Responsive dissemination: a data-driven approach to change.
"How can good educational practice move beyond pockets of excellence to reach a much greater proportion of students and educators?" This question was first posed by Elmore (1996, p. 1) and remains just as pressing today. He argued that many educational reform-related changes are simply surface changes--changes that do not directly challenge the fundamental relationships among students, teachers, and knowledge. Being unrelated to the core of educational practice, those changes do not scale up to a wider audience, nor are they likely to be sustained. Sabelli and Dede (1999) found that innovations that showed promise in initial test bed settings often floundered when scaled up to a wider audience--especially when the educational institution was a decentralized organization with embedded subsystems of teachers within classrooms, schools, and districts. Part of this may be due to the stages of concern of the adopting population (Hall & Hord, 1987), and part due to the perceptions of the innovation by the adopting population (Rogers, 1995).
As the adoption process moves into the sustainability phase, Light (1998) identified four main factors that influence the systemic change process: (a) the external environment in which the organization exists, (b) its internal operating structure, (c) its leadership, and (d) its internal management system. Key variables contained within these four factors include external support and encouragement for innovation from a variety of sources; a sense of collaboration; elimination of internal boundaries so that system wide communication is seamless; maximizing the use of internal resources; a sense of urgency, responsibility, and efficacy among members of the adopting population; links made by leadership with other concurrent innovations, sometimes resulting in leveraged funds and resources; mission management; and using feedback for continuous improvement.
Clauset and Gaynor (1982) were among the first researchers to study systemic school reform processes using causal modeling. Two recent research studies updated their findings and produced sets of indicators of sustained capacity for educational reform. The first, a study conducted by Gibson (1999), used STELLA, a systems thinking software package, together with complexity theory and systems dynamics modeling concepts as a conceptual framework, to investigate the dynamics of innovation in five Vermont high schools. The results indicated that for systemic change to take place and be sustained, three critical processes must be in place (Sherry & Gibson, 2002; 2003):
* convergence of resources, providing a starting point for the change;
* mutual benefits to those who are affected by the changes; and
* continuous, extensive, free flow of resources and expertise throughout the educational system to fuel the sustainability of the change.
The second study, conducted in 1996-1997 by RMC Research Corporation, retrospectively analyzed the experiences of six high poverty elementary schools in the Northeast to learn about the processes that schools use to initiate and sustain reforms. To scale up and sustain an educational institution's capacity for meaningful reforms, RMC Research Corporation (1998) found that three elements are necessary:
* a learning ethic, in which teachers and staff are continuously developing new professional skills that will enhance their capacity to effectively engage all students in academic learning;
* collective grounding, a common vision or purpose for the educational organization that is rooted in the strengths and needs of their students (e.g., aspiring teachers, as discussed below); and
* energy flow, characterized by leaders and staff working together to increase the experience, skills, resources, and enthusiasm through positive interactions and consensus-building.
These six findings provide a complex picture of some of the dynamics of organizational sustainability as well as the specific content of sustainable change processes found in schools. For example, combining the two studies implies that the role of vision in a school acts as an organizing force for individual experimentation and adaptation. Known as an attractor in complex systems, the organizing role of vision is an example of the convergence of resources. For example, when a new vision emerges, it tends to attract attention, time, and people's interest and for a while, organizes the energy of the group. In the STELLA models of sustained change, if a school capitalized on such a challenging and motivating vision by creating a new higher expectation for learning and risk-taking, the school's capacity increased for sustainable creative solutions and actions to emerge. If the learning ethic was absent or weak, then mutual benefits for teachers and students also weakened or dissipated, and change efforts could not find traction.
