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Professor engaged in conversation with students in the classroom

Learning technologies represents the broad range of communication, information, and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment. Educators who use today’s technologies are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning. A very wide range of people in education have learning technology as a core part of their role: lead teachers use learning technologies to support themselves, their colleagues, and their students in navigating the knowledge world of the twenty-first century.

These learning technologies support current learning theories and models to communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve/think critically, make data-driven decisions, engage in social, cultural or behavioral change, and select and utilize research-based practices in their classrooms and with their colleagues.

  • Lead teachers use computers and other technologies effectively and appropriately to communicate information in a variety of formats. They, for instance, communicate, using technologies such as email, videoconferencing, blogging, drop boxes, forums, texting, and podcasting. They use:

    • Video and digitalized artifacts as a tool to provide a shared classroom experience in teacher education and professional development
    • Online social networks for educators to promote interactive sharing and problem-solving and communicate information and ideas with students, parents, and peers
    • Online professional development programs (Borko, Whitcomb, & Liston, 2009).

    Lead teachers also utilize interactive modes of participation in harmonious and helpful manners (Maor, 2003; McDonald & Gibson, 1998). In the 21st century when technologies are one of the key communication tools, they promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information (NETS-T). For instance, while communicating and utilizing digital information and technology, lead teachers advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of it, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources. They understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices (NETS-T).

  • Lead teachers are “data literate:” that is, they possess a basic understanding of how data can be used to inform instruction. Research shows that if instructional plans at the state, county, district, school, classroom, and individual student levels are based on assessment information relevant to the desired learning outcomes for students, the probability is increased that desired learning outcomes (DuFour & Eaker, 2005).

    Educators must understand that assessment of student performance is integral in the planning, implementation, assessment, and revision of instruction. Data literacy also implies that the educator must be able to determine whether or not an assessment is a valid and reliable measure of what is being taught and to know what types of assessments are appropriate for district level vs. classroom or individual student level planning. What is commonly referred to as a “cycle of inquiry” illustrates the basic steps in the application of data to inform instructional decision-making: (1) conduct assessments, (2) obtain relevant data, (3) analyze data, (4) determine conclusions, (5) plan instruction, and (6) implement instruction (and the cycle repeats).

    Lead teachers are knowledgeable about technology applications that equip them with the current student assessment data on demand and in a user-friendly format. A wide variety of technology applications are available, with many more emerging, that are intended to assist educators in making data-driven decisions. Lead teachers are versed in identifying and selecting electronic assessment tools that assist in accessing, analyzing, and making data-driven decisions using student data, and range from the district to the classroom levels. They know about sources of information to help educators become data literate and learn how to make the most effective use of learning technologies. Key sources include:

    1. Data Warehouses: Data warehouses are large integrated databases that connect relevant information from other sources into a single accessible format. They allow users to look at data from multiple operational systems across multiple dimensions, including time. These systems have the advantage that they can import and analyze data from a variety of other systems that cannot otherwise communicate with each other.

    2. Data Analysis & Reporting Systems: These systems provide the ability to examine aggregate student performance measured across a wide array of variables and oriented to any scale: district, school, program or classroom. These systems are designed primarily as analytical and reporting tools for district and site administrators, and can also provide useful summary data for classroom teachers.

    3. Curriculum Management Systems: Curriculum management systems are designed to help teachers and site administrators plan and monitor the instructional program. These systems integrate teachers' curriculum planning, lesson plans, assessments and grade reporting into a standards-based system linked with data from the school's student information system.

    4. Instruction & Practice Systems: Instruction and practice systems are designed to help teachers align their curriculum and instructional resources to state and local standards. These systems typically provide teachers standards-aligned lesson plans, skill sets and assessments and a standards-based reporting system to supplement the resources a teacher already uses.

    5. Assessment and Diagnostic systems: These systems provide assessment tools to determine student strengths and weaknesses in various academic areas aligned with state curricular standards. They provide feedback and practice to students and teachers in what they should know and be able to do in relation to the standards. Assessment and diagnostic systems sometimes are imbedded into electronic learning resources.

