Why I Share

David Wiley:

For me, for my students, and for the informal students who looked in on or participated in the course outside my university, this “open teaching” was better than a two-for-one. It was a thousand-for-one. When the costs of “open teaching” (freely allowing people outside the university to view course materials and informally participate in the course) are so low, I ask myself a question. Do we professors, who live rather privileged lives relative to the vast majority of the planet’s population, have a moral obligation to make our teaching efforts as broadly impactful as possible, reaching out to bless the lives of as many people as we can? Especially when participatory technologies make it so inexpensive (almost free) for us to do so?

I believe the answer is yes.
As do I.

For that reason, I pose the same questions to professional developers that David has to professors above - and plan on studying the impact of open professional development environments on teachers. What follows is the first chapter in my dissertation proposal. Fun, I know.

I welcome any feedback you might be willing to give and hope you'll find the mistakes I may have overlooked.

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A number of elements have combined in the educational landscape to make teaching and learning in the 21st Century exhilarating and strikingly different than ever before. Not only are students and teachers afforded different opportunities for learning in the formal classroom, there now exists a large body of learning possibilities through the access of open educational resources (OER) and additional information freely shared online (Hylén, 2005; Johnstone, 2005; Downes, 2007). The utilization of OER is rapidly gaining traction in K-16 environments worldwide (Brown and Adler, 2008).

In addition to the educational resources that might be labeled as OER, modern collaborative technologies can provide meaningful learning experiences (Parker and Chao, 2007; Boulos, 2006). Specifically, social software provides an array of powerful information and collaboration components, acting as cognitive reflection and amplification tools by assisting in the construction of meaning (Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999).

Wherein the term ‘social software’ is used in many different contexts (and the assortment of technologies covered by the term are not necessarily developed for educational purposes), Terry Anderson’s (2005) definition of “educational social software” (p. 4) is particularly relevant. Educational social software exists within the context of distance education as a growing set of “networked tools that support and encourage individuals to learn together while retaining individual control over their time, space, presence, activity, identity and relationship” (p. 4; see also Belderrain, 2006). Such pedagogical tools can provide a learning experience unparalleled in educational environments past (Dalsgaard, 2006).

To continue, in spite of the learning opportunities that students might have outside of their formal schooling with OER, educational social software, and other educational technologies, there still exists a need to improve the pedagogy found within our schools. To that end, a number of researchers have maintained that the quality of what teachers know and can do has the greatest impact on student learning (Ferguson, 1991; Ferguson and Ladd, 1996; Wenglinsky, 2000, 2002; Darling-Hammond, 2000; Muijs and Reynolds, 2000). Furthermore, Supovitz and Turner (2000) have put forth logic that is difficult to refute:
The implicit logic of focusing on professional development as a means of improving student achievement is that high quality professional development will produce superior teaching in classrooms, which will, in turn, translate into higher levels of student achievement. (p. 965)
Moreover, while some have contended that teacher professional development can lead to an increase in teacher efficacy (Ingvarson, Meiers, and Beavis, 2005), others consider the training and professional development of teachers as the keystone to educational improvement (Hawley & Valli, 1999). In any case, such experiences designed to help teachers grow, are generally created to assist teachers in the learning of new skills, knowledge, and attitudes to support students’ learning and teachers’ own performance at a high level (Miller, Smith, & Tilstone, 1998). Indeed, teacher professional development is very important.

In considering the kinds of professional learning and interactions that can occur online, Bill Ferriter (2009) has argued that technology has made it easy for educators to embrace continual professional development. While describing how he has personally utilized blogs and wikis to create a “uniquely authentic” (p. 35) learning environment, he states:
Specifically, thousands of accomplished educators are now writing blogs about teaching and learning, bringing transparency to both the art and the science of their practice. In every content area and grade level and in schools of varying sizes and from different geographical locations, educators are actively reflecting on instruction, challenging assumptions, questioning policies, offering advice, designing solutions, and learning together. (p. 35)
Through the networked connections inherent to learning with emerging social technologies, teachers are now able to reflect, collaborate, and participate in a form of professional development regardless of geographic and other constraints. Additionally, educational social software aids in the promulgation of the original vision of the Internet as a space wherein all people might participate (Schaffert, Gruber, & Westenthaler, 2006).

