Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(4), 367-393.
New technologies now offer teachers alternative models of collaboration with schools overseas. However, how effective are they as professional development opportunities?
This study examined the experiences of 18 specialist primary and secondary teachers in the Teachers’ International Professional Development Program who visited schools in the USA as they set about establishing collaborative projects with their hosts. The focus was on the potential of such collaboration to engender professional development outcomes and to examine the circumstances enabling or impeding success.
The UK participants (8 women and 10 men) comprised 15 teachers (9 ICT coordinators, 4 other subject coordinators, 2 class teachers with additional responsibilities), 1 ICT suite manager/teaching assistant, and 2 primary school head teachers. Their minimum numbers of years in teaching was 2 and the maximum 32 years, with a mean of 14 years. Their minimum numbers of years using ICT in teaching was 2 and the maximum 21 years, with a mean of 9 years. They came from 4 secondary phase schools (for children aged 11 to 16/18 years), 1 special school for moderate learning difficulties (for children aged 5 to 11 years), 1 middle school (for children aged 9 to 13 years), and 10 primary phase schools (for children aged 5 to 11 years). The schools were all in the same broad
geographical area across three adjacent local authorities, encompassing a wide range of socioeconomic situations, school resourcing, and student ability.
Data were collected by means of questionnaires and interviews, both during the visit and for 20 months after return. A surprising finding was the small number of teachers who managed to start a collaborative project. One of the more frequently cited reasons for lack of progress was technical problems, and this was with a group of teachers who were information and communications technology specialists. Other inhibitory factors were lack of time and lack of funding. However, additional examination reveals other benefits arising from the exercise (e.g., in terms of professional development of a broader kind), including a range of factors that could maximize the success of future projects.