Creating The Digital Educator

Is Government, Teacher Training Institutions and School Leaders  failing  our teachers?

Professor Steve Molyneux

Steve Molyneux is co-founder of Tablet Academy UK and visiting professor in Educational Innovation and Global Education Leadership at Lamar University in the United States.

Introduction

Every once in a while an innovation is so revolutionary, it changes the world forever. The wheel, the printing press, and the telegraph each led to an unprecedented transformation in the way humanity interacted. For every generation that followed, these inventions made the world a very different place.

Within our lifetime, we have witnessed the introduction of a technology so unprecedented, at a scale so broad, and at a pace so quickly, that scholars have simply unable to envision the full scope of the social significance this innovation will ultimately produce. Personal computing devices and the global network they are connected to have combined to become perhaps the single greatest invention humanity has ever experienced (Lemels & MIT, 1999). This advancement in information processing has dramatically transformed business, politics, commerce, and the lives of billions of individuals, and will continue to do so at the exponential rate that information technology advancement continues unabated.

Of all industries, education holds the most potential for disruptive innovation from the invention of personal computing and the internet. Education is the only field centred exclusively on the transfer of information and the skills required to find, create, and utilise information. Not since the emergence of the printed book has the field of education experienced such opportunity for advancing the core product it creates – an educated, creative, socially inclusive and innovative society . However, leading a revolution in learning through the use of information technology is not only the greatest opportunity of our generation; it is also our greatest challenge.

Despite this unprecedented capability, educators in all sectors, continue to struggle to integrate information technologies into the processes of learning. Teachers are capable of teaching about technology, but are often challenged in teaching with technology. Moreover, unsure of how to lead disruptive innovation management of educational institutions continue to promote traditional methods of instructional practice even when provided with tools and evidence to embrace more effective pedagogic and didactic methods. Worse still successive Governments tinker with policies in an unstructured attempt to get the best out of their massive investment in hardware and software across the sector. Social media has also led to a spawning of false prophets across the educational technology field who by all accounts feel they are experts because they have been through the educational system, have taught for a few years using one particular piece of technology, or who have built a reputation based on the regurgitation of the work of others without any regard to context or validity.

The Challenge of Digital Education Adoption

Fortunately, this is not an unexplored problem, nor one without a solution. True scholars have researched this dilemma for decades and have produced an abundance of findings and literature on the topic. We have numerous examples of successful implementations to emulate from around the world. Furthermore, growing external support for the incorporation of technology into the educational system has opened new funding sources and removed numerous regulatory barriers to adoption. Of course this still leaves dreaded human factors of fear, league table position, exam results, less understanding inspectors  and a raft of other priorities such as changes in government positions.

With increasingly powerful educational and social applications and established use by school-aged children, the challenge before us isn’t related to additional advances in technology, the problem is that educational leadership as a whole has not been successful in implementing digital tools of any type into established education processes. In fact, formal education is frequently singled out as one of the very few industries left unchanged by the introduction of technology. Compare the changes over the past 20 years in the process of Education with that of Shopping, Banking, Social Networking, Communicating and Media engagement and you will see what I mean.  Unfortunately, even when technology has been introduced in education, results have been mixed and many technology implementations are either underutilised or simply abandoned (Cuban, 2001). When considering the resources allocated, energy extended, and missed potential, most educational technology implementations still have a very long way to go.

Solving the Problem of Digital Education Adoption

The tools exist and the knowledge of how to effectively use those tools exists. What has yet to emerge is a model that can produce repeated positive educational outcomes at scale within existing formal educational systems. While Schools of Education and initial teacher training programmes globally have been slow to promote the use of technology in new teacher training, they have been even slower in developing effective professional development to assist the tens of millions of teachers and administrators already employed in formal education. When examining educational leadership, almost no effort has been extended into producing leaders capable of leading something as fundamentally disruptive as ICT integration. This must change if we are to ever realise the enormous potential of these technologies to transform education. Many government initiatives have tried and  failed miserably. Not matter how many token Kinghoods/Damehoods are given to Head Teachers or money poured into large companies promising to delivering the goods without the basic support of senior management at school level every such initiative will fail.

Specifically, I believe we need to bring additional incentives in order for more schools to adopt educational technology, ensure successful implementation in those that do, and create a culture of educational technology use that ensures long-term outcomes that supply the human capital to grow the information economy.

