What impact will access to support opportunities have on technology use by teachers?
Throughout this action research project, I explored strategies to support teachers in using technology. I implemented different support opportunities for teachers. By offering more support than what was previously available, I hoped to increase the teachers’ use and ability with technology. In the first cycle, I focused on optional learning sessions, where teachers could receive support with any tech related concern they had. In this second cycle, I hosted learning sessions focused on a specific topic for learning sessions.
CYCLE TWO PLAN:
I hosted learning sessions, focused on topics which teachers have indicated interest in. In leading the learning sessions, I will work to create an environment where teachers can be comfortable using technology and receiving help with technology.
CYCLE TWO QUESTION:
How will access to open lab sessions about a specific topic affect the technology use of teachers?
Upon reflecting on cycle one, I observed that teachers who dropped in to open learning sessions usually asked for help regarding topics familiar to them. In cycle two, I decided to focus the learning sessions about specific topics in order to promote topics, which might be unfamiliar to teachers. In choosing topics for the learning sessions, I chose areas where teachers indicated wanting support for in the needs assessment given at the beginning of cycle one. I also held learning sessions about topics teachers specifically inquired about. In order to prevent teachers from asking for help about what interested them, some sessions at the beginning of cycle two were still open to all topics. When learning sessions were given a specific topic, I explained to teachers that I would still field other technology questions they may have. I felt it was important to continue to give teachers a voice about the content we worked on together, by giving them the opportunity to still pose their own questions.
Learning Session Participation
In cycle two, I held sixteen learning sessions for teachers. In these sessions teachers were invited to drop into the lab for technology support. Most of the sessions were held on Wednesday mornings from 8:00-8:30. Some sessions were held on Wednesday afternoons when there were no other meetings.
Overview of Teacher Visits
- At least one teacher dropped in for 10 out of 16 originally scheduled sessions.
- Four additional sessions where added at the request of specific teachers who were unable to attend the offered times or who needed to work in a location other than the computer lab. These teachers met with me at our mutually agreed upon time.
I targeted 24 teachers for this project. Throughout the spring, I offered a total of 16 learning sessions, which they could attend. In looking at visits for cycle two, I found the following:
- 11 out of 24 teachers attended one or more sessions.
- 5 out of 24 teachers attended one session.
- 5 out of 24 teachers attended two sessions.
- 1 out of 24 teachers attended four sessions.
- 13 out of 24 teachers did not attend sessions.
I believe my flexibility in scheduling additional sessions allowed more teachers to attend than if I had not added these additional sessions. The five teachers, who worked with me in additional learning sessions, seemed relieved I could accommodate their requests.
In cycle two, 11 out of 24 teachers participated in at least one learning session. 13 teachers did not participate in any learning sessions. In cycle one, 15 out of 24 teachers joined in learning sessions. Some teachers that participated in cycle one also participated in cycle two. For cycles one and two combined, the total teacher participation was
18 out of 24 teachers joined in at least one learning session—a 75% participation rate. There were 9 teachers who did not participate in any learning sessions.
Learning Sessions with Topics
In this second cycle, I decided upon learning session topics based upon my observations from working with teachers and the needs assessment from cycle one. The selected topics were: saving, website, slideshow, and iPads. A teacher suggested the topic of labels. Not wanting to neglect teacher concerns, I informed teachers I would still field questions not related to the topic of the learning session.
Teachers attended five out of eight sessions that had set topics. This table shows that in four of these eight sessions, teachers asked for help about the topic of the learning session. Three out of eight sessions with set topics did not have any teacher participation. When looking at the additional sessions from table 2.1, two of the four additional sessions teachers requested were about topics suggested: printing labels and burning DVD’s of slideshows previously created.
Throughout this cycle I noticed teachers still sought help on what interested them, just as they did in cycle one. Even though I choose learning session topics of high interest teachers did not necessarily ask for help with those topics. It seems the topic of iPhoto slideshow encouraged two teachers to make one and use it for the school’s open house night. In addition, one other teacher told me she made a slideshow on her own while another one asked me about how to create one.
Looking back at the needs assessment the teachers completed in cycle one (figure 1.1), working on the website ranked as highly as iPads. Four teachers worked on the website in cycle two, while none had a desire to work with the iPads during learning sessions.
