Implementation of digital content seems to be widely misunderstood. You can’t just drop in a sophisticated digital program without a really good implementation program. Like with everything in education, it comes down to the person. If teachers are ill-equipped to use new programs, they will fall back on traditional teaching methods.
Implementation is a long game. To successfully introduce a program, you need a multi-year plan for professional development and support for your teachers. If we use the SAMR Model as a measuring stick, I think that most teachers are still at the Substitution level. At this stage, with all the technology available, we should at least be working at Modification – ‘Tech allows for significant redesign’. I don’t think this is happening mainly because teachers do not have sufficient time during the day to explore the tools already out there that would allow them to transform their use of technology.
In Canada, teachers spend an average of 800 hours in the classroom per year. In contrast, Japanese teachers spend 600 hours in the classroom (Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators). The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education suggests that teachers need at least 10 days a year be set aside for in-school teacher training supported by coaches and mentors. In Sweden, teachers are allocated 15 days or 6% of a teacher’s total working time to professional development (How High-Achieving Countries Develop Great Teachers, August 2010).
Timely, well-supported PD might help us to move towards Modification and eventually, Redefinition.
As part of this process, it is really important your staff with excellent digital training resources. We are in the second year of a partnership with Atomic Learning. I consider this a great investment. You cannot ask your teachers to rely on YouTube or Google when they have questions on a variety of digital programs. They need sources of curated material delivered by professionals who are used to working with teachers. Atomic is not the only source for this professional learning, but for us, it’s works really well.
Discovery Education, especially in the United States and Great Britain is also providing excellent on-line and person-to-person PD. The personal touch, in my opinion is really important. Discovery spends a significant amount of time encouraging teachers to meet and share ideas. They also feature innovative teachers on their blogs through the DEN- Discovery Educators Network. The element of ‘teacher voice’ is a very important aspect of their approach to professional development.
Discovery Education puts a great emphasis on connecting with other educators
Pockets of innovation certainly do exist, but to me, the implementation of digital technology has been painfully slow. We seem to still be willing to invest in text and print resources rather than make the leap to digital texts and resources that allow for greater innovation and creativity.
The tools are certainly out there. They do require a significant financial commitment, but we need to move in a more deliberate fashion towards the adoption of these tools at a much more meaningful level.