Successful reform initiatives begin by recognizing the evolving culture of the educational institution, investigating its needs, gathering resources and making them available to all stakeholders, and developing a sense of common purpose that is inherently grounded in the institution's generally accepted learning ethic. Change is then initiated by bringing in needed information and skills; creating support for decentralized decision making; and building teams that cut across internal boundaries to share resources and expertise and to create mutually beneficial interactions among the disparate parts of the system, such as classroom/school, school/district, and so forth. This free flow of energy, information, and resources facilitates structural, social, and cultural changes within the system as a whole and across its various subsystems. When leadership creates policies and structures to catalyze the change process, and when strong relationships are developed with those who may have access to resources in the larger educational community, then resources, skills, and knowledge will tend to converge at the highest level of the system and diffuse throughout the entire system (Gibson, 1999).
This is the underlying philosophy of the U.S. Department of Education Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to use Technology (PT3) Catalyst grants. Whereas the goal of a PT3 Implementation grant is to effect change within a specific consortium's teacher education program, the goal of a PT3 Catalyst grant is to facilitate change within the consortium partners' roles, rules, and relationships. (Carroll, 2000). A Catalyst grant ceases to function as an entity once the intended outcomes have been achieved and have been institutionalized within the partner organizations. This article shows how one of the Catalyst grantees--the Teacher Education Network (TEN) Project--used this process to embed scalability and sustainability into its work of knowledge management by being responsive to and supporting the change agendas of its partner organizations.
THE TEACHER EDUCATION NETWORK (TEN) PROJECT
The Teacher Education Network (TEN) Project, a 2000 PT3 Catalyst grantee, was a consortium consisting of a group of highly regarded professional associations. It was led by MC Squared, a Vermont organization with a history of designing and executing innovative projects. TEN's partners include the National Staff Development Council (NSDC), the Holmes Partnership, the Urban Network to Improve Teacher Education (UNITE), the Great Cities Universities--Urban Educator Corps (GCU-UEC), the Quality of Life Project at New England College, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), and the National Institute on Community Innovations (NICI), a group that operates the Virtual PDS Consortium and provided programming and technical support for the PT3 grant. RMC Research Corporation, Denver, served both as a partner and as external evaluation agency for the TEN Project.
During the grant funding period from 2000 to 2003, TEN fulfilled a critical need for bridges among national-level agencies with complementary missions on topics of teacher preparation and development. Extension funds from 2003 through June 2004 provided the consortium members with opportunities to refine their work, to institutionalize TEN-related activities within their respective organizations, and to seek new avenues of funding.
From its inception, TEN embraced the difficult and challenging work of sharing concepts across fields and organizations; developing and negotiating a shared vocabulary that recognized diverse approaches to complex problems in teacher recruitment, training, induction, retention, and professional development; and becoming closely familiar with the contexts and contextually embedded needs of different partners with agendas that on the surface often seemed deeply divergent. As the project evolved, TEN made progress toward meeting its goals by engaging in the following activities:
* developing online tools and resources for teachers and teacher educators that can be accessed nationally and customized for individual organizations and sets of users;
* providing credible and validated resources for teacher preparation programs at low cost through the NICI Virtual Library (http://www.vlibrary.org), a collection of librarian approved, indexed, and catalogued online resources obtained through the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC);
* working with the PT3 Program Office and other national organizations to address digital equity issues;
* developing and promoting new national standards for online professional development generated by the NSDC; and
* institutionalizing valued practices and strategies within its partner organizations.
Three achievements that highlight TEN's accomplishments through these activities were their success at building national partnerships, their capacity to develop and implement electronic tools to support learning, and their development and application of a model of responsive dissemination. Through their work, TEN leaders were able to identify commonalities of vision and commitment among partner organizations and create productive working relationships and dialogue among these groups. In addition to partners' numerous citations (RMC Research Corporation, 2003) of how rewarding these new connections were in their professional lives, several TEN-fostered partnerships were used as platforms for future collaborations and joint pursuit of funding opportunities.
THE RESPONSIVE DISSEMINATION MODEL
TEN staff addressed the challenges of scaling and sustaining implementations of their knowledge management work by developing and using a model called responsive dissemination, which incorporates all three of RMC Research Corporation's (1998) factors. Each organization or professional network joined TEN with its own unique learning ethic. Engaging its leadership in ongoing dialogue created collective grounding, from which the energy flow then emanated. The model appears to mirror Wood's (2003) view as the "gap filler" between research and use/application in a knowledge management system. Stated simply, dissemination bridges the gap between the production of knowledge (i.e., research) and the effective use and application of that knowledge.
