In the past professional development has mostly focused on content, especially for teachers. There is money available to learn more Science if you are a Science teacher; however, there was limited funding to learn how to effectively teach using digital technology or how to create more student-centered classrooms. Learning and Development budgets can be and should be shifted from content-focused training to pedagogical development on how to use digital technology to teach student-centered classes especially now where most teachers have to teach online.
According to the Omidyar report, there are some crucial steps in ensuring Edtech equity-like “supporting teachers’’ and shifting the norm from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered learning. . . . Equitable EdTech can close the gap for students while also empowering teachers to be more effective, especially when there is a lack of access to high-quality schools, high-quality teacher training, rigorous curriculum, or appropriate interventions.”
The shift in education isn’t just about using technology or not, the shift revolves around the pedagogy of teaching to make classes more student-centered (students explore through trial and error) and less teacher-centered (lecture-based classes).
Unfortunately, while more than $13 billion dollars are spent on education technology, it still isn’t being spent effectively. Edtech plans that include all the stakeholders are often overlooked and rather one or two aspects of the process are focused on like the devices and software/apps alone. A small aspect is devices, another is internet access at school and at home, and finally, all stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, and educational professionals) need to understand how to effectively use this technology, integrate it, and create effective classrooms. This means not just one-off uses of devices or tools, but an integrated educational experience that must involve learning to use the tools effectively.
Stuck in another Era
Most educational institutions lack a complete understanding of how instruction needs to adapt to be effective when presented through a digital interface.
L. Jasmine Kim, a Board Director and Advisor for various companies, has children in an international private school. Despite having the latest technology and tools, she said, the school didn’t have any insight or learning for teaching students digitally and half the students faced burnout quickly.
Schools can’t just transport regular classes of 6–8 hours a day into a digital world, said Kim. “They didn’t understand the forum and user interface. It took them 6 weeks and lots of kids burning out to realize they needed a new model. Then they pivoted and got an outside designer in and realized they needed to do 45-minute sessions, 3 or 4 of these sessions a day, with breaks and informal group discussions in between, and breaks from the digital platform, to maximize effectiveness and leverage the best learning strategy.”
It’s not just students that face these difficulties, teachers also haven’t been trained on how to teach students to be in virtual classrooms. They are burning out left and right as they try to self-train on new tools, integrate practices, and keep up with all their regular classroom preparation and grading. Online classes for teachers who don’t know how to prepare them often take twice as long to manage, and oftentimes teachers are missing out on essential tools that could integrate and facilitate their grading or other work. In addition, as there are teachers from diverse age groups and digital backgrounds, it is challenging for the older tenured teachers to say that they do not know how to do something.
“To provide virtual instruction well, teachers need to be experts in a collaborative platform — Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, etc. as well as proficient in whatever learning management system and communication tools between home and school that their school might provide in order to reach all of their students equitably. In addition, teachers need training in designing virtual teaching and learning and time to experience the digital tools their students are using — such as ST Math, IStation — and how to use data from those tools so that they can understand where their students might need additional support,” said Marina Walne, an educational expert with 42 years of experience in education and the current CEO of o3 School. O3 School has developed a software system for managing school operations, that provides schools with a personalized learning platform and roadmap to starting a new school.
However, training to be experts on a collaborative platform often isn’t provided to teachers. Walne said, “Schools are offering training on the learning management systems and communication tools between home and school that they use. I do not see them offering much training in the digital tools themselves.”
Learning best classroom practices to enhance classroom management in a virtual classroom can go a long way. Little things like having students announce their name when speaking, or for the teacher to say, we’re going to allow for interactive Q&A throughout the session, or polls can help reduce the friction of poor visuals or sound, as it isn’t always possible for everyone to know who is talking and this can help create unity in a class.
The Hows of Teaching Online
We need to teach teachers how to teach online. It is not just about content, but also about understanding the platform and media in which content is disseminated. When COVID-19 hit most teachers rushed to understand tools. GetSetUp stepped up to help by offering over 600 hours and 1235 sessions of classes to teachers all over the country. Teachers were able to learn tools like Google Classroom, Google Docs, Youtube, Screencasting, and Zoom. As teachers move into a new school year and what looks to be a new model of teaching they need to be taught how to engage people through teaching on digital tools and platforms. GetSetUp has added classes to help teachers understand tools that integrate, that are free, or that offer more equitable access to classroom experiences for those facing internet access difficulties.
Meanwhile, the non-profit Kiron, which focuses on providing education for refugees who cannot access it through traditional means, created interactive online lessons to help teachers learn best practices for teaching students online. The course covers topics such as active participation and creating the learning environment.
Sophia for Teachers offers over 20 free professional development classes for teachers. These classes are on topics such as course design (Enhancing the Instruction with Technology), instructional technology (21st Century Instructional Practices), and collaborative coaching (Collaborative Learning Environments). These courses offer skills that teachers can immediately apply to their lessons and are taught in cooperation with Capella University.
Learning and training budgets will best benefit Edtech if they focus on helping teachers learn how to leverage the technology tool and devices to act as a supplement to real-time teaching. This can be done by selectively choosing tools that integrate together and learning to optimally teach and allow students to learn best on these digital platforms that are integrated, and amplifies a deeply resonant learning experience.
GetSetup is ready to work with educational institutions to customize training to their educational institutions so that they can bring all stakeholders together in a learning environment by starting first with training teachers on how to effectively do this. To learn more about educational training options for your teachers contact firstname.lastname@example.org