SEED Grant Partnership: Technology as Learning
Other technophobes (in the school building) are listening and watching what we are doing. They feel that if we can do it, so can they. – Cathy
It’s becoming more and more evident in professional development circles that technology is no longer just a tool for learning, or an add-on activity thrown into the mix for the “cool factor.” Digital literacy is becoming the learning itself. Fortunately, in more and more schools, the days of one-shot technology tool professional development – sessions where some new-fangled device or software platform is tossed into the laps of teachers during staff meetings while a company representative drones on and on about the benefits and use in a hurried, all-knowing way before quickly departing the scene – may be nearing the end.
Or so one hopes.
The transition away from that flash-in-a-pan kind of professional development doesn’t mean the next level of meaningful technology integration comes any easier, however. But just as young people’s lives revolve around cell phones and computers, teachers are becoming more tech-savvy than ever. More educators now expect to be introduced to meaningful ways that the digital world can inform their teaching practice and offer solid examples of learning for students in the classroom.
When the Western Massachusetts Writing Project began a fruitful partnership with an urban elementary school through the use of a U.S. Department of Education SEED (Supporting Effective Educator Development) grant administered through the National Writing Project, we saw it as an opportunity to “bake” in the use of digital learning with writing instruction right from the very start. The primary focus of the SEED grant was a 30-hour professional development course around best practices in the teaching of writing that stretched from January to June 2013 with a cohort of a dozen teachers and administrators at a single school. One of the goals was to make technology a part of the course in ways that would become nearly transparent, at least in our professional development sessions, in hopes that such technology would begin to filter back into the classroom. As in many schools, the technology infrastructure, access to sites and firewall issues posed a significant barrier to implementing this goal.
The educators from the Maurice A. Donahue Elementary School in Holyoke, MA, were eager, if a bit unsure, about what technology might look like in this kind of professional development where the primary focus was the teaching of writing. This is a school that has had a series of top-down professional development organizations oversee the work in recent years, due in part to flat standardized test scores that led to oversight by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Donahue School’s partnership with WMWP provided teachers there with a new direction forward, based on a model of teacher-driven inquiry projects and best practices in Writing Workshop, writing across the curriculum, research strategies and more.
This Digital Is resource seeks to document some of the work that was done to make the technology as seamless as possible in the professional development that ran from January to June 2013, so that the digital tools and spaces became a natural part of the instruction, and indeed, the expectation of the Donahue teachers as they began a classroom inquiry project of their own design.