Supporting Teacher PD with New Technologies
On a stormy day in February I sat at my desk in Edmonton, making last-minute touches to an after-school workshop for beginning teachers. Later, I popped into the meeting room, met the session host, who was from Calgary, and set up my materials. As participants entered the room, the host and I chatted with them about their teaching assignments. We were excited to discover that they represented districts from across Alberta. The session, which focused on differentiated instruction, went smoothly. It featured practical strategies, engaging discussions and thoughtful questions.
Interestingly, everyone participated without leaving the warmth of their own schools. This webinar, part of a project on distributed professional development, is an example of how PD is evolving and making use of new technologies.
The AlbertaPD project supports new teachers as they expand their knowledge about differentiated instruction and assessment for diverse learners. It demonstrates the potential opportunities and challenges of distributed professional learning.
For this demonstration project, a variety of Web-based learning opportunities have been developed based on the core resource Making a Difference: Meeting Diverse Learning Needs with Differentiated Instruction (Alberta Education 2009).
The project was launched in fall 2009 and will continue in the 2010/11 school year. Information can be found on the AlbertaPD website (www.albertapd.ca).
The project’s education partners are the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta Education, the 2Learn.ca Education Society, the Alberta Assessment Consortium, the Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia, the Alberta Distributed Education and Technology Association, the Galileo Educational Network, Alberta Technology Leaders in Education and representatives from Alberta’s universities.
Changing Times, Changing Tools
Online PD is a topic of increasing interest, and many believe that online learning will continue to be important for teacher learning in the future (ATA 2006; Locke 2006; Simpson 2006). New technologies create opportunities for sustained, systemic professional learning, as opposed to the traditional model of one-off inservices. Access to experts, collaboration and flexibility are some of the potential benefits, but other important issues linger. For example, what are the limitations of online PD? How can we use face-to-face and online PD to create an optimal mix of learning opportunities? What demands might be placed on teacher time?
As we explore the potential of online environments, it will be important to reflect on what we already know about high-quality PD and how new technologies can be used to create engaging and effective learning experiences for teachers.
Alberta Education. 2009. Making a Difference: Meeting Diverse Learning Needs with Differentiated Instruction. Edmonton, Alta.: Alberta Education. Also available at http://education.alberta.ca/media/1234045/makingadifference_2010.pdf (accessed September 2, 2010).
Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA). 2006. A Study of the Use of Technology to Enhance Professional Development. Edmonton, Alta.: ATA. Also available at www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Professional-Development/Use%20of%20Technology%20to%20Enhance%20PD.pdf (accessed September 2, 2010).
Locke, J. 2006. “A New Image: Online Communities to Facilitate Teacher Professional Development.” Journal of Technology and Teacher Education 14, no. 4: 663–78.
Simpson, J. 2006. “Field Experience in Distance Delivered Initial Teacher Education Programmes.” Journal of Technology and Teacher Education 14, no. 2: 241–54.
Joni Turville is an ATA executive staff officer in the Professional Development program area.