I recently had the opportunity to speak with Instructure Canvas Learning Management System staff about preparing teachers for a digital learning classroom. Over the last five years working with Nevada’s Clark County School District, with over 10,000 teachers, in this area we’ve seen the full scope of educators from early adopters, to middle meddlers, and the slow to change. Moving to digital learning takes a mind shift in pedagogy and philosophy that embrace technology as a tool for instruction. Too often professional development is focused on the tool’s “point and click how to” leaving teachers with little ideas on “why to” or “when to” deploy the tools. It is important to take the time to start with pedagogy and philosophy, so that teacher understand initially why and how to adopt digital learning.
Concerns that teachers bring to digital learning professional development range from making the change from a comfortable known environment, being replaced by technology, lack of control over pace and content, to fear of failure. Internal voices scream these concerns loudly through participant’s heads as they partake in professional development. What we do to calm these concerns and reduce the internal chatter is key to helping change teacher’s mindset.
To reduce teacher concerns about the digital learning classroom have them become a digital learner themselves. Having them step into the role of an online/blended learner makes the unknown and makes it known. Learning through technology helps participants see that technology does not replace the classroom teacher, but rather changes their role. By being an online learner, participants discover the teacher’s role and allows them to become familiar with the tools and pedagogy. When stepping into the shoes of an online learner teachers have the opportunity to understand their student’s control over pace and time management. Being an online learner builds student empathy and understanding of the role of a teacher in the digital learning classroom, modeled by their online instructor.
To make the shift to digital learning, teachers need time. Time to play. Time to process. Time to understand. They need to find answers to “what to do?”, “how to do it?”, “why to do it?”, and “where to start?”. Becoming an online learner themselves, we create a seeing is believing environment. Using research from the Clay Christensen Institute professional development can target “what is” blended learning. Standards from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) can provide focus on “how to” define teacher roles and expectations. Data from the annual Speak Up survey, from Project Tomorrow, the “why to” picture is clear. Proof Points whitepapers from Keeping Pace provides roadmaps on “where to start” by looking at other’s proven paths.
Online courses at i3DigitalPD highlight industry research, like mentioned above, and puts teachers in the seats of a digital learner. Courses provide answers to participants’ over whelming questions and calms concerns. Try one!