To accomplish this, we must provide a pathway for existing teachers to develop and deepen the skills required to become successful educators in a technology-advanced word.  In essence we must:

  • provide additional incentives to individual teachers by providing graduate course credit to all teachers upon completion of professional development.
  • provide a pathway for seamless enrollment into academic postgraduate certificate programmes focused on effective digital education instruction.
  • offer postgraduate degree programmes at the masters and doctoral level which are tightly integrated with professional development objectives and extend professional certification into full credentialed degrees.
  • Support senior management in understanding how to develop a cohesive school transformative strategy irrespective of which form of technology and vendor has been chose by the school as long as the evaluation process is based on good practice and based on educational deliverables and not just the likes of the Head Teacher or Network Manger.
  • Government allocation of fixed professional development days dedication to transformations educational technology. Too many institutions are having to use limited INSET days to focus on government policy chances and other issues.

Nationally and globally the problem is too large to solve alone, even for corporation as large as Microsoft, Google and Amazon or large innovative universities and teacher training organisations. Technology providers and teacher training organisations large and small, public and private, must work together to coordinate our activities. Such an effort will increase the number of schools who successfully integrate technology, increase frequency of use in the classroom, and most importantly, prepare students to be effective and productive citizens of the 21st century.

We at Tablet Academy work with over 800 schools and train over 13,000 teachers annually in the U.K. alone on the effective use of technology to transform education both in and out of the classroom. As a platform agnostic company we work with schools deploying Microsoft, Google or Apple solutions  and are keen to work with any other organisation, public and private, large and small, who share our values of transforming education to the benefit of our young people.

Steve Molyneux is co-founder of Tablet Academy UK and visiting professor in Educational Innovation and Global Education Leadership at Lamar University in the United States.

About Lamar University

Lamar University is an accredited, not-for-profit, internationally recognized university and a member of the Texas State University System. As one of only 29 US public universities named a doctoral research university by the Carnegie Foundation, Lamar ranks 3rd in the US for top online graduate programs. Within Education, Lamar is the largest provider of graduate degrees in Education in the US and one of, if not the largest globally. While 30% of all education leaders in Texas hold a Lamar diploma, the university also embodies great diversity, with over 56 different countries represented in the student body. Lamar is also known internationally for lowering the cost of graduate education through efficiency and innovation. Not only does Lamar know how to teach about technology integration, we’ve leveraged it ourselves to become an educational leader in cost and quality.

  • With over 3,000 students in graduate study, the Lamar University College of Education and Human Development is able to scale to meet the challenge of a large-scale partnership.
  • Lamar continues to lower the cost of education through innovation. M.Ed degrees are provided at a cost under $8,000 total. Doctoral degrees are under $30K. We know how to keep operating cost low while keeping quality high.
  • Lamar is a quality leader in online learning. Ranked third overall in online quality in the US nationally, online doctoral students achieve a 91.4% graduation rate.
  • Lamar programs are also highly respected—98% of graduates responded they would recommend the program to a friend.  
  • With an extensive alumni base of educators, Lamar graduates hold leadership positions around the world. In addition, we are committed to expanding our global reach with a major globalization effort over the next five years.
  • Lamar faculty have extensive depth in digital technologies and mobile learning. Our faculty have conducted 42 empirically focused research studies and 73 formal investigations into mobile learning and digital media. We’ve won numerous awards for innovation and quality online courses.
  • Our faculty have contributed to the mobile learning policy guidelines for UNESCO, created the benchmarks for quality online programs, and published extensively on the topic of technology in education.
  • We work well with corporations. Lamar faculty have extensive experience working with technology corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Pearson, McGraw Hill Education, Inkling, Jouve, AT&T, Alcatel Lucent, Verizon. We’ve assisted in research, consulting, marketing advisement and go-to-market product strategy.

References

Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lemels, & Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). (1999). Invention index. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/invent/n-pressreleases/n-press-99index.html

 

Building The Pipeline

Lamar, together with it’s education and training partners, provide a pathway for qualified teachers to obtain a basic post-graduate certificate (6 credit-hours) and an advanced post-graduate certificate (6 additional credit-hours) that advance seamlessly into an M.Ed in Digital Learning and Leadership, or a number of other M.Ed majors. 

 Step 1

The ‘Certified Digital Educator’ certificate is the first step forward and consists of the two elements listed below. Because of the self-paced nature of the coursework, Lamar University is able to offer these courses at no tuition cost. Lamar University charges a $100 (£65)/credit hour transcription fee for credit hours awarded and $100 (£65) portfolio evaluation fee for evaluations of a portfolio. Discounts can be applied for bulk transactions.