To facilitate the responsive dissemination process, TEN's goals included:
1. making available for teacher preparation programs nationally an integrated web-based toolset that enables sustained, high quality feedback to improve preservice work;
2. developing and nationally disseminating to preservice programs instructional materials and strategies for technology-enhanced contextual learning;
3. creating online graduate programs in urban teacher preparation for preservice students and non-licensed or under-prepared practicing educators nationally;
4. building a national web-based clearinghouse to enable national educational organizations in educational technology and preservice reform to collaboratively disseminate information on technology infusion in teacher preparation;
5. assisting the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) in ensuring that online mentoring and professional development meet high standards; and
6. institutionalizing technology-facilitated preservice reform and technology infusion within TEN's national partner organizations.
For TEN, institutionalization meant the continued design, development, customization, implementation, and use by its partner organizations of a coherent set of online tools and resources. All of TEN's activities were based on a data-driven approach to change. TEN's educational reform vision comprised responsive dissemination, professional development, and technical assistance. In contrast to the one-way channels of traditional dissemination of information and resources, the responsive dissemination model illustrated in Table 1 incorporates feedback from its audiences into the ongoing development and refinement of the materials to be disseminated.
In TEN's activities, responsive dissemination began with TEN leadership's inquiry into the nature and needs of its various audiences--the members of large national organizations dedicated to educational reform and technology infusion. A set of e-mail lists was created for leadership, work groups, and members of national organizations to support communication, collaboration, and outreach. Central to TEN's work was engaging the leadership of these national organizations in exploring how technology could help evolve and support their own missions and facilitate their own work. In response to the leadership's vision, TEN proceeded to customize the tools of choice for the members of each partner organization. These tools included:
* the online Personal Learning Planner (PLP) that supports asynchronous communication, synchronous chat, collaboration, mentoring, professional development, and e-portfolio creation within a preservice, inservice, or professional development program;
* customized online surveys, as needed for data collection and assessment;
* the set of Virtual Campuses that support collaboration, communication, data collection, assessment, and document sharing within national networks of educators;
* the NICI Virtual Library with librarian-approved "Deep Internet" (i.e., librarian-reviewed, indexed, catalogued, and fee-based) resources made available through OCLC at minimal cost to organization members; and
* the ever increasing set of Education Reform Portals (http://edreform.net) with the ability to include rubric-based user profiling surveys to customize a collection of digital resources on exemplary practices for teachers and teacher educators.
As a result, the end users could adapt, adopt, and use tailored aspects of any combination of these tools in ways that aligned with their unique contextual needs and the learning ethic that characterized the educational institution or national professional network with which they were associated. Collective grounding, energy flow, and a learning ethic guided all of the collaborative activities between TEN leadership and its partner organizations throughout the entire duration of the grant funding period.
TEN began its work by conducting outreach and engaging the leadership of each of its partner organizations. TEN staff then collected data on the needs, concerns, and interests of each of its partner organizations. For example, TEN's partnership activities with the NSDC began by developing a consensus among NSDC's task force members and TEN's staff members about their change priorities and targeted activities. A goal was developed to revise and expand NSDC's Standards for Professional Development to include issues relevant to electronic learning for educators. In TEN's partnership with SITE, change began by using the A Survey of Technology-Using Teacher Educators (ASTUTE) online survey to identify the needs and concerns of SITE's membership. Each of these needs assessments built collective grounding among TEN's leadership and staff and the leadership of each old or new partner organization to establish change goals.
While some of TEN's partners used online surveys for self-assessment, other partners collaboratively developed rubrics to measure needs and gaps in existing teacher education programs. NSDC, GCU-UEC, UNITE, and ISTE, for example, dedicated substantial energies to the development of self-assessment rubrics for teacher education programs. SITE leadership used the information collected through the ASTUTE survey to plan a comprehensive reorganization of the society.
