During the 2016-2017 school year, teachers completed surveys regarding digital instruction at the beginning and end of the year. This post provides highlights of the results gathered from the those surveys, summarizing the most important details and discussing how the results will guide administrative leadership. For full results, read the report to Sylvania Schools administration. You can also see the slides of the highlight presentation given to the administrative cabinet.
Teachers’ Digital Instruction Implementation
Over the course of the year, more teachers reported using technology to amplify or transform their instruction, as opposed to merely replacing it. We were interested in whether Chromebooks are being used for authentic instruction, and teachers reported an increase in that quality. This effect was more pronounced at the secondary level, which has access to more Chromebooks.
This reaffirms the district’s commitment to increasing Chromebook availability for all teachers and students. We believe that increased access to Chromebooks will lead to teachers being better able to use them for authentic instruction.
21st Century Skills Teaching
In response to questions regarding 21st Century Skills, teachers reported which skills they focused on and which they wished to emphasize more in the year to come. Secondary teachers showed an increase in their focus on collaboration and an increase in the desire to focus on critical thinking. Elementary teachers reported an increase in the focus on critical thinking as well as an increased desire to focus on that same skill. Obviously, critical thinking, defined by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills as reasoning effectively, using systems thinking, making judgements and decisions, and solving problems, is the topmost priority for Sylvania teachers.
These results will help provide direction for selecting and shaping content for professional development opportunities. As well as focusing on differentiated instruction, we will develop PD to address critical thinking wherever we can.
Teachers are reporting growing confidence and frequency in using technology, from Smartboards to Google Drive to Chromebooks. But, they also report one major barrier to implementing technology more consistently: time. Teachers feels that the time needed to truly integrate technology in a transformative manner is limited. Basically, the interest and confidence is there, but the time is not.
These results are pushing us to reassess our approaches to scheduling professional development to address time constraints. Expect to see professional development provided in ways that creatively address time constraints.
Digital Instruction Support
Teachers are reporting that where support is clearly available, communicated, and needed, they use it. As reported above, though, lack of time often prevents access to this support. In addition, failures in communicating this support have resulted in teachers not using it. Finally, some teachers report that they want support that is more personalized to their specific needs and presents “ready-to-go material” for classroom use.
These results, like those in the previous section, are pushing us to provide more diversity in professional development and instructional support. Over the year, we plan to roll out support services and professional development opportunities that are more flexible and usable for teachers.
Over the course of its first year of implementation, Achieve3000 has drawn fire from a number of teachers uncomfortable with implementing it into core instruction. It has also drawn praise from many that use it as a regular support for differentiated instruction. The data from the survey show that teachers know how to use it, but they are split on whether they want to. Junior high teachers mostly want to use it, and high school teachers mostly don’t. The most likely explanation is supported by the data, which is the fact that Achieve3000 content is fairly sanitary. It shies away from serious controversy and real social issues, preferring to examine optimistic news stories. That fact makes the resource less attractive for teachers wanting to create authentic learning experiences for older students, but it does not trouble teachers of younger populations, who focus more on skills teaching.
As we approach the end of the grant providing funding to Achieve3000, we will question whether a renewal of funding would result in a similar approach to secondary implementation or change our grade focus. One fact is clear and actionable, though: teachers are fond of leveled text support for differentiation. New professional development opportunities will therefore focus on a variety of such resources, including TweenTribune and Newsela.
More data and reflection are available in the full report document. Feel free to examine it!