OKTechMasters: State-Mandated Technology Training for Teachers That Works

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In the late 1990s, school systems, state education agencies, and the U.S. Department of Education expended time, effort, and money on technology in the schools [Though the latest technological revolution began in the 90s, technology is not new to schools. In this opening sentence, please be more specific in explaining how the late 1990s were distinct from other years in reference to technology in the schools.]. Now, E-rate monies for Internet access [Some readers may not be familiar with this concept. Please explain.], grants for computer hardware, and emphasis on educational software [What exactly do you mean by "emphasis on educational software?" Do you mean monetary investment in the latest educational software?] are commonplace. But with this funding for technology comes accountability for its results. For instance, teachers in several eastern states must pass technology proficiency exams within three years [within three years of what? their hire dates?] or risk losing their contracts. It stands to reason that effective teacher-training programs are needed to increase the chances that greater technology in the schools will make a positive difference in educating students. Such an effective teacher-training model is Oklahoma's OKTechMasters Program.

In June of 1997, the Oklahoma Legislature passed HB 1815, commonly called the "Telephone Bill," which allocated roughly seven million dollars to be collected from telephone companies over five years. These funds would provide training in telecommunications and distance learning in the classroom. The ultimate goal of HB 1815 is to place a "Lead Technology Teacher" (LTT), an expert in technology infusion [Some readers may not be familiar with the term "technology infusion." Please provide a brief definition.], in every wing of every school building in Oklahoma.

Six consortia of Oklahoma educational institutions were created across the state based upon geography and population density [When did this happen?]. OKTechMasters, composed of the thirty educational institutions in Oklahoma and Cleveland counties, is one of these consortia. The Oklahoma Department of Vocational and Technical Education (ODVTE), the fiscal agent for the monies allocated by the legislature, called together focus groups from K-12, vocational, and higher education institutions in urban, suburban, and rural areas to discuss challenges facing the new program [When did this happen?]. At the outset, the primary issues were disparity in available technology from building to building and district to district, lack of uniform technology use, differing viewpoints on who should provide training, varying delivery methodologies, and the short timeline to accomplish the goal [Did the bill stipulate that the LTT must be in every wing of every school building within 5 years? Will the LTTs remain in place even after the 5 years of fund allocation? If yes, how will they be paid? By individual school districts?].

The What? Who? When? Where? and How? of OKTechMasters

What? The ODVTE and focus groups agreed that the program should provide training in Level II and Level III competencies to teachers in the six regions. Because funds provided through HB 1815 are limited and training in Level I skills, such as turning a computer on and off properly, resizing a window on the desktop, basic word processing skills, and simple Web browsing and searching, is widely available from many sources, Level I training is not part of the program. Level I and Level II competencies appear in Table I and on the OKTechMasters Web site. Deciding which skills to include in the training program settled the "What?" question for the ODVTE and focus groups; "Who?" "When?" "Where?" and "How?" were questions about the program they had yet to answer. 

Who? In deciding who would conduct the training, the ODVTE and focus groups knew not to follow the teacher-training model previously used in Oklahoma schools. In the past, school districts contracted with experts from outside the field of education to train teachers to use technology. But according to teachers, this method was not effective. They commented that trainers did not know "what teaching is all about" and could not understand their needs, since most of them had meager access to technology. In response to these complaints, an advisory committee for each consortium selected ten teachers, recognized as master teachers in their fields and recommended by supervisors, to become Master Trainers (MTs). MTs participate in ten days of intensive training in Level II competencies and develop a curriculum, based on the needs of their consortium, to address each Level II objective. The OKTechMasters MTs piloted and refined a new curriculum while training thirty additional MTs in their region [What year did they do this?]. This cadre has delivered training to over 1000 LTTs, who share ideas with other teachers at their home schools and become "approachable champions of technology." [Who coined this phrase? Is this what OKTechMasters MTs call their LTTs?] This cascading approach has proven to be effective and efficient.

