Word-Of-Mouth = Evidence-Based: Merging word of mouth momentum with evidence-based EdTech implementation

While learning more about at ISTE Standard 4b, ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B, I started to wonder about the effect word-of-mouth has on EdTech implementation, strong professional development opportunities and program evaluations by teachers in our schools.  It led me to the question, how can we move from ‘word of mouth’ technology growth within education to a technology program that provides resources for growth in all schools?  Through my research, I have also realized that word-of-mouth can be a positive way to inspire teachers to use technology in the classroom. If done thoughtfully and in collaboration with all stakeholders, applying best practices of teaching, using strong PD tactics and deep collaboration will develop programs that support technology use in all areas – from district level involvement all the way through to the classroom.

“We continue to see that word of mouth rules in education,” Tia Lendo, who oversees marketing in North America for Google Education, told a meeting for developers Monday at ISTE 2015, the nation’s largest ed-tech conference.

Molnar, Michele – Google Research Shows ‘Word of Mouth’ Fuels Ed-Tech Decisions

In a study commissioned by Google, the percentages of ‘where educators got information about digital content’ were as follows:

  • Peers in other school districts—86 percent
  • Teachers who work in my school/district—81 percent
  • Peers in my school or district—71 percent

It becomes clear through this study that it is not about moving away from word-of-mouth influence but instead trying to merge the power of word-of-mouth with evidence-based EdTech implementation.

This leads to the importance of coming up with ways to merge word-of-mouth recommendations with technology that is research-based and includes what a school district has also purchased.  From my own experience, if it were not for being part of the Digital Education Leadership graduate program at Seattle Pacific University leading me to actively seeking out the resources available in my district, I would not be using what I am using today in my classroom and this extends to those in my school building who I have shared these resources with and what they are now using in their classroom. Most of what I use is through our district resources but not all and again, without being in a graduate program that has led me to look at what the district provides first and then supplementing, I would not have known how to go about figuring it all out. For tech novices, which I was 1 1/2 years ago, it is not easy to navigate and understand what is already provided.

Ed-tech company Glimpse K12 studied $2 billion in school spending and found that on average, 67 percent of educational software product licenses go unused. Glimpse K12 tracked 200,000 curriculum software licenses purchased by 275 schools during the 2017-2018 school year. The analysis found educational software was the biggest source of wasted spending in K-12 districts.

Michelle R. Davis of EdWeek Market Brief

There seems to be a lack of connection between what districts are purchasing for use and what teachers are gravitating towards.  Is this because there is a lack of connection and communication between district stakeholders, teachers in the field and upcoming teacher education programs? Strengthening the core knowledge of trusted teachers through targeted PD and including strong technology-based preservice teaching classes would mean that these teacher leaders would become the conduit – the word-of-mouth – that leads other teachers with less exposure towards the evidenced-based technology that is already available.  In addition, these teacher leaders could be a bridge between what teachers want and what the district supplies.

Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update – US Department of Education

Teacher-leaders and those with experience supporting learning with technology can work with administrators to determine how to share their learning with other teachers. They also can provide support to their peers by answering questions and modeling practical uses of technology to support learning.

– Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update – US Department of Education

 Connecting teachers with those in leadership who set the vision will result in districts purchasing evidence-based technology platforms and applications that will get used. Including PD that is led by these teachers with deeper training practices including follow-ups and coaching will result in more teachers available to help each other and keep EdTech growth growing.  This will encourage word-of-mouth to be aligned with evidenced-based practices which are best practices in general.  Starting this system within the preservice teacher programs is critical so that teachers coming into the field are already ahead of the game…or at the very least, starting the game with an understanding of best practices with technology use and how to successfully teach 21st century skills.

