BLOG POST BY PTAC MEMBER MARYANN B. MOLISHUS
Many years ago, after starting my family, I returned to college to get my degree in elementary education. I graduated in 2000, and I got my first teaching job. Soon after, I needed to return to college to complete my requirements for my permanent teacher certification. As I investigated possible graduate programs, I asked myself, “What are the needs of my new school district?”
Where I landed was a master’s program in applied technology. I had observed a need for our staff and students to learn more about how technology can improve teaching and learning, and I wanted to be able to support my district in improving technology integration.
It has been twenty years since I first began advocating for technology integration in my district. While much of the technology has changed, the need for professional development has not.
Through my graduate work and time as a technology mentor and by facilitating technology-focused professional development, I have seen the benefits of providing training and guidance to teachers as they build their technology skills, which ultimately benefits the students.
In late March and, with only a couple of weeks to prepare, teachers, administrators, and support staff had to redesign the last three months of the school year to allow children to learn at home during a global crisis. No one was fully prepared for this challenge, and many were pushed to their limits as they tried to figure out how to navigate distance learning.
It’s still not a given that all teachers are proficient with technology. However, what the Covid-19 pandemic crisis has exposed is how crucial access to and proficiency with technology tools and resources are to a quality, modern education. If teachers lack technological proficiency, it becomes nearly impossible to provide a quality education for students. If teachers are not yet proficient with the technology, they need to learn fast.
Through much collaboration, creative thinking, and with access to many new online learning tools being offered free of charge, staff and administrators stitched together a temporary fix to the problem of how to teach children during a pandemic. Our district’s distance learning committee created tutorials for teachers and families. Teaching teams met virtually to plan and share ideas. Resources were shared and modified, and modified again as teachers learned what worked and what didn’t. Our district’s technology integration specialists arranged group and one-on-one training sessions to support teachers.
Technology is ever-changing, as is the world in which we live. That’s why we need to continue to offer teachers professional development that provides guidance as new tools and scenarios emerge. Our students and families deserve well-trained teachers who are able to provide quality learning experiences, whatever the school year brings.
The Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee emphasizes the need to support the wellbeing of teachers in its Recommendations for the 2020-2021 School Year. Supporting teacher wellbeing includes providing “training on relevant new technologies,” and, “access to professional development on effective remote teaching practices and technologies.” We know from the experiences of the last few months how crucial it is to have teachers who are trained and prepared to use effective tools and strategies to teach in-person and remotely.
During these summer months, we have the time to reflect and to continue to work together to plan for a new school year fraught with uncertainties. We need to be sure that access to professional development is part of the planning that takes place.
From my first year as a teacher jumping into a technology integration graduate program, until now, I continue to see how important it is for teachers to be given the time and guidance to develop proficiency in using technology to guarantee a quality, modern education for all students.
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee