Effective Professional ICT Development for Teachers
In the 21st century, the rapid pace of the production of information has meant that those who wish to thrive and survive in their profession need to do what they can to keep up-to-date with the latest developments and research. The many changes are occurring in society place a lot of pressure on many industries including the education industry. This is because schools have always been charged with the role of preparing students for a life in society. Today, as schools continue to struggle to keep up with the demands of society, the catalyst for many changes that are occurring and the driving force for the mass production of information, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), has firmly made its mark in the education of students. For teachers of today and tomorrow, taking part in professional ICT development opportunities that will help them utilise ICT in their classrooms is vital. Professional ICT development for teachers will help teachers to continue to be the catalyst for change in schools and transform their teaching practices in such a way that will prepare students for an ICT-integrated society. Professional ICT development, therefore, needs to be effective and the people who provide it need also to be well-skilled in the integration of ICT in school curriculums. At the end of this paper, such issues will be discussed in addition to the role of professional development today and the key elements and factors in conducting active professional ICT development for teachers.
Professional ICT development Rationale
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now one of the building blocks of society (Anderson & Weert, 2002). Permeating all aspects of society including education, ICT has the potential to transform the nature of education, specifically where and how the education of students will take place. However, if the benefits of ICT are to be reaped in education then pre-service and in-service teachers need to have the skills and competencies (Resta, et al., 2002). The powerful tools that ICT provides are catalysts for change in that they transform the teacher-centred and text-bound classrooms into technology-rich learning environments that are predominantly student-centred. Schools need to embrace the new and emerging technologies and appropriately use them as tools for learning (Resta, et al., 2002).
The Australian government has now recognised ICT, its basic skills and concepts as a core part of education by making it a curricula requirement to integrate ICT into teaching and learning. To add to this, the increasing rate of technological advancements and developments will continually make it essential and extremely challenging for teachers to keep up-to-date (Reading & Doyle, 2013).
With ICTs being rolled out to schools across the country - $900 million worth (Queensland Government Department of Education, Training and the Arts, 2015) - and the continued emphasis on integrating ICT into teaching and learning, it is important to understand the role of continual professional ICT development. Education authorities have internationally recognised that having the technology without the continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers is simply an inefficient use of the resource. It is imperative, therefore, that schools invest in teacher training as new technology emerges, and the pedagogies change (Bennett et al., 2007; Triggs & Sutherland, 2009).
The significance of professional ICT development for teachers is equally essential to the well-being of the student. By attending professional ICT development courses, teachers are able to pass on these benefits to their students. The use of ICT in the classroom can lead to increased levels of motivation, engagement and attainment with students. In addition, the use of ICT can provide students with increased access to online education. As a result of the use ICT, schools themselves can become more competitive as they continue to move forward into 21st century education (Davis & Carlsen, 2005).
The lack of such opportunities is one of the reasons why teachers fail to incorporate technology. One of the factors present that inhibit these changes occurring is the fear of teachers inappropriately using technology in their lessons that in turn can have a negative impact on student learning (Sutherland & Sutch, 2009).
Teachers can use the professional ICT development to help them change their pedagogies and to build their technological skills in order to keep their training relevant and future focused. In a fast-changing society, the term ‘lifelong learners’ will become synonymous with teachers as they will continue to be urged to undergo continuous professional development (Davis N. , 2001). As a result, teachers as modern professionals will continue to work in a learning environment as learning professionals.
Finally, it is important to emphasise the connection between ICT and society. The increasing presence of ICT in society inevitably means that we live in a knowledge society. Here, information is mass produced, and workers of any profession are urged to attend professional development courses. The rapid change of ICT and its presence in schools means that teachers will need to stay on top of their training. Senior staff need to become aware of such courses so tha they can inform others of the benefits it may bring to them and their school. In an ICT-integrated society, “teachers are key and effective professional development is the crucial element” (Triggs & Sutherland, 2009, p. 6). Learning can only be enhanced with ICT when teachers “analyse and understand the potentialities of different ICT tools as they relate to the practices and purposes of their subject teaching, and when these tools are deployed appropriately for their students” (Triggs & Sutherland, 2009, p. 6).