It is hard to say if topics improved participation. In the case of the iPhoto slideshow topic, the data shows that teachers were encouraged by this topic. Also one teacher attended each of the website learning sessions and asked for help with the website. IPads were a highly ranked topic on the needs assessment survey, however no teachers attended a learning session for iPads or requested to work with them. While topics might have influence on some teacher’s participation, it may have also deterred some teachers from dropping in on a learning session.
At the end of cycle two, I asked teachers to complete an anonymous survey to learn about their thoughts on cycle two and cycle one. 15 out of 24 (63% ) teachers completed the survey. Of the teachers who responded to the survey, 7 reported attending a learning session while 8 reported they did not attend a session. Of the 8 that did not attend, three wrote a comment regretting that they did not attend. Another teacher said she would have attended but had too many other meetings that interfered.
I alerted teachers about learning sessions through email and by posting signs in the staff mailroom. Throughout cycles one and two I regularly sent email reminders and occasionally posted signs. After the first several sessions in cycle one, learning sessions were always on Wednesdays, unless teachers requested a different time. In the survey, I asked teachers if notification for sessions was too little, just right, or too much. 14 of the 15 teachers surveyed reported notification was just right. Only one teacher reported that notification for sessions was too little. This teacher also made a note that she did not attend because she did not remember when sessions were held. Posting signs on a regular basis may help give this teacher the reminder that she needs.
Teachers were asked what they would like to see in the next year in terms of technology support. Eight of the fifteen teachers who responded to the survey answered this question. Of these eight teachers, six said they liked the structure of the learning sessions. Four teachers expressed interest in working with me during grade level planning time. One of these teachers said she would be interested in attending class with her students and having my support while she was there. One teacher mentioned she would like me to present about technology at staff meetings.
My goal in this cycle was to continue to provide technology support for teachers who were interested. I also wanted to encourage teachers who had not participated in cycle one. I continually informed teachers that they could schedule another time with me if they had a scheduling conflict and could not attend a learning session. Five teachers did this in the second cycle.
In an attempt to reach teachers who had not participated in cycle two, I sent personalized emails to seven teachers and approached one in person to encourage them to come to the lab and create an iPhoto slideshow for the school’s Open House night. This was a time-consuming task and I worried I may come across as pushy or looking out for my own interests—my action research project. The teacher I approached in person told me she was not interested. I received email responses from four of the seven teachers I emailed of which one came to a learning session. Another teacher informed me she made a slideshow on her own. Two teachers and I communicated over several email messages. They expressed interest, but never came to a learning session. The other four teachers did not respond. I was happy my email efforts resulted in one teacher attending and another one creating a slideshow. I do not think the teachers who responded saw my purpose as just being for my own gain, but I do not know that for sure, particularly with the teachers that did not respond. Due to the time requirements of composing personal emails and my feelings of being uncomfortable with this action, this is something I would rather not do in the future. I would prefer to encourage learning sessions in a more organic way, which I did throughout this cycle. If a teacher expressed interest in doing something with technology, I offered to use his or her topic for a learning session or encouraged them to come to a learning session. In my cycle one reflection, I mentioned I would like to target teachers as a future action in cycle two. I did not specifically target teachers until half way through cycle two. I have a good rapport with teachers, which was strengthened through this project this year. As I worked through this cycle I was concerned that targeting teachers might risk damaging these relationships. This is why I continually delayed trying this action.
I was pleased to see teachers dropping in regularly for learning sessions in this cycle. This told me teachers are in need of technology support and saw me as a resource that could help them. It was also satisfying to know that this structure allowed me to share my knowledge with staff.
One teacher made remarkable progress in cycles one and two. She regularly attended learning sessions throughout the year. Over the time we worked together, I saw her technology skills improve in editing her webpage and navigating around her computer. Every time I worked with her she seemed a bit more confident and remembered the skills we had worked on previously. At the last learning session she asked me to help her burn DVD’s of a student picture slideshow that she created in earlier learning sessions. She has really surprised me with her energy, dedication, and how far she has come this year in regards to technology skills and confidence. I had always thought that teachers just needed more time to build their technology skills and that they could only move on to advanced technology activities after they mastered all the basic skills. Her success prompted me to reconsider this. She showed me that motivation, accompanied with the right support, could move teachers to do amazing things with technology.
