Designing Professional Development/Tech-Learning
Technology Based Learning
Professional development through technology based learning (TBL) is a form of training for teachers. The training typically focuses on specific subject matter and requires engagement between the learner, technology, and possibly other teachers and learners. TBL can be offered in a variety of ways and settings. This page discusses tools and processes that can be used when designing professional development with TBL.
Teachers can exist in a variety of places including K-12, higher education, and professional environments. Wenglinsky  suggests that teachers can be the primary obstacle for implementing effective educational technology in the classroom. Teachers need to be taught both how to use technology and how to use constructive pedagogy appropriately with technology. This suggests that schools need to place emphasis on professional development of teachers. The Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning (CDSL)  created a framework to help design and evaluate optimized learning environments. Although this framework is intended for children, teachers can also benefit from learning in the same way. The principles of the framework state that learning must be:
|1.||Learner centered -||Identify what teachers need to learn and base the training session around it.|
|2.||Knowledge centered -||Teachers may or may not know why training is required. It is important to understand the value of the training and understand how it can be integrated into their teaching to ultimately add value to their own classrooms.|
|3.||Assessment centered -||Provide teachers ample time to transfer their knowledge to the classroom and provide feedback on the experience.|
|4.||Community centered -||Whether learning is done individually or in a group setting, having a community for teachers to share ideas adds value to the program.|
Keeping these key concepts in mind when choosing a PD tool, or developing your own will help you to create effective and useful learning tools for teachers.
Knowing your learner is an integral piece of the process. When creating a Professional Development (PD) program for teachers, it is important to be considerate of the technical capacity, learning styles, environment, and time available to devote to learning about something. It is best to identify methods of training early in the process, and the chosen methods should be based on the needs of the learner. For example, it would be not be ideal to create a lab-based training for teachers that live in remote locations. A more appropriate option would be to use a technology tool, such as virtual conferencing, to serve the remote learner(s) training. Accommodating learner needs with technology can be accomplished in several ways for groups or individuals with the support of the CDSL framework.
The image to the right represents a synchronous learning scenario where communication occurs real-time between teacher and learner. Technology can be used to facilitate this process through the use of tech-based tools like Skype or Elluminate where people can type, talk, and view each other. Synchronous learning does not have to occur between remote learners. It also describes a trainer leading a group of teachers during a workshop.
When learners are trained with methods that do not allow real-time communication between the trainer and/or other learners, this is known as asynchronous learning. The image depicted to the right shows an example of a training scenario where the communication path is from teacher to student only. Training that occurs in this way can include technology tools like forums, wikis, blogs, videos, and podcasts. Asynchronous learning can be an effective way to train learners with time constraints, living in remote areas, or even those who like to learn in an on-demand fashion.
Although these learning styles are different, a professional development program can be designed with a mix of various technologies and learning styles. It can be more effective to design different parts of training using both of these techniques to suit the various needs of your learners.
Whether you are looking to develop your own PD, or find a program that meets your needs, many different forms of technology can be implemented into your programs to facilitate learning. It is important to ensure that hardware and software are assessed for each learning scenario and choose the right combination of tools to suit the needs of the intended learner based on your assessment. For example, if your intended goal is to teach about wikis and how they can be used to enhance student learning, be cautious about providing a new piece of hardware, such as a mobile device to the training exercise. In such a scenario, a mobile device is not necessary to gain an understanding of wikis, but may be a rather large learning curve for some users. This can result in less focus on the task at hand, and loss of time as well as learning. If you are developing training for a targeted group of users, it is sometimes useful to send out a survey prior to training to gain perspective on the technical capacity of the learner.
Hardware devices can be used as a tool for professional development, but it could also be the focus of training. These two scenarios require different approaches when developing training. As mentioned earlier, try not to let hardware get in the way of learning if possible. Here are a few different types of hardware that may be used as a support tool for PD, or as the object of training for the learners to use in their own classrooms.
|Hardware||Description||PD Support Tool & Learner Use Examples|
|Use audio and web capabilities (if available) to provide training materials such as readings, podcasts, and videos.|
Create a program for language learners for use with a mobile device.
Use GPS capabilities (if available) to perform a Geocaching experience with your class.
|Tablets and ebook readers offer an easy way to distribute electronic materials. It also makes the content more accessible for individuals with disabilities.|
Teachers can integrate free classic literary texts that have been digitized into their course curriculum and use the tablet/ebook reader to view the texts.
|Image & Audio/Video
Flip Video device
|Training materials can be produced using audio and video to cater to audible and visual learners.|
Teachers can incorporate media tools like video and audio into group projects to motivate students and support creativity.
|In PD programs, computers can be used for assessment, testing, research and the like.|
If training software is developed, learners would be required to use a computer.
Learners can use computers in the classroom to play educational games or access course materials.
Computer use can extend communication and learning beyond class time to research projects, complete exercises, etc.
Computer hardware, alone, only affords students with a mechanism to learn. Creating technology-based learning for PD requires software applications to create training programs. Several different applications have been mentioned thus far that support training. It is important to keep in mind that software tools are just that, tools. They are intended to support learning, and are most valuable when the technology and training are fully integrated. 
Communicating information to learners with technology can be an effective way to disseminate information to learners (especially remote learners). Email is probably one of the more widely used software-based technologies that most people are familiar with, but there are several other methods that are becoming popular. Blogging, and tweeting are examples of social networking software that serve as communication mediums. Even video sharing communities like YouTube can be useful sources for sharing or finding effective training materials for PD programs. Training materials can also be created with productivity software like Microsoft Word or it's open-source alternative OpenOffice.
Software can also provide a collaborative learning environment for professional development. Wikis, like this, can be a place to develop an evolving PD program that serves as a repository of information and links to learning materials. It can also serve as a place for the learners to develop ideas and work on projects together in one shared environment. For real-time collaborative experiences, virtual meetings can be accomplished using conference tools like Elluminate or DimDim. Virtual Worlds like Second Life and Open Sim can also accommodate such needs, but can further enhance the meeting if the virtual space is designed for learning. Virtual worlds can serve as a place for discussions, presentations, or simulating real life situations.
All of these methods are quite different, but can serve several purposes when developing a training program. With any of these programs, the most important part of development is to be sure that the learning experience is constructive and meets the needs (time, location, difficulty, etc.) of the learner.
Professional Development Resources
It may be necessary for some training needs to be customized or developed to meet the needs of the intended audience. In many cases, professional development programs may already exist to meet the needs of the learners. The following are just a few examples of well known services that offer such programs. The training offered through these services come in all different forms including publications, workshops, video, learning communities and more. Although some of these organizations have built their own frameworks for developing professional development, they all support similar desires pertaining the methodology of teaching.
- ^ Jonassen, D.; Howland, J., Marra, R. M., Crismond, D. (2008). Meaningful Learning with Technology (3rd Edition ed.). Pearson Education Inc.. ISBN 978-0132393959.
- ^ Smaldino, D.; Lowther, D. L., Russell, J. D. (2007). Instructional Technology and Media for Learning (9th Edition ed.). Pearson Education Ltd.. ISBN 978-0132391740.
- ^ Wenglinsky, H. (2005). Using Technology Wisely. New York: Teachers College Press. ISBN 0-8077-4584-7.