Having identified gaps that needed to be addressed, the organizations then set their priorities by member work group consensus concerning strategies to address those gaps. This, in turn, would lead to identification of ways in which organization members could receive technical assistance. Once the work groups established consensus and communicated their vision to their leadership and to the TEN staff, they collected and analyzed data from their organization's members. Knowing the priority needs and consensus of the organization. TEN staff then responded to those needs by providing customized online tools, digital resources, and technical assistance and making them available to all members of its partner organizations.
The TEN Project also customized a Virtual Campus for each partner organization that requested it to support communication with threaded discussions and document sharing across national and international networks. Partner organizations that chose to do so were able to provide access to the NICI Virtual Library for their members at discounted rates.
A LEARNING ETHIC
The online tools were designed to help TEN's partner organizations manage and advance their respective change agendas. The online surveys, for example, helped partners such as GCU-UEC and SITE identify their needs to drive change; the online portals, in turn, pointed them to examples of best practice. Throughout this process, TEN leadership and staff remaining sensitive to each partner's learning ethic and organizational mission, such as preparing new teachers in UNITE's 31 urban education programs and the GCU-UEC's 19 university-school partnership teams for the unique and challenging aspects of teaching in inner city schools.
The TEN project leaders strongly advocated that each organization develop and take ownership of an online portal, and populate it with high quality digital resources of best practices related to that organization's own knowledge domain. But since the partners' domains overlapped, such as the urban education focus of UNITE and the GCU-UEC, and the technology infusion focus of the GCU-UEC and ISTE, the TEN project leaders saw a way to enrich each partner's collection by combining and managing the digital resources offered by each partner. Nominated digital resources were reviewed, organized, metatagged, and catalogued by each portal's editor and then stored in a "mega database," which could be accessed by all of the portals.
If change was needed or desired within existing programs, then the assessments that provided data that could be used for informed decision making, and the portals pointed members of TEN's partner organizations to free databases of effective practices or to high-quality fee-based digital resources available at modest cost through the NICI Virtual Library or the professional organization that owned the portal. Future plans for some of the TEN partners call for the establishment of a knowledge management system to direct partner organizations to service providers or change agents who can provide customized services to address the needs identified by practitioners in their respective fields.
TEN LOGIC MODEL: FROM ACTIVITIES TO OUTCOMES
A complex project such as the TEN PT3 Catalyst Grant may best be described graphically, using a logic model (McLaughlin & Jordan, 1999; W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2000; Killion, 2003). In short, a logic model describes the logical linkages among program inputs and resources, activities, outputs, target audiences, and outcomes. The rationale for a logic model is to show the contextualization of a project--in this case, the relationship of TEN's goals (i.e., the goals and objectives of each of its partner organizations), its activities, and its short term and long term outcomes. The connections between activities such as recruiting and engaging leadership, collecting data on needs and interests, creating and applying the TEN toolsets, conducting outreach to members of professional organizations and national networks, supporting adoption with technical assistance, and the project's outcomes, are illustrated in FIGURE 1.
At initial meetings that engaged the leadership of partner organizations, the TEN project leaders identified the organization's needs, interests, and concerns. The TEN project leaders then served on or assisted partner organizations' steering committees, task forces, work groups, or joint committees in an effort to develop a common ground between the organizations' change agendas and the types of tools and technical assistance that TEN could offer. TEN's programming team, provided by its partner NICI, had already developed the software for electronic portfolios, lists and threaded discussions, online surveys, and databases, and was able to customize those tools to support data collection and sharing within each organization.
