Teachers are professionals who work in complex environments that are constantly evolving, within unique contexts, requiring consistent action, evaluation and reflection. A defining characteristic of any profession is the imperative to participate in ongoing professional learning in order to ensure that practice is conducted on a solid foundation of current knowledge in the field. For example, we expect doctors, lawyers or engineers to be familiar with the latest practices within their fields of expertise, and likewise teachers should also continue to update their knowledge so that their teaching practice continually improves. Some consensus is emerging in relation to the types of professional learning that are most salient for improving teacher practice with new technologies. In this chapter we discuss these key aspects and develop a model to illustrate the components of effective professional learning for teaching with technology.
There is a growing body of literature concerning the most effective methods of professional learning for teachers, recognising that ‘teacher learning and development is a complex process’ (Avalos, 2011, p. 17). This chapter focuses on current, research-based practices to support the professional learning of teachers. In particular, it highlights how professional learning is most effective when teachers are engaged with other teachers in conversations about both the task of teaching and how students learn; for example, within an inquiry-based or action research framework. With regard to educational technology, while teachers can be trained to use software or hardware, several decades of failing to meet expectations has proven that simple technical training does not lead to effective use of the technology in the classroom. Teaching is an intimate interaction between the identity of the teachers, their values and beliefs about students, learning, the curriculum, the content, and more. It is also dependent on the school culture, the students, access, and other factors. Obviously, if we expect technology to be used in the classroom we need to accept that the most important role of professional learning activities is to help teachers find a meaningful place for the technology in their professional practice. Clearly, this takes time. As a consequence, professional learning is arguably best facilitated when it is ongoing and involves other teachers, such as in learning communities. Research has also shown that inquiry-based learning, when teachers become researchers, is particularly powerful in reshaping their practice.