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2001 It's OK to be Stupid: Contributions Professional Community Makes to Exemplary Technology Use

Date: 2001
Author: Sara Dexter & Karen Seashore
Affiliation: University of Minnesota
Keywords: technology support, staff development, professional learning communities


At any schools there are individual teachers who make creative use of technology in their instruction. Through the site selection process for this study we encountered numerous instances of such schools and teachers; what was much harder to find were the sites where all or most teachers were incorporating creative approaches to technology and where the school's staff shared the vision for technology as a support to teaching, learning, and school improvement. The schools in the Exemplary Technology Supported Schooling Case Studies Project were selected, in part, because together their staffs were thoughtfully integrating technology into classroom pedagogy and had identified how it could support student achievement. There are considerable levels of technology access and strong technology support programs at these successful sites. The school's technology leaders had obviously taken efforts to make it easier for teachers to learn to use technology to enhance teaching and learning, and to make it a priority to do so. What emerged in the data was the contribution to the use of technology made through the professional community in the school.

Key Findings:

It appears that in combination with certain enabling conditions the teachers' shared need to learn technology contributed to the development of professional community.

* The professional community at the school contributed to more integrated and focused uses of technology as well as to the refinement of the schools' vision and necessary support system for technology use.

* Teachers in these schools had or made time to meet, and they used this time seriously, to discuss curriculum and instruction, technology, and student achievement. At Mountain Middle School, for example, "pretty much all" teachers belonged to a study group that they attended in addition to grade level team meetings.

* Both team and study group meetings were focused on critical issues that brought technology, curriculum, and student achievement together.

* Teachers, for the most part, view technology differently than their subject matter competence or instructional skills. Instead, they see it as an area of constant change, where no one is "better" in all areas, and where "we're all in it together."

* Expertise is spread widely within the buildings, and the open communication systems spread knowledge about who is experimenting on different instructional strategies that incorporate technology. Because technology use is easier to see than to disseminate in written form, teacher sharing through observation and intensive discussion is becoming more normative.

Source Article: http://cehd.umn.edu/CAREI/Reports/docs/ContributionsTech.pdf