Here are four keys to creating teacher development programs that truly help educators learn how to integrate technology into their teaching methods. These guidelines emphasize pedagogy over technology, although they ultimately result in developing technology skills within the educational context.
• Teaching is more important than technology. While some teachers enjoy using computers for many tasks, far more teachers see computers as just one of the ways to bring information and skills to their students. Thus, the focus of computer courses must be on how computers can be used in specific ways in the classroom. For example, if teachers are introduced to listserves, these should be presented as a new way to communicate with peers, not just as “Here’s how listserves work.” While basic technology skills can be learned through one-time courses (such as online tutorials), educational techniques must be regularly reviewed and supported by discussion and practice.
• Teachers have a limited need to learn sophisticated technology. Teachers will enjoy technology if they see that it can be adapted to their own needs, rather than demanding that they adapt to the technology. Thus, while teachers should be trained to produce computer-oriented projects they can use in their classrooms, it must be acknowledged that teaching is their purpose, not web site design or network maintenance.
• Group projects have a better chance of success. Because educators aren’t necessarily technophiles, it’s often preferable to have them work on computer projects in teams. This will enable each member to learn one or two technical skills, but not to be overly burdened by mastering the project in its entirety. Again, because the ultimate goal is using the end product (often a web site or WebQuest) in the classroom, the route used to get there is of secondary importance.
• Make the training convenient. Online training courses make attendance more convenient to educators. It’s important to supplement the online course with a few in-person sessions, perhaps operated by a computer education center at a nearby college’s education department. The university can offer teachers an excellent combination of high-quality equipment and well-prepared instructors.