From Now On

The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 12|No6|February|2003
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Educational technology workshops
for teachers should implement
best classroom practices.

by Gayle Kolodny Cole

(about author)

© 2003, by Gayle Kolodny Cole, all rights reserved.

Teachers in TLC (Technology Learning Camp) learn how to enhance a unit from their curriculum by incorporating technologies.

© 2003, FNO Press

School district leaders and administrators have vast experience in developing pedagogy, setting standards, and telling teachers how to teach. Naturally, in the business of educating, this is their role. Ironically, when it comes to instructing teachers on technology integration, educational institutions aren’t always practicing what they preach.

Like most teachers, I’ve experienced rampant irony – sitting idly in crowded rooms in uncomfortable chairs with poor lighting while presenters lecture long on the need to create highly interactive lessons that incorporate a variety of learning styles and modalities. When it comes to workshops on the topic of technology, the scenario has included presenters using low-tech overhead projectors to display lists of software and machines that, while contemporary, may not be around for long, with little emphasis placed on how these aging tools will improve student learning. I doubt I was alone in feeling discouraged by such experiences.

I’ve come to realize that a more effective approach to professional development begins with thinking of it by its other name: adult learning. The approach of andragogy, or adult learning, outlined in an earlier issue of From Now On, builds on the adults’ interests and knowledge ( In order for teachers to learn how to integrate technology into their programs, they, like all other learners, need to be engaged, understand the objectives of their learning, and participate in meaningful activities. Certainly, this ought to come as no surprise to leaders in education. So what stands in the way of schools educating teachers in the same way that they would like to see those teachers educate children?

  • Time may be the resource in greatest demand in education. Planning meaningful learning experiences takes significant time, and implementing those experiences can take longer than delivering old-fashioned lectures. But weak lessons, which may take only moments to plan, waste the most time in the end.
  • Assumptions abound that teachers don’t need lessons, or that one-hit training seminars will be adequate. Such assumptions might be fine when the goal is how to work the new laminator; however, when it comes to meaningful technology integration, assumptions are dangerous and misguided.
  • Money, like time, remains in short supply. Too often all the technology funding in a school goes to machines. What good are tools that sit unused?
  • Historically, school districts operate in a top-down fashion, dictating to teachers which approach, from among many familiar teaching strategies, should be used. However, technologies bring with them the potential for new ways of learning, and new models for teaching. Decisions about technology integration need to be in the hands of the teachers themselves.

Yes, such obstacles make it difficult to provide the best possible learning to teachers. However, motivated, forward-thinking leaders in education can overcome these obstacles.

For instance, the school where I teach in Los Angeles had sufficient funds for technology purchases, but scheduling obstacles left no time during the school year for preparing the teachers to use the newly acquired tools. As a result, administrators asked two members of the school’s technology committee – the librarian and me – to help coordinate summer how-to workshops on PowerPoint. Instead, we suggested offering summer workshops on how to enhance units teachers already taught, and that PowerPoint would be included. “But how will they learn PowerPoint if you don’t start with the how-to information?” the administration wanted to know.

The answer involves the crucial concept of motivation. Improving instruction usually motivates good teachers; how-to lessons (especially about machines they’ve gotten along fine without so far) rarely do. This is a key concept we’ve all learned about authentic instruction, and it doesn’t just apply to children – it applies to adult learners as well.

Fortunately, our administrator saw beyond the top-down trap and recognized the wisdom of our argument. She gave the go-ahead for TLC, or Technology Learning Camp. According to our plan, teachers from our school taught pairs of colleagues working in small groups to develop and enhance lessons based on current units of study. They did so while not only incorporating PowerPoint, but also digital photography, the Internet, and more – such extra tool use emerging naturally out of questions and ideas that arose. Now, our administrator describes the TLC workshops as the best ever offered at our school.

