A Challenge for Rural #edtech Leaders

The arrival of desktop computers reversed the trend to marginalize electronic technologies and information in classrooms; digital tools and digital media have become important tools for all students, and comprehensive education is understood to provide students experience using these tools. Early in the history of desktop computers in K-12 schools, the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) project sought to understand the role of computers in education and the factors associated with the effective use of technology. One of the findings of that early study focused on the nature of teachers’ learning about technology.

According to ACOT researchers, it is essential to teach teachers both how to use hardware and software and to support teachers as they create curriculum and instruction that incorporates technology (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997; Schofield, 1995). Teaching teachers how to operate the computing devices in their school does not mean they will be able to use them effectively for teaching and learning. Drawing on the observations of ACOT, school and technology leaders have dedicated time and resources to supporting teachers’ learning about technology during the years when desktop computers and high-speed Internet connections were installed in schools.

This practice has continued as one-to-one computing became common and as schools adopted web-based systems for all aspects of teaching and learning as well as school management. Despite decades of attention to teachers’ growth as technology-using professionals; organizing and presenting effective professional development continues to be a problem faced by practitioners, leaders, and scholars. The tenacity of the problem arises from the rapid evolution of technology (de Reuver, Sørensen, & Basole, 2018), the effects of technology on pedagogy (Gordy, Jones, & Bailey, 2018), the lack of a dominant theory of educational technology (Hew, Lan, Tang, Jia, and Lo, 2019) and a variety of teachers’ personal skills and beliefs (Joo, Park, & Lim, 2018). Given these observations, it is reasonable to expect school and technology leaders to sustain efforts to develop teachers’ skill using information technology and their abilities to use these tools to teach. Indeed, effective professional development continues be an active area of scholarship (Jin, Li, Meirink, and der Want, & Admiraal, 2019; Merchie, Tyytens, Geert, & Vanderlinde, 2018).

The exact nature of the professional development necessary for teachers to understand how to efficiently use computers and to create meaningful activities using it depends on the nature of the students, the initiatives of the school, and the individuals’ capacity to develop this knowledge. Meeting these needs can be especially challenging for rural schools that tend to be smaller and have fewer resources to be dedicated to professional technology staff than suburban and urban schools.


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Hew, K. F., Lan, M., Tang, Y., Jia, C., & Lo, C. K. (2019). Where is the “theory” within the field of educational technology research? British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(3), 956–971.

Jin, X., Li, T., Meirink, J., van der Want, A., & Admiraal, W. (2019). Learning from novice–expert interaction in teachers’ continuing professional development. Professional Development in Education, 1–18.

Joo, Y. J., Park, S., & Lim, E. (2018). Factors influencing preservice teachers’ intention to use technology: TPACK, teacher self-efficacy, and technology acceptance model. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 21(3), 48-59.

Merchie, E., Tuytens, M., Devos, G., & Vanderlinde, R. (2018). Evaluating teachers’ professional development initiatives: Towards an extended evaluative framework. Research Papers in Education, 33(2), 143–168.

Sandholtz, J., Ringstaff, C., Dwyer, D. (1997). Teaching with technology: Creating student-centered classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.

Schofield, J. W. (1995). Computers and classroom culture. New York: Cambridge University Press.