Not all of TEN's partners used the entire toolset. For example, the NSDC used the Personal Learning Planner (PLP) to support professional development, whereas the Quality of Life Project used it for student portfolios. Online surveys were conducted formally, as with SITE, or informally, as with the GCU-UEC teams and technology leaders. GCU-UEC created links from its web site to the Virtual Campus and used the Virtual Campus for document sharing, threaded discussions, and community plan reports. The NSDC took ownership of its Professional Development Portal (http://prodev.edreform.net) and customized it to its liking, whereas the portals for UNITE and the GCU-UEC maintained the overall Education Reform portal look and feel. TEN offered discounted membership in the NICI Virtual Library to all members of its partner organizations, and all of the portals contained links to the Virtual Library's web site. The TEN leaders and staff, with support from members of partner organizations such as UNITE and NICI, offered online and onsite technical assistance for its partner organizations to customize their chosen tools and provide training for their users.
This national partnership endeavor resulted in mutual benefits to both TEN and its partner organizations. For example, the Digital Equity Portal (http://digitalequity.edreform.net), first piloted with leveraged funds from the PT3 Program Office, became the model upon which all subsequent portals were based. As each partner organization requested further customization of its portal, such as the integration of the GCU Preservice Technology Infusion Rubric with the Preservice Technology Infusion Portal (http://preservicetech.edreform.net), the system architecture was refined, and the set of online tools became increasingly interoperable. These new innovation configurations (Rogers, 1099), in turn, aligned the tools more closely with the change agendas of TEN's partners. The national web-based clearinghouse, originally intended to disseminate PT3-related products and documents, gradually evolved into the mega-database that serves all of the portals. Concurrently, the portals were populated by their users with high quality digital resources, and their usage has grown steadily since they underwent usability testing and redesign in mid-2003 (RMC Research Corporation, 2003). With increased portal usage, new networks of educators approached the TEN project directors and requested new portals for their own organizations, thereby scaling up the project's activities and outreach by fostering new partnerships and ongoing collaborations.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
FROM THE MODEL TO PRACTICE
TEN's vision of being a PT3 Catalyst Grantee was to create a toolset to support a process that, in turn, catalyzed the work of its partner organizations. The implementation of the toolsets was tailored to solidify and advance the agenda of each participating partner. Rather than working from an agenda based on TEN's own needs as an organization, TEN's leadership deliberately focused on the needs of its partner organizations. The tools and expertise that TEN provided were tailored to supporting partner activities that, in turn, supported attainment of TEN's goals. This resulted in the generation of clarified and sustainable change agendas and activities within each partner organization, as described in the following examples.
Engaging Leadership: Developing Self-Assessment Rubrics with GCU-UEC
Collaborating with fellow PT3 Catalyst Grantee GCU, the TEN project leaders became fully integrated into the activities of the GCU Urban Educators Corps (UEC) Steering Committee, initially as partners, later as peers in the steering committee, and finally, as organizers of the annual GCU-UEC Spring Institute. To help attain the dual mandate of the UEC to develop rubrics for technology infusion into preservice teacher education programs and to develop virtual online curriculum modules on topics of concern to urban teacher educators, TEN brought leadership from two other national-level partner organizations, ISTE and UNITE, into the GCU-UEC meetings and rubric development process. Four rubrics emerged from a rubric retreat held in fall 2002: Leadership, Partnerships, Urban Teacher Education, and Preservice Technology Infusion.
An assessment survey was derived from the Preservice Technology Infusion rubric. The survey served two purposes: first, as a means for the 19 GCU partner universities to self-assess their teacher education programs and identify gaps that could then be addressed through online or onsite technical assistance and virtual curriculum modules with an urban education focus; and second, as an automated process to customize My Collection of high quality digital resources available through the portal (http://preservicetech.edreform.net) for each teacher educator.
Later, the Urban Teacher Education Rubric, jointly developed by GCU-UEC and UNITE, was streamlined and refined by a member of the GCU-UEC Steering Committee and could potentially be used for both the GCU-UEC/ISTE portal and the UNITE Urban Teacher Education Portal (http://urban.edreform.net). Interviews with leaders of all three organizations and analysis of GCU-UEC Steering Committee minutes (RMC Research Corporation, 2003) revealed that this cross-fertilization at the leadership level helped to develop synergy among several national level organizations and greatly facilitated the articulation of strategic vision and the alignment of partnership activities with that vision.
