Teaching and Learning Paradigm Shifts

Teachers guide and facilitate learning based on their knowledge of both the content area and the craft of teaching. Within the classroom, they create meaningful learning experiences and they encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. Teacher professionalism is the sum of what teachers do – both inside and outside the classroom to orchestrate student learning, contribute to the art and craft of teaching, and influence educational policymaking.

Videoconferencing, steaming video, podcasting, weblogs, e learning and multi-media integration enhances teacher professionalism to overcome the barriers of time and distance to collaborate on professional issues. Teachers can retrieve information from local and on-line databases to plan lessons and use computer-based multimedia to make more stimulating classroom presentations. Skepticism is not new to education. Emerging technologies are often viewed with fear and resistance. Just look at some of the history surrounding educational change.

Skepticism is not new to education. Emerging technologies are often viewed with fear and resistance. Just look at some of the history surrounding educational change.

“Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend upon their slates, which are more expensive. What will they do when the slate is dropped and it breaks? They will be unable to write.”
– Teachers Conference, 1703

“Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”

– Teachers Association, 1815

“Students today depend upon store-bought ink. They don’t know how to make their own. When they run out of ink, they will be unable to write words or cipher until the next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern times.”
– Rural American Teacher, 1929

“Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away! The American virtues of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.”
– Federated Teacher, 1959

You can usually look at a group of students and their teacher and know when the educational process is working. The atmosphere’s just right — and that’s because good learning environments often have certain key elements in common.

Modes of Learning

These learning elements, alone and in combination, can be enhanced by technology. In some cases, technology even makes them happen as in developing interactive distance learning. weblogs, podcasting and e learning opportunities.

Active learning is a strategy for education in which the students take personal responsibility for how and what they learn.

When students are active learners, they become involved in learning rather than being audiences for instruction. Active learners create and produce as they learn. They’re engaged in work, try out new ideas, and gain understanding by constructing their knowledge from the world around them rather than acquiring it through memorization.

Teachers create an active learning situation by assigning a complex topic and helping the students to identify the resources they need to investigate it. Then the students, rather than the teacher, explore and organize the information to be learned. As the students work with the information and identify and interpret the main ideas, the teacher facilitates their learning. As one teacher stated, “I’m more like the guide on the side than the sage on the stage.”

Cooperative learning is a strategy for education in which students work in groups to achieve shared goals.

Teachers create cooperative learning environments by establishing groups, helping students to determine group goals and teaching students cooperative learning skills. Principles of cooperative learning include distributed leadership, heterogeneous interdependence and group autonomy.

Interdisciplinary learning is a strategy for tying together traditionally separated school subjects.

Teachers often work together to create the environment for interdisciplinary learning. At the high school level, teachers from different departments may collaborate on interdisciplinary projects or classes. For example, History and English teachers, or Science and Mathematics teachers, may team-teach courses. At the elementary level, teachers may take a thematic approach, which is inherently interdisciplinary. Individual classes, groups of classes or the entire school may do projects based on specific themes, and at any level, teachers may make instruction interdisciplinary by focusing two or more traditional subject areas on a real-world problem.

Individualized learning is a strategy for meeting the diverse needs and learning styles of students.

Students learn in different ways, at different speeds and at different times. Some students learn easily by reading, some by listening and watching, and some by hands-on experience. Some students may be visual learners in one area and auditory learners in another. In addition, developmental issues and preferences affect how – and how well – students learn.

Multi-Media Integration

The incorporation of multi-media into teaching and learning has become one of the most practical ways to emphasize the lessons that are being conveyed and for students to be able to actualize and process information. Multimedia utilizes equipment such as: videoconferencing, digital cameras, digital videocameras, scanners, laser printers, laptops, whiteboards, streaming video, document cameras, audio podcasts and web sites.

Often times, multiple screens or monitors are used in multi-media learning studios. Students can incorporate a video clip into a power point presentation or stream that same video to the desktop or classroom monitor. A student can put any text on the document camera to emphasize his or her concept and then return to the class or instructor camera seamlessly, making the technology appear invisible.


In the past, schools have been places where people in authority decided what would be taught, at what age, and in what sequence. The new technologies provide students access to information that was once under the control of teachers. Interactive Distance Learning instills an excitement and enthusiasm to engage learners in sharing knowledge and experiences while at the same time encompassing unique content and guest lecturers into classrooms and for the professional development of educators.

For learning to be optimally effective, it should not be hindered by the often artificial barriers that have been created around it. Media plays an important role in breaking down such barriers. The development of information and communication technologies, particularly interactive distance learning, streaming video, and podcasting are some of the conditioning factors of the emergence of the knowledge society. Education in this 21st century means maintaining high standards, integrating technology into curriculum, alternative forms of assessment and better professional preparation.


