Professional development that hurts

Yesterday I wrote about a report on What Works: Effective Technology Professional Development. Today, unfortunately, I have the other side of the story. Yes, it’s possible to do professional development that actually decreases the chance that teachers will integrate technology into the classroom.

This is from the Student Speak Up survey project, where students, parents, teachers, and administrators answer questions about technology in their academic and personal lives.

Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, who runs the Speak Up project sent me this input from a focus group of 40 high school students in California in March 2009 (and gave me permission to publish it.)

Students told me that they had better access to technology at school before we (meaning education agencies and groups) trained all the teachers how to use technology.  The students said that their teachers were very fearful of the dangers of Internet use in particular and concerned about their own liability.  The perception of the students is that their teachers were therefore making conscious, deliberate decisions to use technology and in particular providing Internet access less than what they had done previously.

This is not that teachers don’t have technology skills. This is a deliberate stance taken by teachers who LEARN about technology, but are so confused, scared, or disempowered that their practice retreats to use LESS technology.

Professional development that doesn’t empower teachers is no solution at all.


PS Registration is still open for the 2009 Student Speak Up until Dec 23 – share your voice!

4 Replies to “Professional development that hurts”

  1. That seems to be a rather slanted response and a broad jump to a conclusion. Could it not be that the school had unfiltered access to adult sites and when the teachers learned more they added needed restrictions? To conclude that the students conclusion about ‘less technology’ was because the teacher were ‘afraid’ is a stance that excludes other possibilities, such as teachers becoming aware of the negative side of technology and taking steps to meet their responsibilities as guiding adults.
    Technology is not neutral, and youth do not automatically possess the maturity to not make foolish and damaging choices. It’s our job to provide a safe place to learn, and sometimes that means protecting students from their own folly.

  2. John,
    This comment was condensed from the responses of a focus group of students and reflects a larger conversation where things like you suggest were ruled out. The comments from the students, while not the whole story, also mirror my own experiences with many, many, schools. The larger point is that professional development for teachers is often pointed to as “the answer” for increasing technology use in schools. My opinion is that this is simplistic at best, especially when it is undertaken without including students.

    As I say in this blog post, the trick is the balance between empowering and protecting.

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