Conducting Outreach to Ensure Quality: Developing NSDC's E-Learning for Educators
One of TEN's goals was to collaborate with the NSDC to revise the Standards for Staff Development to incorporate issues related to online learning. To accomplish this task, leaders from a number of national organizations were convened in a working group. TEN leadership participated instrumentally in this process by communicating their vision and expertise with technology without exerting a dominating influence on the dialogue and resulting product, the NSDC/NICI E-Learning for Educators (http://www.nsdc.org/connect/projects/e-learning.pdf). This resource both demonstrated immediate value in the field and evolved, with input and guidance from TEN and leadership from the NSDC, into a practitioner-oriented tool responsive to the expressed needs of the NSDC's constituents.
Promoting Adoption and Facilitating User Control: Developing the UNITE Portal
One of UNITE's main foci in 2002-2003 was to design, develop, test, and populate the Urban Teacher Education Portal (http://urban.edreform.net) with high quality digital resources, organized by UNITE's four strands--recruitment, preservice curriculum, induction, and ongoing professional growth. At its fall 2002 meeting, UNITE's educational technology consultant distributed a suggestion form and asked UNITE members to identify digital curricular materials that could be linked to the portal in order to strengthen the urban preservice curriculum. A UNITE/TEN team, with input from members of the Holmes Partnership, then worked on creating a metatag vocabulary to describe the content of the resources. The vocabulary described users' interests and expertise. The software searched the tagged resources and displayed a ranked list of relevant and appropriate online resources. Working with members of UNITE, TEN demonstrated that additional metadata, specific to the needs of educators in fields such as urban teacher preparation, equity, and school leadership, needed to be added. Through an extensive process of collaboration, TEN supported the UNITE group as they developed and took ownership of their own metadata vocabulary and developed a process for refereeing and evaluating materials submitted for inclusion in the portal.
By spring 2003 there were 75 nominated resources on the portal. The UNITE/TEN team developed a set of review criteria to be applied to all nominated resources. Using criteria of relevance, usefulness, timeliness, clarity, research base, and significance to the field, the NICI programming staff automated the review process. Since then, all resources on the Urban Teacher Education Portal have been reviewed by a volunteer team of UNITE's teacher educators. As UNITE's particular values, priorities, and mission became reflected the UNITE portal, the level of investment and ownership that UNITE leadership expressed in sustaining the portal as an ongoing resource also increased.
Empowering Users at All Levels: Implementing the Personal Learning Planner (PLP) in Educational Programs
Another key tool that supports the responsive dissemination model is the Personal Learning Planner (PLP). It was originally designed as an e-portfolio development tool for individuals within educational programs, but over the three-year grant period, groups and organizations of teachers and teacher educators began using the PLP to support a variety of modes of professional development. The PLP is now a combination of a collaboration tool and an e-portfolio builder, with an emphasis on the online mentoring between learners and the people advising them. It supports a process by which mentors validate learner-produced artifacts that demonstrate mastery of program, state, and national standards, and personal learning goals. The PLP includes tools for online survey building and administration, developing local standards and rubrics, organizing uploaded work in relation to those standards and rubrics, forming learners and advisors into various communities, and creating a completed web-based portfolio product. The learner is situated in an institution-specific context of explicit standards and goals built into the PLP by each implementing educational program.
Currently, most of the use of the PLP takes place within institutions of higher education, such as Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Colorado at Denver, all of which have teacher preparation programs. A UNITE member at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee reported (RMC Research Corporation, 2003) that she used the PLP in all of her instructional technology courses for inservice teachers, preservice teachers, and school administrators. Numerous other universities, professional development schools, and other educational institutions with programs in teacher preparation and credentialing have customized the PLP to fit their own program or division requirements. Among these, a teacher educator in the Arrowhead Education Agency in Iowa reported (RMC Research Corporation, 2003) that she used the PLP with over 300 individual teachers to support a class on e-portfolios. She also customized the 4-step learning process of the PLP to match the agency's pre-existing 4-cycle action research process, supporting 146 teams of educators in their professional learning work.
