Utilization of Communication Technologies to Facilitate Follow-up to On-site Professional Development
The primary research objective of the hypotheses-generating study focused on the viability of the communication technologies (Internet, e-mail, phone, and fax) as effective media for professional development. The central research question was: What impact does communication technology have on the facilitation of follow-up sessions to traditional on-site professional development? First, the study explored the facilitation of follow-up professional development for teachers in rural and underserved areas. Second, the research considered the type of communication technology that is best suited to the needs of teachers in rural and underserved areas. Third, the study investigated the impact of various factors, including technical skill with computer and related technologies and adequate equipment, on the utilization of communication technology as a means of continuing education. The findings indicated communication technologies were useful for follow-up to on-site professional development. However, inconsistent access to the Internet and e-mail at school was a barrier to their effective utilization. The participants indicated e-mail was the preferred mode of communication with other professionals. Differences in technical skill did not appear to negatively impact dialogue via communication technologies during the study. On the other hand, there were some equipment and server problems noted by the participants as barriers to consistent access to the Internet and e-mail. As a result of the research, the following hypotheses were generated: (a) e-mail is the most viable method of follow-up to on-site professional development to meet the needs of teachers in rural and underserved areas; (b) the actual typical availability of communication technologies to teachers in rural and underserved areas is less than is reported by administrators; and (c) access to the Internet is more problematic for rural and underserved teachers. Additional research should be conducted to develop distance professional development that fosters collaborative, reflective practice.