Similar to the suggestions offered by Gahala (2001), Brody (1995) identified several traits to be considered when developing a comprehensive professional development program. Among those traits include the reputation of the trainer, the rewards available to the participants, both tangible and intangible, and the support of the administration. Traditional staff development models have required everyone to participate at the same time and in the same location creating problems such as scheduling, travel, space, and funding. Bintrim (2002) notes that web-delivered staff development allows teachers to log on and participate at the time of day that is best for them and at the pace they are the most comfortable with.
Burke (1994) concluded that the use of effective distance education programs for K-12 staff development should be increased to supplement face-to-face in-services due to the positive evaluations of K-12 educators who participated in the electronic distance education in-service programs. However, other research reports that with the majority of school districts having computers in the classroom, libraries, and computer labs, the number of assignments given by teachers requiring students to utilize technology as part of their learning process is low, especially in the areas of language, science, and the arts both at the elementary and secondary levels (Cole & Styron, 2005). Additional studies have been conducted evaluating the effectiveness of technological development for staff. Poole and Moran (1998) identified several factors that contribute to the ineffectiveness of technology staff development. Those include the lack of support from administration, unawareness of what is needed in the schools, inadequate one-shot workshops with no follow-up, expense of training, and lack of continued support.
Research indicates that training teachers to use the technology provided to them is an important task, and the means by which this training takes place, online training or traditional face-to-face training, could have a substantial impact. Cole and Styron (2005) studied whether teachers were more likely to prefer online methods in lieu of traditional face-to-face methods of obtaining training on various topics pertaining to technology. The Cole and Styron (2005) study involved the use of a causal comparative design, whereas responses from 90 K-6 and 7-12 teachers who participated in at least one online module through TeacherLine (free professional development sponsored by PBS TeacherLine) were analyzed through a survey instrument to determine if there was a difference in attitudes of online professional development. The level of computer experience prior to participating in an online professional development session was a factor in analyzing data since the teachers' comfort levels with technology could affect their attitudes toward being involved in professional development that is based primarily on technology.
Cole and Styron (2005) investigated teachers' willingness to incorporate technology into their classrooms after participating in an online professional development session. They found that the vast majority of the respondents to the survey understood the benefits of using technology to enhance the learning and teaching experience and the value of using technology in the classroom after they participated in online professional development. The results also indicated that the preferred method of delivering this training is through online professional development with 89.1% of the teachers willing to participate in another online module through TeacherLine and 85.5% willing to participate in any form of online professional development. The above average and high range of responses to the question asking for the participants' preference of the online method of professional development totaled 56.4% while the same range of responses to their preference of the traditional face-to-face method of professional development indicated only 29.1% (Cole & Styron, 2005). The general response of the respondents when asked whether they prefer online professional development or the traditional face-to-face method, was online instruction. The results of the Cole and Styron (2005) study indicate that more professional development should be geared toward the online method of delivery.
As the literature in this area reveals, educational leaders must offer professional development opportunities geared strictly toward training teachers on how to involve the students in the use of technology. The workforce demands employees to use technology, and as a result, educational leaders must insist that students be required to become familiar with technology in their learning process. Furthermore, technologies offer teachers and students opportunities that would otherwise be extremely difficult to realize in classroom contexts. Assessment, information access, collaboration, and expression are four areas where educational technologies demonstrate particular promise (Egendorf, 2004). There is also a broad consensus among school reformers regarding the central importance of these issues for improving student achievement (Egendorf, 2004). Technologies also create new opportunities in which children can express and communicate their ideas. It is no longer uncommon for schools to encourage reports in multimedia format or for students to build web resources that can be used by others.
Educational strategies must be implemented for a better future. A 1999 report from Merrill Lynch estimated the established global education and training industry as worth more than 2 trillion dollars. The report concludes that the transformation to knowledge-based economy is creating more opportunities for four profit companies in the education and training sector and the investors that support them. At least 25 new e-learning offerings, companies or collaborations entered the market in early 2000 with many more planned from government initiatives, private sector investment or educational institutions, changing the way they do things. Emerging for profit companies and institutions of higher education are entering the e-learning arena as both partners and competitors in a race to provide the most up-to-date technology and expert content to it is customers.
Research by Cammack and Holmes (2002) indicates that the Internet plays a part in changing the classroom culture. Providing resources on the Internet means that teachers load a lot of what they do in class to the Internet so that students can explore challenges prior to class and then come more prepared to participate (Cammack & Holmes, 2002). Initiated at Vanderbuilt University, the Case Technologies to Enhance Literacy Learning (CTELL) project, a five-year interdisciplinary effort, seeks to extend the current notions of case-based, anchored instruction to positively impact preservice education and students' literacy achievement. The goal of the research project is to increase children's literacy achievement by combining cases with Internet technologies (Cammack & Holmes, 2002). This combination will provide teacher educators with a web-based case interface to be used with preservice literacy teachers (Cammack & Holmes, 2002).
One of the main research questions that the CTELL project addresses is how case-based materials designed with web-based technologies will significantly increase preservice teacher knowledge and later efficacy as teachers (Cammack & Holmes, 2002). The goal is to improve the literacy abilities of children in general with a focus on kindergarten through third grade, and to improve literacy achievement in the early grades by improving the preservice education that teachers currently receive (Cammack & Holmes, 2002).
Other research indicates the importance of team experience that provides background and a reference for discussing teaching and learning. The ability to randomly access scenes through digital technologies facilitates deeper understanding and discussion (Goldman & Barron, 1990). Preservice teachers and their instructor can return again and again to examples of literacy instruction to determine and analyze the factors involved in teacher-decision making and student literacy achievement (Risko, 1992). This analysis becomes a shared knowledge base that members of the class can use to understand the complexities of classroom instruction and begin to apply some of that understanding to their development as future teachers (Cammack & Holmes, 2002).
The federal government should also play an important role in educational technology with regard to leadership and funding. The United States Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology has provided critical leadership in helping promote a comprehensive vision for the effective use of technology in our schools (Egendorf, 2004). This office has defined and administered programs; convened national and regional conferences to bring together state and local technology leaders. The office has also compiled and disseminated a well-researched library of best-practices information, and put forward two national technology plans (Egendorf, 2004).
Other statistics indicate that school leaders today are under increasing public pressure to improve student achievement, as standards, assessments and accountability measures are in place in school districts across the nation. However, schools are unable to take full advantage of technology, a powerful tool for teaching and learning, according to a new survey from the National School Boards Foundation. The survey of technology decision makers in school districts nationwide reveals startling gaps between the promise and reality of technology use in schools (NSBF, 2002). This survey reveals that many school districts have made great progress, investing heavily in computers and software and in connecting schools and classrooms to the Internet. School leaders report strong interest in online resources that will help them satisfy the public priorities of standards, assessments and accountability.
The NSBF study was based on telephone interviews with technology decision-makers in 811 school districts, including 90 of the largest 100 districts (more than 25,000 students), 398 medium-sized districts (2,500 to 24,999…