Professional organizations such as the NSDC, and the Quality of Life Project at New England College, also used the PLP for teacher preparation and ongoing professional development. The focus of the Quality of Life Project was to help students, their teachers, teacher education faculty, and preservice teachers use service-learning as a tool to identify a quality of life problem faced by students in their communities. The project integrated the Contextual Teaching and Learning (CT & L) approach, first piloted at Ohio State University, and used the PLP to support its activities. Students identified a problem of concern to the community, investigated and collected data about it, researched information and resources about how others had developed proven strategies for addressing similar issues, developed multimedia profiles of such successful and locally relevant community improvement strategies, identified possible solutions to their own local problem, develop plans for service-learning projects that engaged students in implementing these strategies while developing and applying academic and technology skills, measure the impact of these solutions, review data concerning impact, and make suggestions for further modifications to their solutions.
The teacher educator managing the project expressed enthusiasm for her work through the TEN partnership and the benefits that she accrued through her participation (RMC Research, 2003). She also expressed her interest in continued engagement with the tools and networks that the TEN Project facilitated, stating that educators from all over New Hampshire were calling her and asking to contact her preservice teachers.
Initially, the PLP was not central to TEN's work with the NSDC, which focused on integrating awareness of learning technologies and quality online learning experiences into the NDSC Standards for Staff Development. However, at its annual conference in Boston, November 2002, one of the NSDC session facilitators experimented with the PLP as a way to extend the learning of the conference both before and after the face-to-face meeting, and to show the utility of personal documentation of conference goals and objectives for sponsoring school officials.
At the request of the session facilitator, TEN created a custom survey to support the goals of the conference session, as well as creating a PLP site for uploading and discussing work related to the conference. The NSDC leader who conducted the workshop reported (RMC Research Corporation, 2003) that about 90% of the conference participants took the survey prior to the conference, and therefore, she was able to modify the training to meet their needs. Respondents to the workshop evaluation (RMC Research Corporation, 2003) commented that the PLP was extremely helpful and that it would help them implement their professional development activities with feedback and support.
The intended outcome of the TEN Project were the establishment of a self-sustaining national network of teacher preparation and educational reform organizations committed to effective instructional and professional development uses of technology, linked through a network of customized tools, portals, Virtual Campuses, and databases of high quality resources and service providers. Outreach was ongoing to new national organizations whose work had the potential to be followed by a project over its three year span catalyzed by TEN's PT3 activities, and that wished to pursue further grant opportunities to sustain educational reform. This kind of outreach led to scaling up of the original project.
An institution that has recently affiliated with TEN is the International Graduate Center (IGC), located at St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. The IGC serves a population that is located on a number of different islands, each with a different cultural heritage. The IGC serves as a testbed for all of TEN's online tools and for a new urban, multicultural graduate program in teacher education. The IGC's current emphasis is on the use of the TEN online toolset, due to the high need for local teachers, teacher educators, and administrators to complete their graduate programs online rather than incurring heavy travel expenses. IGC administrators noted (RMC Research Corporation, 2003) that local use of TEN's online tools whetted their teacher educators' appetites to learn more about them; they were pleased with the ease of online information sharing afforded by TEN's online toolset; and they felt that the PLP was especially suitable for undergraduate programs and special educators in local high schools.
These examples are a sampling of how the responsive dissemination model contributed to sustainable reform and growth in TEN's partner organizations, as well as fostering increased communication and collaboration among partners exploring the issues involved in using online resources to support preservice teacher education. Partnerships initiated through TEN continue to evolve, and the work is being sustained through ongoing grantseeking activities among various members of the partnership and application of TEN toolsets to expanding audiences.
Although the TEN Project officially ended in June 2004 with the cessation of its extension funds, its activities will continue within its partner organizations and other institutions that are dedicated to educational reform. The level of dialogue should support a long future of collaborative synergy among these groups. Members of UNITE, the GCU-UEC, ISTE, the IGC, and NICI have been active in seeking additional grant funding through the PT3 Program Office, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE), and other agencies that aim to prepare teachers to teach in 21st century classrooms.
