Creating Conditions for Powerful Technology Use - Digital Promise

Creating Conditions for Powerful Technology Use

September 8, 2021 | By and

Instructional technology is a critical component of teaching and learning in today’s world. Technology, when aligned to research-based practices, supports teachers in delivering instruction that is adapted to meet the needs of all students. However, it’s not enough for teachers to simply use technology tools. Teachers need to be able to effectively use technology, select appropriate tools, and integrate technology into the curriculum in order to have impactful technology use. Impactful technology use is the ability of educators to use technology to develop their students’ skills in six imperative categories: agency, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and ability to select relevant technology tools.

As part of a series of projects funded by the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) starting in 2020, the Puerto Rican-based educational organization, Global Education Exchange Opportunities (GEEO) partnered with Digital Promise to lead professional development efforts aligned with the PRDE’s goals for instructional technology from May 2020 through August 2021.

Despite immense challenges of the pandemic that forced many aspects of the collaboration to shift, the project represented a significant change in Puerto Rico’s approach to supporting teachers with technology integration. Namely, this was the first formal introduction of competency-based professional learning through micro-credentials in Puerto Rico. To support current implementation and to provide insights to shape future implementation, Digital Promise examined teachers’ experiences with technology and professional learning through a series of case studies. Our new case study report highlights the effectiveness and impact of professional learning support for technology integration and use, including competency-based micro-credentials, for educators. It addresses the following questions:

  1. What do teachers think they need to know and do to effectively integrate technology into their practice?
  2. How satisfied are teachers with professional development, micro-credentials, and coaching as mechanisms to support their use of technology in their practice?
  3. What supports do teachers still need to effectively use technology?

This report synthesizes findings from the perspective of 14 teachers on their technology journey as well as from larger island-wide surveys and data. It seeks to identify patterns and trends–including common structural barriers and opportunities–influencing the professional learning and development of teachers around their use of technology as part of their classroom practice. It also includes eight key recommendations that education decision-makers in Puerto Rico can use to shape current and future technology integration programs.

The key takeaways from this study are relevant beyond the context of Puerto Rico as well:

  • Teachers need to have a stable environment–namely, broadband and device access–to use technology effectively in their classroom practice.
  • They want more agency over their professional learning, including deciding what workshops and trainings to attend, and they want their professional development to be relevant to the challenges they face in their classrooms, providing practical applications to their instruction.
  • Teachers are willing and open to new tools to support their technology use, but they want support in onboarding to and exploring these tools, and clear communication around the value of engaging with these tools, such as the impact of earning micro-credentials.

Overall, despite hardships, teachers are using technology more frequently and more confidently, and they are eager to gain opportunities to grow their skills. Educators expressed they now have a solid foundation for using technology and digital tools for teaching that they did not have before the pandemic. They envision using these skills and technologies no matter the learning environment next school year.

To learn more about the case study in Puerto Rico, download the full report.

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