Email Status

Volume 19, Number 6
November/December 2003

Linking Teachers with Technology

Online courses and communities provide ways of delivering professional development and support


The task of providing education professionals with high-quality staff development has taken on fresh urgency since the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which mandates improvements in the nation's teaching corps. While much of what passes for in-service training often consists of one-day sessions with little connection to actual classroom goals, research shows that successful professional development is focused sharply on both classroom instruction and content. It is collaborative, intensive, and sustained, giving participants opportunities to examine and critique their own practice and one another's.

Of course, finding the means to develop communities of practice is not enough. Indeed, the greatest barriers may not be logistical or even technological but cultural-an ingrained part of the teaching profession's long-standing culture that favors solo efforts over collaborative ones. But even for those who really do want the sustained, intensive professional development and support that research shows they need, the logistical obstacles can be significant. It takes enormous commitments of resources and time to bring people together in person. Schools have to organize release time, arrange substitute teachers, and find the funds; teachers must coordinate their schedules, organize child care, use the family car, and spend time traveling from home to the setting. There are likely to be fewer choices in traditional course offerings than in online settings. And once a traditional, face-to-face session has finished, there is often little opportunity for follow-up discussion and collaboration.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Education with New Technologies. Harvard Graduate School of Education.

J. Hiebert, R. Gallimore, and J.W. Stigler. "A Knowledge Base for the Teaching Profession: What Would It Look Like and How Can We Get One?" Educational Researcher 31, no. 5 (2002): 3-15.

G.I. Maeroff. A Classroom of One: How Online Learning Is Changing Our Schools and Colleges. New York: Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2003.

National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. No Dream Denied: A Pledge to America's Children. Washington, DC: Author, 2003.

P. Rodes, D. Knapczyk, C. Chapman, and H. Chung. "Involving Teachers in Web-Based Professional Development." T.H.E. Journal 27, no. 10 (2002): 95-96, 98, 100, 102.

WIDE World
(Wide-scale Interactive Development for Educators), c/o Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 124 Mount Auburn St., 5th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-496-9620; fax: 617-495-9709.