Professional Development

Much attention has been placed on the 1:1 technology component of Students Come First, but the role of 1:1 technology, and the goal behind it, are often lost. Technology is intended, not to replace teachers, but to serve as a valuable tool in classrooms where teachers are still the most important element. Highly effective teachers are, and will remain, the most essential part of a student's education.

Students Come First (SCF) aims to equip Idaho's teachers with new tools that will make it easier to engage students, will provide better access to student data, and will cut down on paperwork. Mobile computing devices have received the most attention among the three new technology tools that SCF implements to achieve these goals, but updated classroom technology and a state-of-the-art Instructional Management System also play important roles in these reforms. And since these tools are designed to serve the teacher, thorough professional development has been attached to each technology component to ensure teachers receive the assistance they need to unlock the potential of these tools in the classroom. Let's look at each technology component individually.

First, mobile computing devices. A common theme among school programs that have successfully integrated 1:1 mobile computing technology into the classroom is their commitment to quality professional development. Whether you look at Maine's statewide one-to-one laptop program in the middle grades or the use of iPod Shuffles at elementary schools in Canby, Oregon, the programs producing exciting results ensure technology is not just delivered to the classroom, but that teachers receive the quality instruction they need to effectively integrate that technology into classroom learning.

The "SAMR" model describes the four levels of classroom technology integration that Maine has used. In the first level, Substitution, the computing device merely stands in for another tool with essentially no change in the tool's function. This provides little value and largely marks an unsuccessful program. The second level, Augmentation, is reached when a computing device replaces another tool and adds a significant increase in functionality. While this is an improvement over level one, it is the next two levels where technology integration really proves its value. Level three, Modification, occurs when the capabilities of a computing device enable the redesign of significant portions of a task, and level four, Redefinition, is reached when a computing device allows for an entirely new approach to a task or the creation of new tasks that would otherwise be inconceivable without the technology. It is the third and fourth levels of SAMR that make classroom technology a worthwhile investment and a truly valuable classroom resource.

Through the work of the SCF Technology Task Force, Idaho is committed to avoiding a 1:1 technology implementation that fails to break out of level one?mere substitution. For that reason, Idaho will proceed with a staggered implementation of mobile computing devices, with teachers receiving their devices a year before any of their students. In that first year, the 2012-2013 school year, the state will allocate $800,000 for professional development on the use of mobile computing devices and their integration into the classroom. The Technology Task Force is working now to develop the professional development plan for implementation during that year and beyond.

Second, advanced classroom technology. This is another tool aimed to help teachers keep students engaged, assess students' learning, and make instructional time more efficient. The state will invest $13 million a year in advanced technology for every Idaho classroom, beginning in fiscal year 2012. Every high school will be equipped with wireless infrastructure, and every classroom will be outfitted with state-of-the-art technologies-such as clickers, computers, document cameras, and interactive white boards. The funding for this classroom technology comes with professional development. Again, the focus is not just putting technology in the classroom; it is empowering teachers with tools they can use to find success in the classroom and with the training they need to harness the full potential these tools offer.

The third piece of technology in SCF is the Instructional Management System for every Idaho classroom. A statewide selection committee chose to use Schoolnet statewide. This software will save teachers time and increase efficiency, modernizing the way classrooms and schools keep data. The benefits of Schoolnet are best summed up in the experiences of Wuanita Vann, a high school teacher from Denver. She described herself as data-averse but spoke enthusiastically to the Technology Task Force about how Schoolnet software won her over. Because she can access student data more quickly, she is much better able to serve her student population, which is at-risk students. Ms. Vann can now get information before or shortly after students arrive in her classroom-not months, or sometimes a semester later, as with paper records in the past. The system also allows her to plan interventions and collaborate with other teachers to develop individualized learning strategies for students who need remediation immediately. Schoolnet allows her to more efficiently locate problems so she can spend her time developing solutions.

"I get the whole picture of a student," Vann said. "It's like Gatorade for teachers... It really has revolutionized the way we work."

Schoolnet also offers online curricular tools that make updating and preserving changes to curriculum easier, as well as customizable online media content that meets state standards. What Schoolnet does is reduce the number of portals a teacher needs to access to one. It puts these tools all in one convenient place and makes the entry and retrieval of data more timely and convenient. Teachers have access to real time data, both on how their class is performing now, and on how their students have performed in the past. And, of course, funding for Schoolnet comes bundled with funding for professional development so teachers have the help and resources they need to take full advantage of the program.

Teachers play a crucial role in the classroom. You are an irreplaceable resource, and an invaluable, intrinsic part of student success. No amount of technology could change that, and Idaho's infusion of technology is not meant to. Each of these new technological elements is designed to support a teacher's work in the classroom, not supplant it. A strong focus on professional development for teachers helps ensure that each element can be fully utilized to find efficiencies in the classroom and to engage and offer new opportunities to students. Technology will play a key role in education in Idaho in the coming years-as a powerful tool to support our hardworking teachers.