  • Lead teachers use technologies to collaborate with others (Parr & Ward, 2006; Sorensen, 2005). They use virtual spaces such as online communities to plan, design, implement, and evaluate in collaboration with others. They also elaborate and share reflections on their practices with colleagues through a wide range of technologies-video, computers, satellite, and closed circuit broadcast television (Hawkes and Romiszowski, 2001; Rich & Hannafin, 2009). In this process, lead teachers create partnerships with novice teachers, experienced teachers and teacher educators (Wright, Wilson, Gordon & Stallworth, 2002) both in and out of their own school districts (Spicer & Dede, 2006) and exhibit their leadership. They demonstrate a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others (NETS-T).

    Lead teachers use technologies and utilize the individual student perspectives and knowledge and engaging students in interactive collaboration and shared knowledge building (Sorensen, 2005). They use appropriate activities, artifacts, materials, and tools that support the emergence of shared knowledge building that was meaningful to all students (Pringle, 2002). They also model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues and others in face-to-face and virtual environment (NETS-T).

    Lead teachers also create learning environment where students become active, reflect on interesting issues raised during the development of a course of study, and then shared with their peers in the non-threatening environment of the learning community (Roth, 1998). They promote students’ learning, using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative process (NETS-T). By having them use Moodle, Blackboard or Canvas and share assignments, messages, and postings, lead teachers model online collaboration to students.

    Lastly, Lead teachers expand their teaching, using technologies, within a global context. They strive for instructional strategies, and design lessons that would help students figure out the challenges they might encounter in the global context (Pringle, 2002). Like pre-service teachers (Wilder & Malone, 2005), lead teachers also use information and communication technologies effectively and collaborate with colleagues in other cultures. They develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures using digital-age communication and collaboration tools.

  • Lead teachers move beyond acquiring skills to use technologies. They integrate technologies when they design, create, and provide learning opportunities where students learn critical thinking skills. They also help students engaged in real-world issues and solving authentic problems, using appropriate technologies as a tool (NETS-T). Most importantly, lead teachers understand that PK-12 students’ learning through technologies must be less generic but content specific (Flick & Bell, 2000; Henriques, 2002; Huges, 2004, 2005; Molebash, 2002). They understand that a culture of inquiry around technology for learning supports risk-taking and knowledge creation (Jacobson, Clifford & Friesen, 2002), and supporting students to share their conjectures, defend their solutions, and developing thinking skills (Sliva, 2002).

    Lead teachers help students to organize and search for information: text, pictures, sounds, videos, and references to other sources that contain more information (Clifford & Friesen, 2001). They use appropriate technology resources for students to identify and evaluate information, create and transfer information. Considering the unlimited amount of information, technology resources allow students to create knowledge by working with information, not just memorizing it. Lead teachers create learning opportunities for students to look for commonalities and differences among groups or classes of things, analyze relationships, identify and interpret trends and patterns, test and refine hypotheses, and organize and share information (Jacobson et al).

    Lead teachers also use technologies, considering context and students (Misha & Koehler, 2006). They customize and personalize learning opportunities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources. They also develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their original learning goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress (NETS-T). Lastly, in order to monitor students’ progress, lead teachers provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching (NETS-T).

  • “A change agent is someone who engages either deliberately or whose behavior results in social, cultural or behavioral change. This can be studied scientifically and effective techniques can be discovered and employed (Havelock & Zlotolow, 1995). ” In the last 20 years, technological advances have resulted in new opportunities to use technology to improve learning and instruction. As a result, there is an increasing demand on teachers to develop the skills to make effective use of technology (Ertmer, Conklin, Lewandowski, Osika, Selo, & Wignall, 2003). Much technology has been placed in schools such as computers, educational software, etc., and much training for teachers’ skills and knowledge of teaching with technology has been provided. Despite these efforts, many teachers still do not integrate technology effectively even when they have the technology and initial training (Beavers, 2001; Hope, 1998). This situation is attributed to a variety of factors, including lack of proper teacher education (Ward, West, & Isaak, 2002). Researchers have suggested that teacher education with regard to technology integration should go well beyond teaching technical skills. Specifically, training and education should take into account teacher motivation regarding the use of technology (Llorens, Salanova, & Grau, 2002).

