(I served on the Web-based Education Commission Panel that sought input on issues that must be addressed in order to maximize the promise of the Internet for learning. This response is from that report. For a full copy of the report, visit http://www.webcommission.org. Please note that this response is focused on my experience with distance-based learning practices.)
To use the Web most effectively in teaching, teachers need to know how the Web will enhance their courses. Many classroom teachers don't use the resources on the Web even though computers and Internet access have been provided for them and their students. It's not always because they don't know how. I think many teachers don't believe that the Web resources are any better than what they are currently using to instruct their students.
This is true especially for language arts classrooms where the biggest use of computers is for word processing and desktop publishing. After all, students have been reading and writing for years without any Internet access at all.
I think the real key lies in helping teachers decide how the Web could make what they are already doing even better. Workshops should be more individualized and focus on examining the resources on the Web that might be appropriate for each teacher or department. Educators also need to know how to search effectively on the Internet. Knowing about various search engines can save so much time.
Educators also need some degree of technology skills in order to use the Internet effectively. Too many teachers use the Internet only as a resource for students involved in research projects or as a reward for students who have finished other work. If the teachers felt more comfortable with some of the more sophisticated computer technology, they could teach lessons to the whole class (or small groups) by taking students on a "tour" of various Web sites. This would allow them to vary from traditional lecture/direct instruction venues.
Above all, teachers need to be excellent classroom teachers to be excellent online teachers. The more computer and Internet experience that a teacher has will help with the learning curve from teaching in a traditional setting to the online environment.
Online training must be considered for continuing education. Teachers already spend so many hours after school working with students, attending meetings and supervising extracurricular activities that they often don't have time to attend traditional workshops. Online professional development is, of course, not the magic answer to this problem, but for many teachers, this avenue would allow them to receive training when the time suits.
Online educational models are just beginning to emerge for teacher preparation. Much of the training is done "in house" or by industry involved in e-commerce. E-commerce training is then adapted for an educational audience.
For beginning and new teachers, mentoring programs seem to be critical. Support needs to continue beyond the first year, however, in order to keep teachers in this profession. It seems like many good teachers leave the field after 3 to 5 years either for financial reasons or for lack of support. Ongoing mentoring for several years seems important. Then, it's important to help these more experienced teachers grow by serving as mentors themselves. There should be financial incentives, as well as other rewards, such as a reduced teaching load or increased opportunities for training.
|Current topic thread:|
|1360||Q4-Gauging Tech Proficiency & Software Usefulness||Cathy Lalli||10-27-00 10:49|
|1364||Staff Development Component||John Rinaldi||10-27-00 11:40|
|1363||Mentoring and Modeling May Help||Julie Young||10-27-00 11:28|
|1362||How Technology is Used is Key||Dianne Owen||10-27-00 11:06|
|1361||Assessment Instruments||Sheila Cory||10-27-00 10:59|