vrijdag 25 november 2011

Designing a professional development program

The last few weeks I’ve been busy with designing a professional development program about TPACK. We had to do this in groups of 3 and we could choose this or a TPACK based lesson. At first I wanted to design the lesson, because with that assignment I had some idea how to do that, and with the development program not. But my teammates both wanted to design the program, so ok than we do that. Now at the end I’m glad we choose that assignment, because I think I’ve learned more than I would have with the lesson plan. Designing such a program was totally new for me and a short lesson we already designed in another course.

Designing the program
At first the assignment was difficult. We had some idea’s, but no structure or really set out how we wanted the course to look exactly. We had long discussions and sometimes we stared at the computer screen, without saying anything for a few minutes. Because we had a lot of idea’s and literature on paper, but didn’t saw the structure. So one day we sat down, decided what we really wanted and would be the best and designed the general structure of the program.  After that it went a lot easier, but still it was a difficult assignment. There are a lot of things you have to think about. Near the deadline we went a little bit out of time. Some things weren’t that good yet, but we didn’t had much time anymore. If we had more time the program could be a little better, I think. 

So you will understand what I’m talking about here a short explanation of our program and the context: We made an professional development program about TPACK for 4, 5 and 6 grade teachers. The program was made for an foundation which has 17 schools beneath them, so there will be more participants. The course consist of 10 meetings of 3 hour. The meetings are after school with dinner and in the meetings the teachers will design lessons by themselves.
This is really short. If you want to know more, just ask and I can tell you!

I’m pretty proud of this program. We didn’t make it obligatory, so people will be motivated to participate, else they maybe wouldn’t. To make sure there will be enough people of enough schools, we emphasized the importance of the program to the school leaders through the inviting letter and a  visit to the school leaders. The program itself is really active. We wanted to let the teachers work out the lessons by themselves, so they really learn something (not only listen how to do it) and have lessons that will really fit to their situation. We wanted to adapt the program to the wishes of the teachers and let them design themselves as much as possible. The only problem with this was that you can’t design the program if you let it totally depend on the wishes of the teachers and also they join the program to learn and probably will be disappointed if they have to do everything themselves. They probably won’t like it and think ‘yeah, I could also do this in my own time’. To solve this we tried to give explanation, examples and a good structure, but still letting them design themselves and asking what their wishes are. If during the program it is noticed that the learning goals of the teachers aren’t reached, the program can be changed. So I think this is a good solution. Also the visit to NEMO that we included is really nice as a trip, but also gives a lot of ideas about using technology with science education.
The way we measured TPACK (a questionnaire which measures TPACK confidence) is a good way for such a program, but not the best way to really measure TPACK, I think. In our program we really wanted to focus on the learning and designing and not on the measuring, but this questionaire may lead to less precise measuring teachers real TPACK. We measure how confident the teachers are, and I also think that is important when implementing TPACK, but it doesn’t give a whole view of the TPACK skills of a teachers.

Overall I think designing a professional development program was more difficult than I thought. We had a lot of literature, but the structure was difficult. Also it was sometimes stated in literature that a professional development program doesn’t work, and that you really have to look at the wishes of the school. For us that was difficult, we didn’t know what teachers wanted to learn, so couldn’t adapt our program to it. When I would have to do this in a real situation, I wouldn’t do it like this. Then I would first ask everyone that is interested in such a program what they want to learn and then design the program around that. Maybe in this design we had to think about this more in our context. It was imaginary, so also the wishes of the teachers we could have imagined. But even though we didn’t, I think it is still a good and realistic program. Because it teaches about TPACK by working with it yourself.

Working with TPACK
The working with TPACK was new for me. I knew the model already before the course, but didn’t go so deep into it. I think it was a really nice experience. Especially to think about how to learn people to use it was interesting. It was pretty difficult, but a nice challenge. At the moment the biggest problem is that people don’t integrate the use of technology and that is what this model is really about. It explains how important it is to integrate technology.
The only problem I had with the model, is that I couldn’t imagine how it is to see this from a teacher perspective. I look at it from a EST-student perspective, but if you know what it is like to be a teacher you maybe look at it different. Then it may seem more difficult or too complex to do. While I as a student think well that is logical and possible to do. But mostly it really depends on the person or the content of the lessons. For example with another course I went to a school where they implemented ICT in a good way already.  In some classes they used only a interactive whiteboard and used it as a blackboard. But at the technique department they really integrated a designing program into their lessons and at the administration department they simulated a real business using a simulation program. I think this can be seen as a good practice and a good example of integrating technology with the pedagogy and the content. So apparently it is possible, as long as teachers know how to do it and TPACK can help with this. I see the TPACK model as a aid when integrating technology into the class and hopefully teachers will also see it in this way.

Stimulating teachers to integrate technology
Stimulating teachers to integrate technology is really difficult. I think it really depends on the teachers if they can be stimulated or not. It will not be totally true, but in general the older teachers will be more difficult to stimulate then the younger teachers. Because for the older teachers it is more difficult and they didn’t grew up with technology, while the younger teachers did. But apart from that fact I think teachers will be best simulated by showing them good practices and telling the benefits. Some teachers won’t see the benefit of integrating technology and therefore wont use it. If you can show them the benefit and give them opportunities to learn how to integrate technology, they might will. I think it is the task of the school leader to give teachers these opportunities, and the task of researchers or other schools to show the benefit of it. Like in the example I gave, the teachers of the technique and administration departments can show the other teachers the benefits.
One thing to think about when stimulating teachers, is the real benefit of technology. I for example think integrating technology isn’t always better. In some courses it will be, but also the normal classes are important. For example the lesson some other students designed for this course. They went outside with a Smartphone to look at plants. That is a really nice way of integrating technology, but I sometimes think, is it much better or more fun with the Smartphone? Wont the children learn just as much if they just go outside without the Smartphone? I really don’t know, but I think it is important to not always want to integrate technology, only when it has a real benefit. So when stimulating teachers, this is something that has to be taken into account, I think.

Do you agree with me or do you think otherwise? Or do you have other ideas how to stimulate teachers? I would really like to hear it!

This was my last post for the course. I liked this way of sharing my ideas and learned a lot during the course. If during the rest of my study  I will find more interesting things I will tell you here on my blog!