    Pedagogical agents respond to the learner in a social manner through human-like interactions (Kim & Baylor, 2006b). The human-like characteristics of pedagogical agents are advantageous for enhancing more positive and vivid interactions with pre-service teachers. In addition, pedagogical agents may also be perceived as empathetic, credible and trustworthy, positioning them to serve as effective agents of change. When pedagogical agents are perceived as empathetic, credible and trustworthy, they have been demonstrated to be effective in influencing attitudes (Baylor & Plant, 2005; Ryu & Baylor, 2005). In situations where the adoption of an educational innovation is a desired outcome, the concept of a change agent is relevant (Fullan & Stiegelbauer, 1991; Rogers, 1995). A change agent is generally an individual who facilitates the diffusion of an innovation for potential adopters (Rogers, 1995). The concept of a change agent has been highlighted in the context of educational technology innovations (Ellsworth, 2000; Huberman & Miles, 1984). However, most of the research has focused on the effects of a human as a change agent and has not considered the problem of insufficient human resources.

    A variety of roles and functions of pedagogical agents have been studied. Four major roles for pedagogical agents have been identified: (a) an expert who provides information, (b) a mentor who advises, (c) a motivator who encourages, and (d) a companion who collaborates (Baylor & Group, 2003; Baylor & Kim, 2005; Kim & Baylor, 2006a, 2006b). Many studies investigating pedagogical agents have focused on their impact on learning outcomes. Even in studies where positive effects on motivation were observed, motivational changes were considered secondary to learning outcomes and were not often studied independently (Ryu & Baylor, 2005). Recently motivational outcomes have been receiving more attention, and studies have shown that pedagogical interface agents can be effective in promoting motivation and attitude change (Baylor & Plant, 2005; Moreno et al., 2002; Moreno, Mayer, Spires, & Lester, 2001; Silverman et al., 2001). However, few studies focus specifically on motivation. In addition, despite the fact that pedagogical agents can be designed with specific characteristics beneficial for learners, there have been few attempts to study pedagogical agents that incorporate multiple roles or functions (Baylor & Ebbers, 2003). Instead, studies have tended to focus on agents with single and separate roles.

  • In the field of education, the term "best practice" is used to describe strategies, methods, and pedagogies that are informed by research, proven effective at achieving target outcomes, and accepted by leaders in the field. 
 According to Daniels, & Hyde (1998), some of these constructivist-based strategies identified as best practice include student-centered instruction, experiential and holistic learning, authentic experiences, reflective exercises, social interactions that scaffold learning, collaborative grouping, problem-oriented activities, and integrated thematic units (Daniels & Bizar (1998). Technology can play an important role in increasing students’ motivation to learn, in helping learners to visualize problems and solutions, in acquiring technology literacy, information literacy, and visual literacy and in supporting a variety of instructional approaches such as cooperative learning, shared intelligence, and critical thinking (Grabinger, 1996).

    Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of integrating technology into classroom practices is that technologies can be "used as engagers and facilitators of thinking and knowledge construction;" thus becoming something students learn with, not from (Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999). Lead teachers are comfortable as co-learners with their students and with colleagues around the world. Today it is less about staying ahead and more about moving ahead as members of dynamic learning communities. The digital-age teaching professional must demonstrate a vision of technology infusion and develop the technology skills of others. These are the hallmarks of the lead teacher (Don Knezek (2008).

    Lead teachers ensure that three elements are always present in good models of teaching with technology: (1) all technology-enhanced activities should be deliberately and consciously aligned with local, state, and national standards, (2) each learning activity should be accompanied with well-defined indicators of success, and (3) technology must be readily accessible in a way that meets the needs of all learners (NETS, 2000). Any number of the strategies presented may be utilized in good models of teaching with technology. 
Technology-enhanced lessons and activities should represent a variety of learning strategies that include active learning strategies, constructive learning strategies, authentic learning strategies, cooperative learning strategies, and intentional/reflective learning strategies (Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). To be used effectively, technology must be readily accessible in a way that meets the needs of all learners. This includes both ready access to hardware, software, and connectivity, as well as ready access to content and ideas being presented

    It is not the computer alone that will impact learning, but a pedagogical shift towards student-centered classrooms with more project-based activities and opportunities for collaboration and co-operation on life skills. With regards to technology integration, constructivist-learning environments would allow students to engage in meaningful and useful activities through which learning is accomplished. Good teaching combined with appropriate and effective uses of technology makes for a dynamic, rich learning environment.

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