In a policy environment that increasingly emphasizes accountability and high stakes testing of K-12 students and educators, educators are focusing more and more on adopting those strategies that improve student results. There is strong evidence that learning technologies, when used to engage students in conducting and reporting research, can help to improve student achievement (Sherry, Jesse, & Billig, 2002). Yet, many teachers are reluctant to integrate new technologies into their practice unless they can quickly and reliably identify those that are most relevant to the content standards for which their students are being assessed. As a result, national experts in science, mathematics, and literacy education are now taking the lead to develop portals that address their specific knowledge domains, and to seed them with resources that support standards-based education.
NICI's open source application, known as "Leeber" (Kurowski, Knapp, McLaughlin, & Gibson, 2003), enables national and international communities of experts in a given dimension of educational reform to quickly and easily catalog and disseminate exemplary content on effective reform strategies and resources. The use of this application is being scaled up to include a growing number of new partners including the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), and the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, the Schools Interoperability Framework. New portals have recently been created to address data-driven decision making, early literacy, and mathematics education. Meanwhile, NICI will extend the application to interoperate with the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse's web-based cataloguing tools.
IGC faculty and graduate students, in collaboration with NICI staff, are researching and developing strategies for engaging and helping national and international expert communities in educational reform to use the Educational Reform portals. These portals disseminate exemplary free content to educators and policy makers so that they can implement research-based reform practices. By further refining and expanding the toolset developed through the TEN Project, the IGC seeks to infuse four technologies into its tuition-based graduate programs:
* data visualization systems that provide educators with rich real-time maps of data regarding K-12 student learning results, opportunities and climate, and key variables that influence them;
* sequenced links of digitized instructional and professional development texts keyed to standards and learners' needs and goals;
* mentoring tools and strategies that support teacher preparation, induction, retention, and development; and
* research-based promising and proven practices available through the Education Reform portals.
The work of the IGC exemplifies the three elements necessary for sustaining meaningful educational reforms, namely:
* a learning ethic that results in a chosen graduate degree, professional advancement, and targeted gains in K-12 student learning in selected communities;
* common grounding in a shared vision for infusing advanced technologies into the preparation of educational reform leaders; and
* a continuous energy flow that will connect a small island's educators with national and international experts in curriculum and instruction, educational administration, educational technology, staff development, and urban and multicultural education, explicitly aligned with national standards and based on research on K-12 practices found to improve K-12 student learning.
It also exemplifies all of the other features of institutionalization, scalability, and sustainability identified by Sherry (2002) and Billig (2001) at RMC Research Corporation. These are important factors for others to consider when building on the framework established by the TEN PT3 Catalyst Grant.
Table 1 Responsive Dissemination Model 1. Engage leadership Discuss how technology can help national organizations evolve and support their mission 2. Conduct outreach Recruit new partner organizations and disseminate information to organization leadership and members online, at planning meetings, and at institutes 3. Provide high quality Make the web-based toolset available to digital resources organization members, and incorporate examples of best practices, research studies, refereed articles and papers, book reviews, and other digital resources 4. Promote adoption Provide customized technical assistance to members who wish to use the toolset in their own work 5. Facilitate user Give users control over tools and resources and control elicit user feedback for continuous improvement and further customization 6. Empower users at all Stimulate information flow, building of common levels vision, and ongoing professional development among organization members
This work was funded through a 2000 Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) Catalyst Grant to the Teacher Education Network (TEN). The authors would like to thank Robert McLaughlin, co-director of the TEN Project, Drs. Bruce Havelock, Daniel Jesse, and Alice Krueger of RMC Research Corporation, Dr. Brent Wilson of the University of Colorado at Denver, and James Hensinger, formerly of BCR, for their valuable contributions to this article.
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RMC Research Corporation
Denver, CO USA
National Institute for Community Innovations
Montpelier, VT USA
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|Title Annotation:||innovations of Teacher Education Network|
|Publication:||Journal of Technology and Teacher Education|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2005|
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