donderdag 24 november 2011

Professional Development Program for integrating technology into science lessons

In my previous blog I described the TPACK framework and the added value it may have. To further explore the inner workings of the framework and it’s practical application, me and two of my classmates designed a professional development program. This program was focused on integrating technology into science lessons at a primary school, using the TPACK framework.

The program consists of seven meetings in which all teachers are trained to integrate the interactive whiteboard into science lessons about the climate and the weather. In the first two sessions their initial TPACK and their attitudes are measured to determine the ‘starting point’ of the teachers. Also, the TPACK framework is explained and serves as a tool for teachers to reflect on their own teaching practice and what can be improved in that. The third meeting is a site visit to a school where technology is already integrated to give the teachers and school management an idea about the possibilities and how it works in a real school setting. In the next three meetings, the teachers are divided into Teacher Design Teams (TDT’s) to design their own lesson using technology, which they present to eachother, evaluate and eventually try out in practice. In the final meeting the program is evaluated and the TDT’s decide on ways to sustain the changes they made in their teaching and how they can scale up, by using technology in other subjects as well.

Design process and collaboration

 Initially it was hard to find a clear plan or guideline for designing a professional development program using the TPACK model. This model does not offer any steps or a design blueprint and therefore the possibilities of using this framework were endless. This is in some ways very positive because it offers the freedom to customize the program for a particular context, in this case science lesson for primary school. However, it also implies some difficulties because there is no one right way of going about the design. First we explored some literature on the integration of technology and we found two major factors that were important to incorporate in the design. To implement technology effectively, teachers do not only need to have the necessary knowledge and skills (TPACK) but also a positive attitude (Knezek en Christensen, 2008). Furthermore, there are several stages teachers go through when adopting or rejecting (which ofcourse we wanted to avoid) technology use. These stages are the following (Niess et al. 2009);
  1. Recognizing; teachers are able to use technology and can recognize technology that includes science as content, but they don’t integrate these technologies yet.
  2. Accepting; teachers form a favorable or unfavorable attitude towards using technology
  3. Adapting; which means that teachers are going to engage into activities that helps them make the decision to accept or reject using technology during teaching science.
  4. Exploring; teachers actively involve themselves in science education with a technology
  5. Advancing; teachers evaluate the decision to use technology in science education.
Based on these findings, we then decided to formulate some design guidelines of our own which would help us come up with a design.
- teachers have to develop a positive attitude towards technology 
- teachers have to develop TPACK in their context (Content: science-the climate/weather, Technology: interactive whiteboard, Pedagogy: variable)
- the program should not be too long or too time-consuming, this will be demotivating
- the program should include possibilities for ensuring sustainability and scaling up
These guidelines eventually led to our final design for the professional development program, which is further discussed under 'outcomes'.

The most interesting part of designing a program was that it gave a new insight in the TPACK framework. The possibilities it offers are endless, which also became very clear when we were presented with the other designs that were made in our class. All of us tried to design something to the best of our abilities and the TPACK framework was clearly present in all the designs, yet they differed greatly amongst eachother. In the end, I was quite pleased with the program we developed and wished we could try it out in practice to see if it would really work the way we intended to. 

Also, I was really happy with the team I was working in. Not only are my teammates hardworking, precise and punctual (which are aspects you tend to look for in a good teammate or collegue) they also helped me out when I got ill at an unfortunate moment in our design process. It was also very nice to know that we could critique eachother without upsetting anyone and working towards a better endresult. Sometimes we did ofcourse have different opinions but the endresult was something we all fully agreed on. Most importantly, we became very enthusiastic during the design and we even improved our own technological knowledge through creating a prezi for our final presentation for the very first time! 



The professional development program as we ended up designing has several positive aspects directly linked to the design choices we made. I will discuss the main 'selling points' of our program based on our design guidelines;

- teachers have to develop a positive attitude towards technology
Changing teachers' attitude towards technology is incorporated in the design in several ways. In the first place teachers determine the goals they want to reach themselves at the start of the program. This way they know what they are working towards and which practical goals it serves, according to their own needs and context. In the second place, we included a site visit to a school in which technology is already integrated in the teaching practice. This will show teachers (who might be a bit sceptical) that it cán actually work in practice and what opportunities are to use technology in their own lessons. They are given the opportunity to talk to teachers and students at the school they visit to gain some insight in the positive aspects technology has to offer, but also which can be hindering factors they have to look out for. In the third place the teachers are working in TDT's. Through actively involving them in the design of the lesson they feel that the changes are their own, instead of something they are obligated or even forced to do.

- teachers have to develop TPACK in their context (Content: science-the climate/weather, Technology: interactive whiteboard, Pedagogy: variable)
In this program the teachers are gradually guided through the different stages of development, from recognizing to advancing. They are introduced to the TPACK framework and the different possibilities there are to integrate the use of the interactive whiteboard. Then they are exploring the opportunities themselves and slowly but surely develop TPACK, upto the point where they actually carry out a TPACK-lesson.

- the program should not be too long or too time-consuming, this will be demotivating
The program consists of 7 meetings which take about 2 hours each (except for the site visit). Both the amount as the duration of the meetings seem reasonable and not an extreme addition to the workload that the teachers already have.

- the program should include possibilities for ensuring sustainability and scaling up
I already briefly discussed the advantage of TDT's; teachers feel ownership of the change. This way they are more likely to keep working together, after the program has stopped and the trainers have left. Furthermore, in the last meeting the TDT's think of possible ways to sustain and scale up the change and make arrangements for actually carrying out these things.

All in all, I think we can be pleased with the design we came up with; it led to a nice endresult and the process towards was very interesting, shed a new light over the TPACK framework and led to some deeper insight in that framework.

1 opmerking:

  1. Hi Suzan, thank you for your reflection and for participating in my course! And yes, the strength and the weakness of the TPACK model is that it does not offer any steps or a design blueprint.. The possibilities of using this framework are endless, which is great, but can also be difficult. From your report and your reflection I can see that using the literature helped you in this. Also analysing the specific context and determing the needs of the teachers that you are designing for can be of help. And maybe you can use your experiences in your future work in our Master program?