A New Genre of Teacher Professional Development

Beginning in September 2007, a new genre of teacher professional development was developed that allowed teachers of various levels, subject areas, and cultural backgrounds to participate in the same formal class at the same time, regardless of geographic location, and without monetary costs to participants (Draper, 2007). The classes, termed OpenPD, or Open Professional Development (OPD) were built upon several key principles, largely centered on the foundation of open education (Downes, 2007; McLoughlin & Lee, 2008) with its many dimensions and numerous interpretations (Iiyoshi and Kumar, 2008). Furthermore, the classes were dependent upon the collaborative technologies available through social software and were designed to “teach social software using social software” (Draper and Ellis, 2008; Roblyer and Edwards, 2000). Since the inception of OpenPD, a number of similar open, synchronous, professional development efforts have ensued that have relied heavily upon educational social software not only for content distribution but also for direct delivery of instruction (see for example, Jones, 2008; Couros, 2009).

According to its creators, OpenPD was chiefly designed with a number of characteristics at its definitive core (Draper, 2008):
  • Open enrollment (all that desire are welcome to participate).
  • Free of charge to participants.
  • Combines the established tradition of sharing good ideas with fellow educators and the collaborative, interactive culture of the Internet.
  • Built on the belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint.
With several successful iterations having been completed and a growing population of interested participants, OpenPD has given teachers a learning experience different than more traditional approaches (see Viegas-Reimers, 2003; Borko, 2004; Viegas-Reimers, 2003). Furthermore, it has advanced the field in making significant strides toward the realization of the recommendations set forth by Stuessy and Metty in 2007 that “professional development providers acknowledge the power of communication and feedback in dissolving the traditional boundaries by which they normally define themselves” (p. 746. See also Knight and Boudah, 2003; Borko, 2004).

Problem Statement

Because professional development has been shown to improve teacher efficacy, it is vital that ways to improve the methods that are used to help teachers learn are identified. Furthermore, since few (if any) studies have been conducted that analyze the combination of open education as it applies to teacher professional development and the modern collaborative technologies of the Internet, more research is needed in this area.


The purpose of this mixed-methods experimental study is to determine the impact that OPD environments have on teacher attitudes toward technology use and their utilization specifically of social software in the classroom.

The following questions will guide the study:
  1. How do teacher attitudes toward technology use in the classroom change while participating in OpenPD?
  2. What impact does OpenPD have on teacher utilization of social software in the classroom?
  3. What do teachers learn by participating in OPD that isn’t specifically covered by the explicit topic(s) at hand?
Literature Review

