A tool in hand is worth… nothing without proper PD

A new ISTE-Verizon program offers schools and districts research-based support and PD for successfully implementing mobile learning

pd-mobileImagine what would happen if hospital leaders announced to surgeons late on a Friday afternoon that when they came to work on Monday they would no longer be doing surgery using the tools they have always used—such as  scalpels, scissors and clamps—and all procedures would be done using new high-tech laser tools, with which they may or may not have familiarity.

How do you think the medical team–the doctors, the nurses and other supporting professionals–would respond? What do you think the patients would say about this abrupt change in standard practice?

Yes, hospital leaders who are mandating this change could argue that technology provides a more accurate way to do surgical procedures, lowering the risk of infection, and potentially decreasing medical expenses. Yet, would this really be the case when the new technologies are being handled by professionals who have not been properly trained in this new way of doing surgery?

Of course, a change of this magnitude would never be implemented in such a haphazard way in medicine–lives are at stake!

I would argue that lives are also at stake in education, and the scenario described above is analogous to the transition to mobile learning in schools. Oftentimes, school leaders announce that the school community is making the switch to mobile learning, pass out devices to everyone, and expect not only that will things continue as they have been, but that the learning environment will be transformed and student achievement will soar.

(Next page: The benefits of truly personalized PD)

But, as we all know, these miraculous changes do not happen just because educators are given new devices. Unsupported change is no change at all.

Over the past three years, ISTE has collaborated with the Verizon Foundation to provide schools with support they need to make the transition to mobile learning. And, when this transformation is done effectively, the results are powerful.

Earlier this year, we released results of a study, conducted by ISTE in collaboration with the Verizon Foundation that looked at several schools across the country whose teachers were enrolled in the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) program, focusing on professional development and mobile integration in the classroom. Mentoring was at the heart of the program–ensuring the learning experience was job-embedded, relevant to the needs of the participants, and sustainable. ISTE worked with administrators and teachers to provide a professional development pathway that prepared them to facilitate, model, integrate, and apply educational technologies to support digital-age learning. For each school, the PD was individually tailored to address specific areas of improvement and consisted of on-site training, webinars, and one-on-one time with a tech coach.

The study revealed that standardized test scores in math for students participating in the VILS program increased by more than 4 percent over the previous year. Teachers participating in the program reported that 35 percent of their students showed higher scores on classroom assessments, 32 percent showed increased engagement in the classroom, and 63 percent demonstrated increased proficiency with mobile devices.

In the VILS program, professional development was provided for teachers and a designated technology coach. Taking what we learned with VILS to the next level, ISTE, in collaboration with the Verizon Foundation, launched the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy (VMLA), a free, virtual professional learning program developed to help school teams prepare for successfully integrating mobile technology into learning and teaching. VMLA guides participants to look at academic goals of their technology initiative and determine the role that technology can play in better realizing those goals.

(Next page: How you can get involved)

Developed for teams of administrators, classroom teachers, and technology coaches, the facilitated, five-module program will be delivered online four times during the 2014-2015 school year. Working in collaboration with The Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education, the academy offers a robust curriculum, aligned to the widely adopted ISTE Standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age.

The course begins with an overview of mobile learning and its real-life classroom implications, supported by hands-on activities designed to help participants gauge their school’s or district’s readiness to undertake a mobile learning initiative. After conducting a guided self-evaluation of each implementation site based on ISTE’s Essential Conditions, teams receive a presentation highlighting specific areas of strength and weakness. The course then offers a wealth of information, ideas, and in-depth activities to help answer crucial questions that emerge as the teams implement their mobile learning initiatives.

Each team also meets with an instructional consultant twice a month, and has the opportunity to work with other schools’ teams during three academy-wide synchronous online meetings. The academy offers 2.5 continuing education units from Johns Hopkins University.
The inaugural cohort of school teams participating in this exciting new program is nearing completion, and registration is now open for the next session, which begins January 12, 2015. Two other sessions will also be offered in 2015, starting July 20 and October 5. Interested teams can pre-register online.

Educators around the country recognize that providing their students with an engaging, motivating, and rigorous learning environment has the potential to put them on a path to success in school, college, and career. Just like a hospital wouldn’t risk patients’ lives by making a spontaneous change in the way surgery is performed, schools can’t make the switch to mobile learning without planning and providing professional learning opportunities.

Students’ lives can be positively changed forever when the transition to mobile learning is managed well. The VMLA was developed to help educators ensure that happens.

Wendy Drexler, Ph.D., is ISTE’s chief innovation officer, and responsible for the ISTE Standards, professional learning services, and the association’s thought leadership teams, including research and evaluation.

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