What lessons did we learn from TLC? The teachers on both sides of the desk made discoveries about motivation, learning styles, classroom management and organization. Some of the most significant realizations to emerge were remarkable similarities between good education provided to teachers and good education provided by teachers. For example, it was discovered that educators who plan and provide technology education and learning for teachers should:

  • Think of it as adult education rather than professional development. In other words, realize that technology integration is rarely as simple as a vocational training activity like how to give CPR. Many adults will be learning brand new expansive concepts and, like all students, should be met at their proficiency level with appropriate and incremental challenges. Instructors for the TLC program created lesson plans that accommodated a variety of learners’ needs.
  • Keep class size manageable. Particularly when workshops take place in a computer lab, it’s important that the instructor-learner ratio remains small enough for all participants to have adequate access to the instructor for troubleshooting, feedback and interaction. To keep TLC workshops small, we had to offer several different sessions, which was easy to do during the summer.
  • Utilize in-house talent whenever possible. In our experience, this saved money, enhanced collegiality, instilled pride in teacher-presenters, motivated teacher-participants, and fostered ongoing communication.
  • Provide opportunities for collaboration. TLC participants learned with partners, which meant they brought twice as many experiences to a project, bounced ideas off each other, and had someone to turn to as a resource long after the original learning experience ended.
  • Keep in mind the recommendations of the 1997 report of the President’s Committee of Advisors (PCAST) on teaching technology to students: “focus on learning with technology, not about technology” (President’s Committee Report, p. 17). The same thing applies to adult learners.
  • Engage adult learners in meaningful tasks. Teachers care about being good teachers, not becoming IT experts. Let the school’s curriculum lead the way, not the gizmos and gadgets; starting with the curriculum, have teachers work on enhancing and designing lessons they can take back to their own students. According to PCAST, most of the funds set aside for technology professional development are “aimed at training teachers to operate a computer, rather than to use computers to enhance their teaching” (President’s Committee Report, p. 7). Clearly, this represents backward thinking.
  • Encourage critical thinking. Teachers should question why they are using technology and recognize that not every lesson needs to incorporate all the technological tools available. In fact, some technology incorporation can lead to distraction. Sometimes old-fashioned methods work best.
  • Be aware of the affective filter. In other words, recognize the emotional component that the adult learners bring to their tasks, and address emotions such as anxiety, fear and doubt through discussion and reflection.
  • Build in follow-up activities. According to the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, teachers most successfully retain and apply what they learn when the learning happens over time, and not in one “sit and get” experience. Teachers will benefit from knowing that their technology education will be ongoing, and from opportunities to present, share and collaborate again in the future. Teaming, partnering and mentoring situations are also good ways to continue what starts in a successful class.
  • Include assessment components. Assessment should measure not only what teachers learned cognitively, but also how their attitudes were affected. Also, teachers should come to expect their regular annual evaluations to include a technology integration component. We are implementing this at our school, and because of their experiences with TLC, teachers indicated in their workshop evaluations that they support this inclusion.

By implementing our best classroom practices in the TLC program, we proved that the obstacles to technology integration can be overcome best by using the tools we’ve always valued as educators, and practicing what we and our administrators preach about quality lessons. What’s the alternative to practicing what you preach? Hypocrisy, and a “Do as say, not as I do” position that breeds cynicism and apathy. Clearly, teachers, administrators, and school leaders alike recognize the need to impart valuable technological skills to children. Institutions that fail to educate teachers about technology integration inevitably fail the students of those teachers as well.


Knuth, R., and Rodriguez, G. (2000). Critical issue: providing professional development for effective technology use [Online]. Available: [2002, November 17].

McKenzie, Jamie. How Teachers Learn Technology Best. Bellingham, WA: FNO Press, 1999.

McKenzie, Jamie. (1998). Professional Development That Works. [Online]. Available: (

Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States (2000). In The Jossey-Bass Reader on Technology and Learning (pp. 3-19). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (Reprinted from Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States, 1997)

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