Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Tim Smith

Tim Smith has a split personality. He works for the Collaborative for Teaching and Learning in Louisville, Kentucky and The Galef Institute in Los Angeles, California. At the Collaborative, he coordinates technology issues with programs related to teacher professional development and student learning. Tim also works as a technology/media coach for The Galef Institute in a middle grades research project issued by the US Department of Education. Tim is also a doctoral student focusing on educational technology at Pepperdine University.

Tim's Perspective

Role of Technology in Education

Many educators see technology as the silver bullet for reforming the way students learn in the classroom. Many districts purchase state of the art computer labs, classroom workstations and media studios with the hope that student learning will increase as a result of all of this "stuff". Many researchers are finding that the "if we build it they will come" implementation of educational technology does not hold water. In my experience, access to innovative learning tools is part of the solution but the real improvement in student learning comes from a change in teacher practice. Technology only serves as a tool in this process. Before technology is used effectively teachers must believe/practice the following pedagogical understandings: Within a unit of study that is relevant and standards-based, students demonstrate their learning by exploring what they already know about the subject, they get smarter through research, they become an expert and they make connections to the standards. The Galef Institute calls this the "Learning Cycle". There is a place for technology in each phase of the Learning Cycle. Students can use technology to view art or images from the World Wide Web to trigger the access of prior knowledge. They may use the Internet to conduct research by emailing experts in the field, access web sites, and use TAPPED IN and other Internet applications to get smarter. Students may use hypermedia (PowerPoint, web site development and/or Hyperstudio) to show that they have become an expert in the content that they are investigating. Finally, students can use TAPPED IN to collaborate and make connections and go deeper in their learning.

How I have used TAPPED IN?

I have used TAPPED IN to support current/traditional teacher professional development workshops, team meetings among colleagues that reside in different parts of the country, informal connections between educators and friends.

One of TAPPED IN's functions is as a stand-alone tool to facilitate professional growth among members. Another powerful function is to use TAPPED IN as part of a hybrid model for professional development. This model extends "traditional" face-to-face workshops with synchronous and asynchronous communication throughout the change process. The elements of this model are the following:

Departments of Education and other organizations throughout the country utilize the "sit and get" version of professional development. Most of these workshop-based opportunities are not effective because participants need continuous support to change their practice in the classroom. TAPPED IN is an excellent tool to help foster a community of practice that aids educators to maintain the conversations needed to persist in changing their classroom practices.