Thursday, March 20, 2008

Technology as a Catalyst for School Communities

New Book, Technology as a Catalyst for School Communities: Beyond Boxes and Bandwidth, Shows How Technology Can Change Teaching, Learning, and Schools

A new book co-authored by EDC Senior Technology Associate, Mary Burns, and SEDL program director K. Victoria Dimock has been released by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Technology as a Catalyst for School Communities: Beyond Boxes and Bandwidth shows how three very different schools handle the many challenges of integrating technology into their classrooms. The book has received rave reviews from administrators and professors around the world.

“The book is more about creating a community of practice than it is about integrating technology into the classroom,” say the book’s authors. “We present a framework of professional development to help teachers to become a community of practice as they learn to integrate technology into their classrooms. This framework makes it possible for teachers to collaborate and adopt new ways of thinking and learning. As they collaborate and learn together, teachers become much more enthusiastic about teaching, learning, and technology.”

Burns and Dimock refer to the framework as the 5J approach. It ensures that each professional development activity has the following characteristics:

  • Job-related: The professional development is focused on instructional and curricular needs.
  • Just enough: The professional development emphasizes increased comfort, not proficiency with computers.
  • Just in time: The professional development provides teachers with skills when needed and focuses on using only the tools they have at their disposal.
  • Just in case: The professional development encourages teachers to plan sufficiently in the event of a computer malfunction.
  • Just try it: The professional development includes enough pressure and support to compel teachers to use computers in their classrooms.

The three case studies illustrate how the teacher-centered professional development created around the five J’s and the technology helped bring about personal, interpersonal, and institutional changes over a 2-year period that led to the formation of communities of practice.

Kathleen Fulton, director of Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century says, “The cases presented give one optimism that even veteran teachers can become the vanguard of school change in the right circumstances. The framework Burns and Dimock present shows what is at the heart of teacher change: a supportive community.”

Judi Harris, the Pavey family Chair in Educational technology at the College of William and Mary, states that Technology as a Catalyst for School Communities “Mary Burns and Victoria Dimock do what few have done… like a breath of fresh air in a field that can stagnate in simple technology-based solutions to complex educational challenges…(the authors) emphasize the importance of teacher-centered, not technocratic, professional development, illustrating and explaining how it really happens in real schools with real people.”

That support, the authors say, is essential in adopting technology practices that will lead to improved student learning. “As we wrote in the book, technology may promote revolution, but educators must aim for evolution. That evolution is possible when a supportive community is in place that helps members adopt new practices at their own rate. The support network can be a safe harbor for individuals who may resist and fear change but also welcome it and will work toward it, if the change means improved outcomes for students.”

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