How? MTs [OKTechMasters MTs or MTs in all the regions?] deliver the LTT curriculum in twenty-eight hours of instruction and allow participants nine additional hours of hands-on time in a computer lab. Standard topics include: 

The MTs use a " teach-show-do-apply" method, filling over half of class time with self-paced, hands-on activities. The classroom is a community of about twenty learners, with an MT acting as a facilitator of discovery rather than as an instructor delivering packaged knowledge. MTs give examples, model methods, and guide attendees in revising existing curricular components to include technology where appropriate. 

OKTechMasters promotes the idea that curricula must drive technology infusion. Therefore, training sessions focus on full integration of technology into the classroom, and individual teachers spend most of the class time creating units of instruction within their own subject areas. At most levels, Oklahoma's Priority Academic Student Skills (Oklahoma State Department of Education, 2000) determines the content of instructional units, while LTT sessions empower teachers to develop or find lessons and activities that improve their delivery of subject matter. 

Just as a carpenter doesn't have to stop and think about the way to swing a hammer, teachers shouldn't have to stop and think about the technology they are using to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms. For this reason, MTs model transparent use of technology to LTT participants during training sessions, and LTTs thereby model this transparency to their peers and students. For example, a social studies teacher, who teaches the processes related to counting votes in a presidential election, may display transparent use of technology to students by using a spreadsheet application to demonstrate how the media reports on returns quickly and predicts outcomes with only a percentage of polls reporting. The teacher need not focus on the spreadsheet as an end in itself, but rather use it as merely one tool in a lesson. The students may then learn to use a spreadsheet in a similar task, reporting on survey data such as favorite cars or ice cream flavors.  In this way, students begin to gain technological skills that research has indicated they will need in the workplace.

Where? Because of disparities in the quality of facilities and equipment between districts and even individual school buildings, the "where" issue of the OKTechMasters program is an important one. To ensure the availability of the best equipment and facilities to all teachers in each of the six regions, each institution has agreed to make whatever facilities it possesses available to all institutions in its consortium for HB1815 training. [How exactly does this work logistically? Does this mean that teachers attend training sessions at the institution closest to his/her home? Do institutions actually deliver equipment to other institutions that don't have the technology?] This sharing of resources has allowed each teacher access to equipment within fifty miles of his/her home. 

When? In order to meet the goal stated in the legislation, "a lead technology teacher in every wing of every school in Oklahoma," the HB1815 training must take place all year. Monies are available to pay for substitutes for MTs and LTT trainees, and MTs receive an hourly rate of pay for hours that the training exceeds their contracted workday. Monies will continue to be available until 2002 when the continuation of funding will be considered [considered by the state legislature?]. At present, continued funding appears to be a good bet. Why? The results!

OKTechMasters Delivers Positive Results

The goal of an LTT in every wing of every school in the state certainly seems attainable at this point. Teachers across Oklahoma have now had the opportunity to attend training for almost two years. With two years remaining in the project, one in twenty of the approximately fifty thousand teachers in Oklahoma (K-12, Higher Education, and Vocational Education) have received LTT training and implemented those skills into their instruction, [Does the program last for 5 years or four years? Are you not counting the current year in your report that "Teachers . . . have now . . . attend[ed] training for almost two years" and have "two years remaining in the project?"] infusing Web-based lessons and technology projects into every grade level and content area. The consortia continue to revise LTT training strategies and will deploy Level III training in late 2000. Level III training will focus on skills required in a technologically advanced classroom, leadership and mentoring skills, and participation in an online course. 

 

An initial evaluation of the program, based on summaries of anecdotal reports from trainers and learners collected by each consortium, indicates that teachers have successfully infused technology into their classes, student achievement has increased, and student interest has skyrocketed.  In a preliminary report to the telecommunications task force [What is the telecommunications task force? Is this something created by the legislature or the ODVTE?], Dr. William A. Coberly (1999), Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Tulsa, maintains that the program "has been very successful and cost effective . . . The vision of the legislature, the administration by the Oklahoma Vo-Tech System, and, most importantly, the enthusiastic response of Oklahoma's teachers should be commended" (p. [insert page number here]). As an additional result of its success, OKTechMasters has partnered with several educational software and materials providers. Most recently, OKTechMasters has become the state partner for ThinkQuest, an international competition that awards scholarships and other prizes to teams of students who develop instructionally valuable Web sites.

