Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Amplify’d from www.elearnmag.org How to Help Teachers Use Technology in the Classroom--My Thoughts

The 5J approach has some valid observations. I agree with numbers 3, 4 and 5--just in time, just in case, just try it. However, I strongly disagree with numbers 1 and 2-job related and just enough. My view has always been to successfully integrate technology into education, one must learn the technology. Technology is the only area where it is okay not to know what you are doing and then attempt to teach it or integrate it! I am not saying that teachers as a whole need to become experts, but from my experience, there is no danger of that happening. Increased comfort as a goal as opposed to proficiency is tantamount to starting a project and stating "I have no plan to become very good at this!"

Amplify’d from www.elearnmag.org

How to Help Teachers Use Technology in the Classroom

The 5J Approach

By Mary Burns

Recent reports (from The Chronicle of Higher Education and Walden University [PDF], for example) point to teachers' continuing difficulties integrating technology into classroom learning. Despite access to technology and despite the fact that novice teachers are entering the classroom with far more advanced technology skills than their counterparts of an earlier age, only 39 percent of teachers report "moderate" or "frequent" use of technology as an instructional tool (Grunwald Associates, 2010).

This limited use may have multiple causes: Teachers may be overwhelmed by demands of testing; they may not see the value of instructional technologies in their particular content area; they may work in environments where principals do not understand or encourage technology use; and the types of software most helpful in instruction are not always the types of applications students know how—or want—to use.

Teachers do use technology—for administration, personal productivity, and displaying content (via projectors and document cameras)—but not so much as a student learning tool. Why?

After 25 years of incorporating technology in the learning space, we still may not have figured out how to do technology-related professional development that helps teachers use computers as part of the instructional process. After 25 years of having computers in schools, we still lack an approach that ensures teachers truly understand the benefits and appropriate uses of computers for instruction and that teachers actually use technology as part of teaching and learning.

The overall approach, sequential and cumulative, is grounded in two basic premises. First, if technology is used as a teaching and learning tool, tied to curricular goals and assessment and embedded within strong instructional techniques, it can promote better instruction and greater student collaboration, enhancing student learning. If not, it can't. Second, professional development can promote quality technology integration and learning by minimizing the importance of computers within professional development and concentrating instead on the core areas of teaching: content, curriculum, instruction, assessment, and classroom management.

According to the 5Js, technology-related teacher professional development should be:

  • job-related, focused on the core competencies of the classroom, not technology
  • just enough, emphasizing increased comfort, not proficiency, with computers and management of limited technology resources
  • just in time, meaning teacher are provided with skills as and when needed
  • just in case teachers need to plan for contingencies
  • accompanied by a "just try it" attitude, wherein instructors apply both pressure and support to compel teachers to use what they've learned.


The teacher's primary role is to help students understand particular subject matter. Everything else is secondary. Therefore, the focus of any computer-related professional development should not be on the technology itself, but on how computers can improve performance in these core areas of the teacher's "job."

Just Enough

Teachers don't need to know everything about a particular piece of software. They only need "just enough" to help them complete a curriculum-related or instructional task. Anything beyond this is wasted effort.

"Just enough" focuses, not on proficiency with technology, but comfort using technology within a curriculum activity.

Just in Time

The third 'J' is a truism in the field of professional development. Professional development should support teachers' learning just in time — when they are ready to both learn and apply what they've learned with students.

Just in Case

This fourth 'J' therefore focuses on helping teachers address these control issues by adopting a just-in-case attitude toward computers. This approach focuses on carefully planning the classroom activity. By remembering that computers are just one of many learning tools, teachers can reduce their chances of being caught unaware when computers fail technically or instructionally.

Just Try It

Central to change is action, and this is where professional development often breaks down. "Just try it" is the most important 'J' principle of them all. Without application in the classroom, professional development is a waste of time, money, and effort.

Third, technology professional development should de-emphasize the importance of teachers' expertise with software and hardware (Just enough) and emphasize teachers' comfort and confidence with computers. Over the years, I've found it helpful to encourage teachers to envision themselves as project managers who set up the activity, with students as "technicians" who delve into the intricacies of the software.

Only when these five 'J's come together in a systematic way might the story of technology-based trainings have a different ending.

Read more at www.elearnmag.org

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