Berhane Teclehaimanot, University of Toledo and Annette Lamb, Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis wrote in their article, Technology-Rich Faculty Development for Teacher Educators: The Evolution of a Program, about the Teachers Info-Port to Technology (PT3).  In this 3-year program, The University of Toledo funded goals and objectives to:

  • Revise all College of Education undergraduate curriculum to include technology-rich teaching methods that meet, Ohio, NCATE and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards;
  • Develop resources and activities that ensure graduates use technology in their classroom;
  • Develop resources and activities to assure that the faculty members at the University of Toledo Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences use technology in the classroom as both a model for students and a method of instruction.

Throughout the first two years of this program, they revised and improved upon the workshops that supported these goals and objectives. By the end of year 2, it was noted that the professional development workshops did help faculty to better incorporate the use of technology for future teachers through modeling and hands-on experiences.  Yet, continued support was desired from some faculty and this would echo the same sentiments we hear from teachers already in the K-12 educational field.  By the end of the 3rd year, the implications indicated below translates closely to what is needed in the K-12 education field as well:

The results of this project suggest that well-designed faculty development workshops can be effective in training teacher educators to design technology-rich university curriculum. Based on 3 years of experience designing and implementing professional development opportunities for faculty in the area of technology integration, nine elements were identified as useful in creating increasingly successful workshops.

Table 3. Nine Elements for Successful Workshops

Element Suggestions
Depth More time with fewer technologies
Build on skills over time
Hands-on practice At least 50% of workshop for practice and creation
Quality time on task with focused activities
Project-based approach Focus on practical products, templates, Web resources, and project-starters provided
Follow projects from start to finish
Modeling Use technology to teach integration
Demonstrate practical classroom applications
Examples Examples of technology use in content areas
Examples of technology integration
Web site based resources and templates
Ongoing assessment Short modules; simple products; frequent assessments
Timesavers Web page templates, logos, copyright-free visuals
PowerPoint presentation samples
Step-by-step review sheets (see http://tipt3.utoledo.edu/tools.html)
Differentiation Address individual differences in interests, speeds, ability levels
Web site based supplemental materials
One-on-one assistance: in workshop and out of workshop
Expanded Opportunities Mentoring opportunities
Sharing options
Cohort group development

 Ultimately, the answer to my question, “How can we move from ‘word of mouth’ technology growth within education to a technology program that provides resources for growth in all schools?”, is that we shouldn’t move away from it but instead embrace it.  Let’s move towards merging the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations with the best practices of using evidence-based technology by having teachers in the field be the leaders by collaborating with leadership and district stakeholders so there is better representation of what teachers want and will use.  Through these teacher leaders, word will spread and anxieties lessened.  PD around what is already available through district resources will be relevant and welcomed, especially if leaders keep in mind the nine essential elements for successful workshops and PD opportunities.  If we can merge thoughtfully, then word-of-mouth is the best chance educators have of growth toward rich professional learning programs inside and outside of the classroom.

Resources:

Davis, Michelle. (2019, May 19). K-12 Districts Wasting Millions by Not Using Purchased Software, New Analysis Finds. Retrieved from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/unused-educational-software-major-source-wasted-k-12-spending-new-analysis-finds/ 

Molnar, Michele. (2015 Jun. 29). Google Research Shows ‘Word of Mouth’ Fuels Ed-Tech Decisions.  Retrieved from https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/google_research_shows_word_of_mouth_fuels_ed-tech_decisions/

Office of Educational Technology. (2017). U.S. Department of Education. Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf  

Teclehaimanot, Berhane and Lamb, Annette. (2016).  Technology-Rich Faculty Development for Teacher Educators: The Evolution of a Program. Retrieved from https://citejournal.org/volume-5/issue-3-05/current-practice/technology-rich-faculty-development-for-teacher-educators-the-evolution-of-a-program/ 

Becoming a 21st Century Administrator

There are many ideas and conversations surrounding 21st Century Learners and 21st Century Teaching/Teachers.  While learning more about ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation - Performance Indicator B - 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, I wanted to extend this learning into how administrators specifically can embrace 21st Century practices.  What can administrators do to become 21st Century administrators? ISTE Administrator Standards are: 

