by Terry Atkinson
During this past year, several university colleagues have joined me in observing local K-12 teachers described by their principals as distinguished for technology integration of their classroom teaching. With ISTE’s NETS-T standards in mind, we are particularly interested in several innovative teacher risk-takers who are not only open to trying new technologies, but also to putting them into students’ hands.
I reached out to a stellar example of such a teacher risk-taker after reading an article he authored in the June/July 2012 issue of ISTE’s Learning and Leading With Technology. Jim Harmon, like the teachers we observed, does not teach in a visionary school like those profiled in Schrum and Levin’s new book, Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement. He teaches 10th grade English Language Arts at Euclid High School, an urban Ohio high school where the majority of his students are at-risk and receive little academic support at home. So, as Jim and I chatted, I focused not only on how and why he takes innovative technology risks with his students, but also on the kind of professional development that might potentially encourage innovators such as himself.
His recommendations are as follows and relate directly to the support and sharing opportunities he has received from administrators in the Euclid City Schools:
1) Put new technology tools into the hands of innovative teacher risk-takers. Support their efforts to use technology in ways that are novel and focus on student use, rather than instructional presentation. Expect that teacher attempts to implement new technologies will result in mistakes and honor this part of the learning process without reprisal.
2) Honor “home-grown” talent and risk-taking from within school and district. Provide time for teacher collaboration and sharing. This is what Jim calls, “Trusting your teachers” to learn from and with one another…something that a consultant or “sage on the stage” from outside the school simply cannot provide.
3) Encourage teacher risk-takers to investigate participation in challenging, high-quality professional networks and training. Provide related financial support and time to follow-up and collaborate afterward with colleagues. Jim reports that becoming an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Google Certified Teacher have opened doors to exploring new technologies that would have been unattainable on his own.
4) Establish strong partnerships with nearby universities. Association with Cleveland State’s MUST program has placed Jim in a mentor leadership role with preservice teachers, challenging him professionally and providing nascent teachers with opportunities to integrate cutting edge technology while teaching in actual school settings. Innovative risk-taking teachers should be identified by teacher education programs and sought out as student intern mentors.
For additional details, access the full interview transcript with Jim Harmon at http://scr.bi/jimharmon.
Terry S. Atkinson, PhD is an associate professor of reading education and the graduate director of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.
This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).