Building Different Bridges: A Case Study of Transformative Professional Development for Student Learning with Technology

A theoretical framework for this research is provided by Everett Rogers (1995) diffusion of innovations theory. Innovation is defined as an idea, practice or object that is perceived as new by the individual; diffusion is the process by which an innovation makes its way through a social system. An important conceptual and methodological issue is to determine the boundaries that define a technological innovation. Therefore, instructional technology, as defined in this investigation, includes computer-based applications and mind tools (Jonassen, Peck, and Wilson, 1999), and media rich and constructionist environments (Goldman-Segall, 1998; Papert, 1996) used for synchronous or asynchronous teaching and learning tasks, the hardware on which these applications run, the peripherals, and network infrastructures.

The present evaluation of the second year of the Galileo Network’s professional development initiative builds and extends upon a study conducted at three elementary schools involved with the Galileo Educational Network in 1999/2000, its first year of operations (Jacobsen, 2001). A goal of the present investigation was to expand upon findings from three schools by investigating further the relationship between teacher and student perceptions about classroom events, the role of the Galileo Network in the school, and the duty of leadership in supporting and extending professional development initiatives during its second year of operations. The study was essentially guided by two overall research objectives:

1. Evaluate the impact of effective technology integration on engaged student learning.
2. Evaluate the impact of the Galileo Educational Network on teaching practice and transformed learning environments by evaluating the sustainability of these professional development initiatives.

This investigation employed case study research methods (Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995) to identify appropriate sources of data, and gather information about transformative professional development for technology integration in school-based teaching and learning. Although generalization was not a goal at the outset, the investigation focused on broadening a collective understanding of best practice to do with professional development and technology integration for teaching and learning in Kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms. This case study relied upon a convenience sample of participants in nine schools in the Alberta public school system. An individual’s participation in this case study depended on that individual being associated in some way with the Galileo Educational Network, which was defined as the “bounded system”. Therefore, administrators, teachers, and students involved with or supported by the Galileo Educational Network were invited to participate in this study.

Research was conducted by Dr. Michele Jacobsen of the University of Calgary.

Jacobsen, D.M. (2002). Building Different Bridges Two: A Case Study of Transformative Professional Development for Student Learning With Technology. Paper presented at AERA 2002: Validity and Value in Educational Research, the 83rd Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA: April 1 – 5.

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