Three of these standards – Visionary Leadership, Systematic Improvement, and Professional Practice connect deeply with ISTE Standard 4 – Professional Development and Program Evaluation.  Dan Morris and Susan Brooks-Young put forth a framework to become an effective 21st Century Administrator in their post – Becoming a 21st Century Administrator.  They ask the following questions for administrators to consider: 

  • What outcomes do we want to accomplish in the classroom?  
  • What available tools and resources can and will support teachers in helping their students meet these outcomes?  
  • What preparation do we need to ensure teachers and students appropriately utilize tools and resources?  
  • How will we measure the effectiveness of these tools to gauge how well they support and improve teaching and learning?  

With these questions guiding dialogue between administrators and educators, the next steps can focus on how to translate the answers and ideas from these questions into action plans for supporting 21st Century learning, designs, classrooms, and students.  When stakeholders are coming from similar perspectives of implementation and needs for increasing 21st Century PD, specific to roles within schools and reshaping the design of how we approach 21st Century education and skills, we are left we a comprehensive plan instead of a one-sided approach to the ever-changing environment of education.  

Morris and Brooks-Young also suggest strategies for what administrators can do specifically to shift into a 21st Century mindset: 

  • Invest in your own personal exploration and use of new tools 
  • Be sure that your technology experts interact regularly with the classroom experts in your district 
  • Provide ongoing staff development for teachers and administrators on appropriate and effective use of instructional technologies 
  • Model the use of appropriate tools and applications when working with staff 
  • Celebrate successes and build a culture where exploration and innovation are valued.

Between asking 21st Century based questions and using strategies that support 21st Century learning implementation, the framework is strong for all to continue growing professionally with 21st Century student learning at the heart of these changes.  

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) defines a 21st Century School Leader as:

“One Who Educates, Empowers, Engages and Excels through visionary leadership that inspires ALL to be intentional learners, to think critically and to work collaboratively to meet the demands of a global, digital and dynamic world.” 

The DoDEA has created a set of roles and competencies with self-assessments and reflection continuum coupled with professional learning plans to help implement changes that leaders can embark upon to shift from being a 20th Century Principal to a 21st Century Principle. The four roles that principals can follow and then assess are: 

The self-assessments and reflection continuums focus on what it takes to shift 20th Century practices into 21st Century practices and are the support administrators need to know HOW to make and sustain changes for themselves, staff and the community they serve.  Take a look at the whole report to dig deeper into the assessments and reflections. Here is one to give an idea of what can be gained from this approach and evaluation technique: 

Mr. Keenan, from the blog Developing Education, outlines 5 Traits of the 21st Century Administrator and reminds us of the holistic and soft skills that leadership can come to the table with to support a safe and open culture for conversation and collaboration between all stakeholders during such a powerful shift in education. 

Finally, I love this reminder and metaphor from Gerald Aungst – 

“In a way, the job of school district administrator is like a tugboat.  If you have ever watched a tugboat work, it appears far too small for its job of maneuvering huge ships around a crowded harbor. Yet a smart tugboat pilot knows exactly where to push or pull on that ship to ease it into the needed location. Administrators, likewise, need to lead through influence, and must choose carefully where they nudge and tug on the enormous mass of a school district organization to guide it exactly where it needs to be.”  

As an educator, I feel that educational technology advances currently rely on teacher buy-in and a desire for professional growth despite the many obstacles and personal time it takes to take on this growth without much support, if any at all.  Yet, this is such an important and large-scale change for all to take on. Leaders (principles, administration, district-level stakeholders, etc) need to be at the forefront for there to be proper training and support to help maneuver and steer this gigantic and always evolving educational shift in order to meet the needs and realities of the current educational landscape that teachers and students are part of.  

Nightman1965 – Royalty-free stock photo ID: 326359325 – Tugboats assisting container cargo ship to harbor.