 

The ODVTE has not yet conducted research on the results of the program apart from session evaluations; the current data collected by the ODVTE relates primarily to completion rates for LTT participants. As the data from PASS tests and other standardized tests become available, a more rigorous analysis of the relationship between technology-infused instruction and student achievement will be possible. We will initiate a more rigorous evaluation of the HB 1815 training program in the near future and hope to report our findings to Technology Source within the next year or so.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Training teachers to use technology for the sake of technology is like teaching someone to drive a car for the sake of learning to drive. If there were nowhere to go, driving around in a circle would be neat for a while, but once the novelty wore off, what then? Focusing on the need for content-driven, technology-infused lessons emphasizes technology's usefulness, teaches students technological skills, and models technological transparency. For today's teachers and students, technology must become a tool rather than a plaything. OKTechMastersí training program (as well as that of the other HB1815 consortia) provides a model for training teachers to use technology as an effective teaching tool rather than a shiny new toy. [Your conclusion could use a little more of your evaluation of the strengths of OKTechMasters. If you could name the strongest aspect of the program, what would it be? Would this model work well for other states? How does it compare to training models already in place in other states? How do you think this program will improve over time? etc.]

Table 1

Level I Competencies

Level II Competencies

Turn on and shut down computer properly

Use the find utility to locate folders and files on the computer

Use the control panel to change system settings

Perform file management on the desktop including organizing files, folders, drives, volumes, etc.

Resize windows on the desktop

Maintain your system by creating backups onto storage media

Rename a file or shortcut

Start and exit a program

Open an existing document

Work within a document using copy, move, delete, save, and other editing and file commands

Use on-line help menus within a program

Use keyboard shortcuts

Print documents and other files within an application

Demonstrate basic skills necessary to use a word processor

Demonstrate basic skills necessary to use a spreadsheet

Demonstrate basic skills necessary to use a database

Develop a presentation using presentation software and importing clip art and pictures

Establish an Internet connection

Use an Internet browser

Search for on-line resources using a search engine

Send and receive e-mail

Identify and use proper Netiquette

Effectively integrate instructional technology into the curriculum and classroom

Make equipment and connectivity readily available

Develop techniques for integrating technology and Internet usage into existing curriculum

Develop an interactive Web page for instructional, administrative, and management purposes, for students to access on their own time and at their own locations

Convert learning modules to multimedia format, which may be used in classroom presentations, Internet, and other distance education media

Adapt content from existing courses to design an effective instructional format for distance delivery

Integrate multimedia and visual tools into curriculum delivery, including video, presentation graphics, and the Internet

Teach search skills and evaluation of on-line material to identify information for classroom use

Provide hands-on training in effective use of technology deployed in OneNet and other IETV interactive video classrooms, including an overview of design, planning, and management of distance learning courses

Develop a basic understanding of the distance education environment, specifically OneNet and other IETV classroom environments, including its capabilities and limitations

Use multiple delivery strategies effectively

Provide experiences that emphasize collaboration among peers, teams, or cadres

Produce multimedia components for integration into instruction

Promote learning processes that engage learners in the use of technology

Include in instruction models for active, cooperative, and collaborative learning among students and faculty

Discuss ethical and legal issues involving technology

Recognize and understand the roles and responsibilities of facilitators

Assist other teachers in distance teaching, preparing them to be comfortable with, confident in, and capable of using new skills

Model highly effective and innovative teaching using information technology

 

 

References

Coberly, W. (1999). Educational benefits of HB 1815: Preliminary findings, a report to the

     telecommunications technology task force. Oklahoma City, OK.: Oklahoma State House of

     Representatives.

Oklahoma State Department of Education (2000). Priority academic student skills. Retrieved 30 

     March 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.sde.state.ok.us/publ/pass.html