We wanted to know just that; so we asked researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to investigate. The research team conducted an online survey in March 2011 with 231 members of the DEN Leadership Council to determine how the DEN has affected their professional development, and their use of technology in their work.
Here’s just a a little bit of what we learned.
Nearly 90 percent of educators said that the DEN “tremendously” or “very much” contributed to their professional growth. “The evaluation of the DEN demonstrated the dedication and active involvement of its members, in particular the Leadership Council, and the intrinsic value of the educators’ network,” said Dr. Ilona Holland, lead researcher. “A vast majority (89 percent) of the 231 respondents stated that the DEN had a major impact on their professional growth. Nearly all reported that their use of technology had improved as a result of their involvement. The DEN clearly meets a need among educators through providing an opportunity for participants to share successes, receive meaningful and relevant support from each other as well as staff, and participate in a nurturing community of practice that helps them keep abreast of current educational advances.”
When asked what was most important to professional growth in their field, educators referenced building a network of colleagues, having access to great resources, getting new ideas about how to integrate technology, and being able to keep up with current trends. Respondents said that the DEN had helped them in every one of these areas. As one educator said best, “I literally have access to hundreds of the best tech educators in the world [through participation in the DEN community]. If I have a question, I can crowdsource for a solution or idea.”
In addition to providing professional development, respondents reported that the DEN had an extremely beneficial impact on how they used technology. Nearly all respondents (96.7 percent) reported that their technology use had improved and increased in some way as a result of their involvement with the DEN. “Personally and professionally, I am more excited about learning than I ever have been. I attribute it to my participation in the DEN,” shared one respondent.
Almost all educators reported facing challenges when integrating technology into their work, and over half (59.5 percent) reported that the DEN had been able to help them with those challenges. The most common challenge faced by members was getting “buy in” from others in their districts. An educator remarked, “Many colleagues feel comfortable approaching me for information about technology use because they know that I was recently a non-user. I give all of the credit for my change to my participation in the DEN community.”
Respondents were very active users of social media in their daily lives, and many respondents frequently used social media to interact with the DEN, with two-thirds using it to interact with the members at least once a month, and over half using it at least once a week. “This connection through social media has by far been the best professional development I have had as a teacher in my 22 years of teaching,” commented one educator. DEN members found social media useful for connecting with like-minded colleagues and sharing resources.
Want to learn more? Here’s the report!
To view the news release online, click here.