A substantive, thorough, and sophisticated literature review is the antecedent to any successful research endeavor (Boote and Beile, 2005). Therefore, an analysis of the literature in connection with this study will:
  • Include a historical review of the origins and principles of open education and (educational) social software.
  • Consist of an overview of the literature associated with teacher professional development, linked methods, and procedures.
  • Contain a summary of the literature in connection with factors affecting teacher attitude.
  • Discuss the concepts of communities of practice and communities of interest as they have been established in the literature.
  • Highlight key understandings of educational change theory as they apply to this study.
  • Anderson, T. (2005). Distance learning – social software's killer ap? ODLAA 2005 Conference. Retrieved July 11, 2009 from http://www.unisa.edu.au/odlaaconference/PPDF2s/13%20odlaa%20-%20Anderson.pdf
  • Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153.
  • Boote, D. & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher 34(6), 3-15.
  • Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3–15.
  • Boulos, M. N. K., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: A new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education, BMC Medical Education, 6(41).
  • Brown, J. S. & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on fire: Open education, the long tail and learning 2.0. EDUCAUSE Review, 43(1), 16–32. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0811.pdf
  • Couros, A. (2009). Open, connected, social – implications for educational design. Campus-Wide Information Systems 26(3), 232-239.
  • Dalsgaard, Christian (2006, July 12): Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning (EURODL). Retrieved July 2, 2009 from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Christian_Dalsgaard.htm
  • Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teacher quality and student achievement: A review of state policy evidence. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8(1).
  • Downes, S. (2007). Models for sustainable open educational resources. National Research Council, Canada. Retrieved June 13, 2009, from http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/3/5/36781698.pdf
  • Draper, D. (2007, September 6). Open professional development – A whole new level. Drape’s Takes weblog. Retrieved June 24, 2009 from http://drapestakes.blogspot.com/2007/09/open-professional-development-whole-new.html
  • Draper, D. (2008, February 7). Open professional development – A definition. Drape’s Takes weblog. Retrieved July 3, 2009 from http://drapestakes.blogspot.com/2008/02/open-professional-development.html
  • Draper, D. & Ellis, R. (2008). Open professional development [Video file]. Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0qsdzxz0UM
  • Ferguson, R. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation 28(2), 465–498.
  • Ferguson, R.F. & Ladd, H.F. (1996). How and why money matters: An analysis of Alabama schools. In Holding Schools Accountable: Performance Based Reform in Education, Brookings Institute: Washington, DC.
  • Ferriter, B. (2009). Learning with blog and wikis. Educational Leadership, 66(5), 34-38.
  • Hawley, W., & Valli, L. (1999). The essentials for effective professional development:A new consensus. In L. Darling-Hammond & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice (pp. 127-150). San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.
  • Hylén, J. (2005). Open educational resources: Opportunities and challenges. OECD-CERI. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/1/49/35733548.doc
  • Iiyoshi, T. & Kumar, V. (2008). Opening Up Education: the collective advancement of education through open technology, open content, and open knowledge, Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press.
  • Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, A. (2005, January 29). Factors affecting the impact of professional development programs on teachers’ knowledge, practice, student outcomes & efficacy. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(10).
  • Johnstone, S. M. (2005). Open educational resources serve the world. Educause Review. Retrieved June 23, 2009, from http://www.educause.edu/apps/eq/eqm05/eqm0533.asp
  • Jonassen, D.H., Peck, K.L., & Wilson, B.G. (1999). Learning with technology: A constructivist perspective. Columbus, OH: Prentice Hall.
  • Jones, J. (2008, July 30). You’re Invited! Online Show and Tell Thursday, 11:00 AM PST. INJENUITY weblog. Retrieved July 9, 2009 from http://injenuity.com/?p=262
  • Knight, S. L., & Boudah, D. J. (2003). The impact of teachers’ participation in collaborative research on secondary students’ classroom behaviors, engagement. In D. Wiseman & S. Knight (Eds.), The impact of school–university collaboration and K-12 student outcomes (pp. 151–165). New York: AACTE.
  • McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. (2008). Future learning landscapes: transforming pedagogy through social software. Innovate 4(5).
  • Miller, C., Smith, C. & Tilstone, C. (1998). Professional development by distance education: Does distance lend enhancement? Cambridge Journal of Education 28(2), 221-230.
  • Muijs, D. & Reynolds, D. (2000). School effectiveness and teacher effectiveness in mathematics. Some preliminary findings from the evaluation of the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (Primary). School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 11(3), 273–303.
  • Parker, K. R. & Chao, J. T. (2007). Wiki as a teaching tool. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 3, 57-72.
  • Roblyer, M. D., & Edwards, J. (2000). Integrating educational technology into teaching (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Schaffert, S., Gruber, A. & Westenthaler, R. (2006). A semantic wiki for collaborative knowledge formation. In S. Reich, G. Güntner, T. Pellegrini, A. & Wahler (Eds.): Semantic Content Engineering. Austria: Trauner Verlag.
  • Stuessy, C. L. & Metty, J. S. (2007). The learning research cycle: Bridging research and practice. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18, 725-750.
  • Supovitz, J. A., & Turner, H. M. (2000). The effects of professional development on science teaching practices and classroom culture. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(9), 963–980.
  • Viegas-Reimers, E. (2003). Teacher professional development: an international review of the literature. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO.
  • Wenglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into the discussions about teacher quality. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
  • Wenglinsky, H. (2002). How schools matter: The link between teacher classroom practices and student academic performance. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(12).

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