Resources: 

Aungst, Gerald. (2012, March 26.) 21st Century Administrators: New Roles, New Responsibilities.  Retrieved from https://geraldaungst.com/2012/03/21st-century-administrators-new-roles-new-responsibilities/ 

Department of Defense Education Activity. (2014). The 21st Century Principal – 21st Century Teaching, Learning and Leading.  Retrieved from https://content.dodea.edu/teach_learn/professional_development/21/docs/principals/principal_paper_draft.pdf 

ISTE Administrators Standards. Retrieved from https://id.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_iste_standards-a_pdf.pdf 

Keenan. (2013, March 12). Developing Education. 5 Traits of the 21st Century Administrator. Retrieved from https://mrkeenan.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/181/ 

Morris, Dan and Brooks-Young, Susan.  Creative Educator. Becoming a 21st Century Administrator. Retrieved from https://creativeeducator.tech4learning.com/v08/articles/Becoming_a_21st_Century_Administrator 

Doing – The Most Important Digital Age Best Practice for PD

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”  
― Aristotle  

Student needs and outcomes should be at the heart of how educators teach and grow but how can this happen in a thoughtful way that includes how digital practices have changed the way we all (educators and students) learn, interact with and consume information?  While looking more closely at the ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation – Performance Indicator B - 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, this led me to my current question: How can PD use digital age best practices to showcase the positive ways technology will enhance student learning and experiences?  

What are digital age best practices? An organization called Loti, an acronym for Level of Teaching Innovation, states that digital age best practices are, “a set of research-based instructional principles that have shown a statistically-significant effect on student achievement. These practices promote college and career readiness and prepare students for success in the digital age.”  Included in this digital age best practice thinking is a strategy for educators to enact within the classroom called H.E.A.T. which stands for Higher-order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections and Technology use.  While digging deeper into H.E.A.T, the part that stands out to me most is the Technology use because the H., E., and A., can be accomplished without technology.  This leads me to think more about how to use PD as a way for educators to interact with technology to then enhance their teaching and connect with student needs…and most importantly this interaction needs to be teachers doing the things the students will be doing with the technology. 

The most powerful and long-lasting PD experiences I have had were rooted in doing.  Doing an activity or lesson from start to finish, using a new technology tool by doing activities within it, doing new curriculum from a learner’s perspective, doing assessments of student work in real-time with a coach.  Yet, in my 10 years of teaching, this has been a minority approach during PD sessions.  “Sparks and Hirsh (1997) believe that a fundamental shift must occur in the way most districts think about professional development. For instance, they advocate that professional development must:  

  • Be driven by clear, coherent strategic plans   
  • Focus on student needs and learning outcomes   
  • Include multiple forms of job-embedded learning   
  • Provide opportunities for study by teachers of the teaching and learning processes   
  • Include continuous improvement in performance for everyone who affects student learning   
  • Consider professional development as an indispensable process without which schools cannot hope to prepare young people for citizenship and productive employment (12 -16).”  

 A study was done in 2005 by Lawerence Ingvarson focusing on teachers using student performance data to guide teaching. “One of the key ingredients that the Ingvarson study found in effective professional development was follow-up and coaching after the training as the teacher attempted to apply this new knowledge to practice.” (Holloway, 2006).  The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) also provides principles that can help to support deeper and more relevant professional growth and learning if: 

  1. The school recognizes a critical factor in technology integration is the teacher’s sustained professional growth by creating a culture of continuous growth and adequate support for innovation and learning. 
  2. School leadership encourages educators to seek out opportunities to build learning networks and to explore and evaluate digital tools. 
  3. The school includes technology integration as an essential component of its professional development, provides the necessary time and resources for it, and ensures that educators acquire and demonstrate essential technology skills and proficiencies. T
  4. Teachers’ use of technology for teaching and learning is included in the school’s teacher evaluation process, as appropriate for the school’s mission and philosophy.  (Principles of Good Practice – Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Both of these resources focus on giving educators adequate and continued time, multiple experiences and support as a resource to learn new practices in a meaningful way that inspires implementation. 