Step 1.1: Lamar University acknowledges that the Microsoft Teaching with Technology course and Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) exam are based on the highly respected UNESCO ICT competency framework and provides teachers a broad and authoritative foundation for obtaining educational ICT competencies. Lamar University believes that teachers who complete the comprehensive Teaching with Technology curriculum demonstrate a functional understanding and the basic capacity to leverage gains in student academic performance through the application of technology. Therefore, significant improvement in education technology integration could be accomplished simply by increasing the number of teachers who successfully complete the Microsoft Teaching with Technology and Microsoft Certified Educator program.

Lamar University will provide 3-hours of graduate-credit for the course EDUD 5306 Concepts of Educational Technology for qualified students (Bachelors degree or similar) who:

  1. Complete the Microsoft Teaching with Technology course (evidence of study).
  2. Receive certification as a Microsoft Certified Educator (evidence of mastery).
  3. Prepare and submit of a reflection on how the Microsoft Teaching with Technology and Microsoft Certified Educator program has changed personal perceptions of teaching, pedagogy, and student engagement (evidence of application).

Step 1.2: Lamar University further believes that encouraging teachers to immediately put newly acquired knowledge from the Microsoft Teaching with Technology course and Microsoft Certified Educator program into practice, in real-classroom settings, will both solidify these skills in professional educators as well as leading to increased academic performance in students. Mastery of the basic technology integration skills in teachers also provides the foundation needed to explore more advanced techniques. Ideally, each teacher would use the MCE program as a foundation for a continued, lifelong learning process of professional advancement.

Lamar University will provide 3-hours of graduate-credit for the course EDLD 5354       Applying Educational Technology Portfolio. This assessment is for qualified students (Bachelors degree or similar) who:

  1. Prepare and submit a portfolio that documents implementation of concepts of the Microsoft Teaching with Technology course that is at least three technology-integrated lessons.
  2. Prepare and submit a portfolio that documents student learning/products as a result of implementing the Microsoft Teaching with Technology skills.
  3. Prepare and submit a reflection on how the Microsoft Teaching with Technology and Microsoft Certified Educator program has changed their perceptions of teaching, pedagogy, and student engagement.

Step 2

To be most effective, educators should advance beyond the use of basic digital education skills. Lamar and its partner universities provide the pathway to obtain an advanced certificate (6 additional credit-hours) for the completion of their choice of two of the three courses below. The ‘Advanced Certified Digital Educator’ certificate is the second level in advancing their digital skills and in the pathway toward an M.Ed.  The following courses are offered fully online in five-week formats. Because these are delivered under the direct instruction of a university professor, they are billed at the standard tuition rate.

Educators complete two of the three following courses:

EDLD 5304    Leading Organizational Change

Explore the theories of constructivist epistemology used to create student-centered learning environments. By applying constructivist techniques, students create active and engaging learning environments that utilize technology, increase motivation for learning, and engage the learner.

EDLD 5305    Disruptive Innovation in Education

Success in leading technological change in your learning environment is directly related to how well you and your organizations are prepared. By embracing technological innovations as opportunities rather than challenges, students can proactively use those changes as catalysts to enhance their institution’s or district’s learning environments.

EDLD 5313    Creating Significant Learning Environments

Explore current leadership theories and practices for leading digital technology and change in school systems. By becoming self-differentiated peer-leaders, professional educators learn to address the resistance to change that occurs when launching innovative digital educational improvement initiatives in North American educational culture.

Step 3  

With 12 credit-hours completed, a full 36-Hour M.Ed is easily within reach. The Digital Learning and Leadership Master’s Degree is designed for education practitioners teaching in and leading digital learning programs, integrating digital instructional resources, and designing, developing, and researching digital learning environments. While the majority of the students will be full-time PK-12 teachers, other educators from higher education or industry may be also interested in enrollment.

The master’s in Digital Learning and Leading is designed in such a way that students from different educational jurisdictions with different technology vendors are able to customize the program for their unique needs while participating in a core leadership program that emphasizes educational improvement through using advanced pedagogy and principles of educational change management from Lamar University. With partnerships with institutions located in jurisdictions beyond Texas, students obtain an academic certificate (or degree) that meets local curricular and technology needs. Lamar University focuses on providing a high quality foundational framework that allows education leaders to be effective in all jurisdictions using technologies, regardless of vendor.

Creating The Digital Educator