). Keeping in mind the ISTE standard for professional development addressed in the last post, one model known as the “facilitator model” caught my attention as having potential to meet the above criteria. According to Dr. Frances Gipson, to “facilitate” means to make easier, (Gipson, 2012).  The assumption is that a facilitator acts as a guide and manages a group towards a shared goal or purpose. Dr. Gipson warns that the word “facilitator” is often misinterpreted as a passive role, however, a good facilitator acts more like a leader ensuring that the group makes good use of resources, decision-making power, and problem-solving skills, (Gipson, 2012). Because facilitation requires active participation from all participants, could this model help improve professional development learning outcomes? 

Adult learning. 

In order to begin addressing this question, one must first understand how adults learn. According to researchers, the specifics of how adults learn are largely unknown and more research is required to complete that understanding, (Borko, 2004). However, what is currently understood is that learning is a dynamic activity that takes time to develop, while learning opportunities can occur anywhere such as a brief conversation in a hallway, for example, (Borko, 2004).  Learning can be facilitated with a few considerations from the adult learning model, or “andragogy,” summarized in figure 1.1. below. 

 

infographic summarizing the adult learning model
Figure 1.1 Dr. Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Model.

Under Dr. Knowles’ assumptions, good professional development should be goal orientated, relevant, practical, respect the learner’s time and expertise, and bring the learner into an active role rather than passive, (Office of Head Start, n.d.). This is not unlike the criteria my colleagues and I created in my previous blog post.  As adult learners, we want professional development to address our needs rather than tell us about our needs. 

Facilitation as a professional development model. 

Dr. Hilda Borko conducted a study on various professional development models to begin understanding the complex relationships that exist between teachers, students, and learning. It is through this work that she began to understand that more research is needed to explain how adult learning works, (Borko, 2004). Through this study, she explored a few case studies that utilized facilitation models as a form of professional development and concluded that facilitation can be successful if the professional development is well-defined, (Borko, 2004). In particular, the most successful programs, where the learners adapted strategies more readily and rapidly, had clear descriptions of the facilitator’s role, specific learner/participant outcome measures, and well-developed activities and materials that were transportable across a variety of contexts, (Borko, 2004). One caveat of this success meant that facilitators led small groups of teachers that had common goals.  Scaling up towards larger groups may present challenges as the activities and materials may no longer apply towards everyone’s needs or context, (Borko, 2004). 

Dr. Borko’s fears of scaling up may not be warranted as the facilitation model has been used in many contexts.  In Turin, Italy, researchers followed the progress of a teaching community that implemented a “Teacher-Facilitator” model in place of traditional professional development. Educators were followed over a period of 10 years to evaluate any teaching profile changes, particularly in the field of “cooperative learning”, (Ellerani & Gentile, 2013).  Using the “teacher-facilitator” model, teachers were placed into groups with an “expert” teacher whose role was to facilitate professional development, emphasizing job-embedded skills and collaborative learning.  The teacher-facilitators ultimately helped establish professional learning cohorts (PLCS) which later expanded into interdisciplinary networks that included administrators and other schools in the district, (Ellerarni & Gentile, 2013). The researchers remark that the success of this program lies in three factors, 1) the facilitation skills of the teacher-facilitators, 2) increased focus on importance of collaborative learning among teachers, and 3) increased job-related support by the district, (Ellerani & Gentile, 2013). 

Qualities of a good facilitator. 

Regardless of the scale in which the learning context takes place, the key element to effective learning in this model means imposing a good facilitator. Dr. Gipson summarizes her definition of a good facilitator through a concept known as the Five “C’s” described in figure 1.2 below. 

infographic describing the qualities of a good facilitator.
Figure 1.2 Five Qualities of a Good Facilitator.

Good facilitators understand how to establish a community that values inquiry and the opinions of others as a way to invite participation from all members. To do this, facilitators must be both firm and flexible with curriculum while communicating these intentions well to the group, (Borko, 2004). These facilitation skills can be developed over time with the appropriate preparation and resources, (Borko, 2004). 

Conclusion 

Through this investigation, it can be concluded that facilitation as a professional development model does support adult learning when implemented correctly.  The skills of the facilitator is crucial to the success of converting learning into implementation while appropriate resources fuel that success.  Facilitation may not be useful or appropriate in larger groups, used in the short term, or as one-time development as noted by Dr. Borko.  However, special considerations can be made to scale such development as demonstrated in the Ellerani and Gentile research.  Ellerani and Gentile noted that, “there is a strong correlation between the development activities of teachers and their actual development as teachers,” (Ellerani & Gentile, 2013). Facilitation respects the adult learner by putting adults in control of their learning, this in turn helps change their attitudes about learning, and ultimately helps put into action what they’ve learned. 

Resources 

Borko, H. (2004). Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8). Available from: http://www.aera.net/uploadedFiles/Journals_and_Publications/Journals/Educational_Researcher/ Volume_33_No_8/02_ERv33n8_Borko.pdf 

Ellerani, P., Gentile, M. (2013). The role of teachers as facilitators to develop empowering leadership & school communities supported by the method of cooperative learning. Procedia. 93(21): 12-17. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042813032473 

Gipson, F. (2012). Facilitation skills for teacher leaders [pdf]. Available from: http://www.nesacenter.org/uploaded/conferences/wti/2013/handouts/gipsonhandout.pdf 

Office of Head Start. (n.d.) Adult Learning Principles [pdf]. Available from: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/adult-learning-principles.pdf 

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2019). Professional development for mixed audiences. Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/professional-development-for-mixed-audiences/