Learning Sessions with Topics
As I look to future cycles, I think I could focus more on motivating with new ideas than making sure to cover topics that I think would be helpful, but maybe aren’t all that exciting. For example, the first learning session with a topic was saving. That is a good skill to know but perhaps a title such as organizing and backing up your documents would be more exciting for someone.
In future learning sessions, I would like to keep the topics open and only suggest a topic if a teacher expresses interest or I have a topic I think would appeal to teachers. For example, the iPhoto slideshow topic was something new to some teachers and not very complicated. I explained how this could be used for a specific event. In this case of the slideshow topic, I found it was beneficial to tie in an upcoming event with the learning sessions. While, this was a new idea for some teachers, it had a suggested purpose.
I wonder if teachers would have created a slideshow if I had not suggested it. This has helped me to see that while I can’t force teachers to do something, I can make suggestions that might influence them.
It was affirming seeing teachers continue to attend learning sessions and schedule learning sessions in cycle two. I was also pleased to hear some teachers are interested in continuing learning sessions and would like other forms of technology support. When I first started working at this school, I was under the impression that some teachers just didn’t like technology. But after working with them and analyzing my work with them, it seems that they are interested in technology but are often lacking support so they do not try it out.
Over the course of the two cycles, there were still teachers that did not attend. This could tell me there are some who are just not interested or may not be able to participate in learning sessions due to scheduling or other responsibilities. In addition to these teachers, there are also aids, support teachers, and specialty teachers I did not include in this project. These teachers work a shorter day than the regular teachers so they are not at school early nor do they stay for Wednesday afternoons. The aids and support teachers work with the regular teachers, so they can also be seen as supports for technology. If they are not familiar with the technology students and teachers are using, supporting them can be challenging. I would like to work with the administration next year to see if we can coordinate a meeting during the day for these teachers so I work with them.
In this cycle, I confirmed the teachers do have a need for my support. Having a structure in place for this was helpful. I could sense teachers liked having a set time, which prevented them from feeling like they were imposing on my time by asking for help. Before cycles one and two teachers often seemed hesitant when asking me for help. Having this time set was also more convenient for me.
Upon surveying the teachers, (and listening to informal feedback) I found there is an interest for me to continue supporting them in the future. The technology is not going away so the need for support remains. Support will be especially important in the next school year, as the technology will be increasing. Interactive whiteboards are going to be installed in six classrooms and another grade level will receive iPads for its students.
In the next school year, I would like to have a model like the learning sessions in place. This continuous time where I worked with small groups of teachers was ideal. In the end of the cycle two survey, several teachers suggested I meet with their grade levels to support them. I would like to invite teachers to attend technology class with their students. When teachers have grade level planning time, I teach their students so I am not free to help. There are occasional times where there would be funding for a substitute teacher in order to permit me to meet with the grade level team, but this opportunity does not happen often. However, asking teachers to come to the lab during their class’ technology class time could help us work with this problem. Teachers often work on technology during their planning time anyway, so working on technology in the lab would not require any more of their time. If teachers attended a class, they would get to see what students are working on and even have the opportunity to try it for themselves. If teachers encountered trouble, students could provide them with guidance, along with myself.
I also think having a set schedule would help. This would let teachers know this model was going to continue and would know exactly when they could stop in. In cycle one and two I usually informed teachers several days to several weeks before a learning session. We had a bit of a routine switching from Wednesday morning to Wednesday afternoon if there was a meeting. However, I think having this on a calendar would help us all know exactly when they can expect learning sessions. Staff meetings are sometimes subject to change, so putting together a schedule would require assistance from the administration.
Earlier I mentioned not being able to support teachers because of my own teaching responsibilities. I would like to have a conversation with the administration about using money for occasional substitute teachers so I can be relieved of teaching duties in order to better support the teachers. In an ideal setting, where money would not be a limitation, I would suggest that we split my current position into two different positions—one for teacher support and managing technology and one for teaching students. Until then, this cycle shows a way I can support teachers within the confines of the current situation.