After a recent consultation with my supervising professor, I have altered the subject and scope of my independent study on teacher mentoring and induction with 21st century tools. By “21st century tools” I mean free (possibly opensource), web-based products that facilitate teaching and learning through information sharing and production — what many in ed tech circles call “Web 2.0,” although I am going to try to avoid such jargon.
Here is my new focus: Rather than trying to match a tool or platform to the needs of an as-of-yet-unidentified pilot group of novice teachers, I will conduct an “environmental scan” or feasibility study of the best information and communication technologies available to support the creation of learning networks. What tools will enhance the reflective practice and growth of pre-service and new teachers? Which of these tools might assist building-level mentoring teams who plan and facilitate year-long induction of novice teachers?
These are the technologies I will evaluate (with specific examples in parentheses):
- RSS and readers/aggregators (Bloglines, Google Reader)
- tags/socialbookmarking (del.icio.us)
- social networks (such as those built on the Ning platform)
- content management systems and blogs (such as WordPress or Edublogs)
- file sharing and collaboration (Google Docs, Box.net)
- wikis (PB Wiki)
As I review each kind of technology, I will try to answer these questions:
- First, what is it? How does it work? What does it do?
- How could this technology support quality professional development? How does it align with quality indicators for professional development as outlined by the National Staff Development Council?
- What enabling conditions must exist before teacher-to-teacher mentoring can take flight with this technology? (This is the most important part of the inquiry, getting close to what Ben Wilkoff calls The Ripe Environment. What kinds of change must occur in our attitudes to create institutional cultures that encourage innovation and collaboration? Wilkoff maintains talking about the tools is not the answer.)
- What are the possible barriers or obstacles to consider when trying to integrate this technology for purposes of mentoring?
- And for specific tools I will ask: How does this stand up to basic software evaluation criteria, such as user features, user interface, and help desk support? I will use Kathy Schrock’s Software Evaluation Form as a start, but ultimately I hope to compile a specific list of criteria for assessing tools that support learning communities.
And, if available, I will share outcomes and evidence of impact in professional learning communities that have already integrated these technologies.
An overriding theme, the “super glue,” if you will, that will hold all this together rests on my ability to relate in first-person narrative the impact these technologies have had on my own personal and professional growth as a teacher/learner.
The final inquiry will be packaged in wiki form, with the first installment due next week.
How’s that for accountability and transparency?