Contemporary Literature and Professional Development Communities

A review of Literature and how technology contributes to school improvement

Professional learning communities are rapidly taking hold throughout this country as an effective strategy for raising student achievement. Many school administrators that have transformed their schools have done so by embracing learning rather than teaching as their school’s mission. They have shared how their teachers work collaboratively to help all students learn and how the formative assessment process focuses on results to foster continuous improvement.

Educational Service centers have endorsed this strategy and has facilitated workshops to present the primary components of professional learning communities. Smart Solutions participated in a Book Talk featuring “On Common Ground” by Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker and Rebecca DuFour. In this book talk, there were 32 school and business leaders who read the text, reported out their findings and interpretations in small groups, and discussed the merits and challenges in establishing the practical strategies for moving forward with school improvement efforts.

What ensued were dynamic discussions followed up by a second presentation by Mr. Douglas DeLong, superintendent of Berkshire Schools in Northeast Ohio. Mr. DeLong was part of a “Distinguished Administrators Series” and he presented how his school adopted the DuFour and Eaker Professional Learning Community model three years ago. What is unique about the Distinguished Administrators Series is that it was videoconferenced to school locations throughout the State of Ohio. Seven site locations participated and 52 school leaders attended. In addition, the session was web-casted (video streamed) and hosted on Lake County ESC’s web page. www.lcesc.k12.oh.us.

There are several dynamics going on here. First, is the topic of professional learning communities as a contemporary model. Second, is the sharing of this with educators throughout the State of Ohio. Third, is the incorporation of interactive technologies. Fourth, is the hosting of the presentation with all of the power point attachments for the world to view. Fifth, is the follow-up presentation featuring Dr. Paul Kapostasy focusing on the development and use of Data Teams. Sixth is the accompanying literature that provides the glue for implementation such as: “Asking the Right Questions” and Getting Excited about Data” by Edie L Holcomb, “Evaluating Professional Development” by Thomas R. Guskey, “Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace” by Rena M. Palloff and Keith Pratt and “Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms by Camille Cole, Kecia Ray and Jan Zanetis.

Smart Solutions supports ongoing professional development but to make it great there must be a continuum of training. There must be a strong connection to the utilization of technology and how we adhere to the principles stated in Michael Fullan’s book “The Moral Imperative of School Leadership” whereby we share our knowledge and expertise for the greater good of education everywhere and can be accessed by anybody, any time, and at any location.

Now, throw in another book by Thomas L. Friedman “The World is Flat”. It reinforces how important professional learning communities are, not only in education but also in business. Education needs to acknowledge that globalization with out-sourcing and out-shoring is moving faster than a speeding bullet and that collaboration with other countries and cultures isn’t just desirable but essential. Isolationism no longer works and the utilization of technology is vital to a country’s survival as a leader in economic and educational innovation.

As we examine some of the contemporary literature such as “Good to Great” by John Collins or noteworthy literature such as “In Search of Excellence” by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. we can learn the key concepts that move organizations forward. Today, we need a blending of best practices from both private and education sectors. Education leaders need to pay attention to what is going on throughout the world and we must learn to adapt.

We need to incorporate emerging technologies so that we can compete through work-flow software, open-sourcing, and supply-chaining. We need to understand what is going on in China, India, the Soviet Union and other countries. As stated by Thomas Friedman, “What the flattening of the world means is that we are now connecting all the knowledge centers on the planet together into a single global network which – if politics and terrorism do not get in the way – could usher in an amazing era of prosperity and innovation.”

Building Learning Communities goes far beyond common assessments and common planning time. It now becomes part of cyberspace where members depend on each other to achieve the learning outcomes. Learning becomes active in a distance learning environment. Teachers and students are not only responsible for logging on but they must contribute to the learning process by posting their thoughts and ideas to the online discussions. A network of interaction is established in which instructors and other participants become part of the process of knowledge acquisition. Outcomes are evidenced by deeper understanding of concepts, collaborative learning , and critical thinking skills.

Professional Learning Communities and the use of technology brings in traditional teaching and learning models with the electronic tools that are available at our fingertips. Teachers begin to understand asynchronous communication which can occur at any time and at irregular intervals, meaning that people can communicate online without a pattern of interaction. We see this today in e mail, user groups, bulletin boards, websites, and streaming video.

We also see videoconferencing that occurs between two or people at two or more distinct site locations by using large monitor systems or desktop computers to receive audio and video in real time. Educational content providers throughout the world offer rich content that supplements grade level content standards or classes can meet regularly to enrich educational content and to structure meaningful group interaction. This type of collaborative learning is synchronous which is happening in real time. Another example of this is instant messaging or chat rooms where people are typing at the same time.

Now that we know that professional learning communities are working and that technology further enhances enriched learning, we must move our teaching methods to the transformation stage. As learners begin to feel and acknowledge an increasing sense of empowerment, they will understand the learner-centered process and develop a foundation for future learning experiences. They will be better prepared for the globalization that is occurring and will maintain the competitiveness that is necessary in the on line economic, educational and political world.