In order for digital/technology-based PD to be efficient and result in actual teacher implementation, finding out what teachers need support with is key. In the article, To Bring Learning into the Digital Age, We Must Empower Teachers, Bev Perdue states that, “A 2016 survey of 1,327 teachers revealed that 85 percent “believe digital tools that provide immediate, ongoing information about student understanding will increase learning.” Unfortunately, most teachers also said they feel they lack the skills and knowledge they need to effectively incorporate digital tools and personalized learning practices in their classrooms.”   Do educators need to learn how to use a specific tool, how to teach students how to use a tool, how to navigate a platform, how to blend technology into the current curriculum, etc.  Once this is known (and it is clearly recognized that not all educators are starting from the same perspective and ability level) PD can be crafted intentionally for the audience attending it. From there, PD should be hands-on.  Have educators do the digital work or use the technology tools that will be asked of from their students.  This could be practicing teaching each other how to use a tool or getting on an app/platform like Seesaw, Skype, Adobe Spark, etc.  It cannot be a ‘sit and get’ style PD when it comes to interacting with digital tools and digital education.  

Faith Plunkett did just this and it is incredibly inspiring to read her article, This Teacher Started a Hands-On PD Lab That’s Sparking Change Across the District.  (Read the whole article if you have time…make time!) 

After sending out a PD survey with almost 3,000 educators taking part in it, she launched a space called Spark Lab that offers: 

  1. Weekly PD Sessions: There are several PD opportunities each week such as book studies, one-hour sessions, half-day sessions on coding concepts or specific tools such as Makey Makey and Seesaw. 
  2. Full Faculty Activities: Some schools opt to bring their entire faculty to the lab for a full day of PD. Sometimes they lead this work and other times I run whole-group activities like a Breakout EDU game where teachers learn to use different STEM materials and practice innovative teaching strategies. 
  3. Open Playground: Teachers can come on their own to explore, ask about different ways they can use specific tools or get advice about how to teach specific CS or STEM-related standards.

Plunkett recognizes that in order for this lab to be effective, it will have to continually change and keep up with the progress of technology.  She also hits on the heart of great PD when she acknowledges, “…we must continue to build relationships with teachers, help them realize the need for innovation in the classroom and continue to support them to reach each and every student.”  What an amazing opportunity a lab like this would for all educators.  Once educators get their hands on the tools and practice using different digital education platforms and resources, they will experience firsthand the positives that come along with technology and be ready to bring this learning to their students in a productive and student-focused manner. 

Sign me up, hire me please, I graduate from the DEL program in June and would love to be a part of this starting up in Seattle and beyond! 

Resources: 

Bergin, Mike. (2019, March 4.) Chariot Learning. Production Effect: Learning by Doing. Retrieved from https://chariotlearning.com/production-effect-learning-by-doing/

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. 

Holloway, John H. (2006).  Connecting Professional Development to Student Learning Gains. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ773253.pdf 

Hooper, Nicole. (2018). NTEN. Using Adult Learning Principles in Technology Trainings. Retrieved from https://www.nten.org/article/using-adult-learning-principles-in-technology-trainings/

LoTi.  Digital Age Best Practices. Retrieved from https://www.loticonnection.com/digital-age-best-practices 

NAIS.  Principles of Good Practice – Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. Retrieved from https://www.nais.org/learn/principles-of-good-practice/teaching-and-learning-in-the-digital-age/ 

Perdue, Bev. (2018, June 3). Getting Smart.  To Bring Learning into the Digital Age, We Must Empower Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2018/06/to-bring-learning-into-the-digital-age-we-must-empower-teachers/ 

Plunkett, Faith. (2019, April 8). This Teacher Started a Hands-On PD Lab That’s Sparking Change Across the District.  Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-04-08-this-teacher-started-a-hands-on-pd-lab-that-s-sparking-change-across-the-district