The Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) Model- Stages of Concern

One of the main goals of educational-technology professional development (ETPD) is enhancing student learning and achievement. In order to achieve this objective, teachers need support, training, curriculum assistance, innovative ideas, and new teaching methods/ practices. To improve student learning, instruction needs to change. Teachers need to have a positive view about technology integration into their curriculum and a strong support team where their technical and pedagogical needs are met.

For learning and teaching to improve, an effective and meaningful professional development needs to be established in schools and/or districts. In other words, professional development is vital to effective technology use. According to the National Staff Development Council (NSCD), there are three ways to improve student achievement: (1) "increasing teacher content knowledge," (2) "changing teachers' attitudes about their content areas," (3) "expanding the teacher's repertoire of instructional practices" (Borthwick & Pierson, 2008, pg. 11).

Due to the rapid growth of instructional technology during the past two decades, many theoretical models have emerged that describe the "developmental levels of teachers' progress in learning to teach with technology over a period of time, including changes in instructional practices, attitudes, concerns and adoption of innovations" (Borthwick & Pierson, 2008, pg. 12). These theoretical models provide an understanding for professional developers to integrate a successful framework for effective technology use in schools or districts.

One theoretical model that addresses the developmental stages of teachers' progress in learning to teach with technology is the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) model, Stages of Concern. Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow is a collaboration- initiated in 1985- among public schools, universities and Apple Computer, Inc. "In ACOT classrooms, students and teachers have immediate access to a wide range of technologies" (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1990, pg. 1). Technology is seen as a powerful, learning tool. Technology becomes a medium for thinking, new ideas and practices, collaboration, and communication. Research has demonstrated that the "introduction of technology to classrooms can significantly increase the potential for learning, especially when it is used to support collaboration, information access, and the expression and representation of students' thoughts and ideas" (Sandholtz et. all., 1990, pg. 1).

During its ten-year research project (1985-1995), the ACOT teachers infused technology in all aspects of teaching. Using technology as a motivator for change, they enriched their lessons and transformed assignments into collaborative learning activities. An outcome that resulted from the study was a set of five Stages of Concern of individual teachers as they progressed through certain stages as they incorporated meaningful technology into teaching and learning in their classrooms. The five stages are:
  1. Entry- At this stage, teachers do not have much experience with technology. They are learning the basics of technology; their knowledge base may be at a mechanical level.
  2. Adoption- At this stage, teachers begin to develop more fluency with technology. Teachers' concerns begin to "shift from connecting the computers to using them...their interactions [have] increased but revolved around providing technical assistance" (Sandholtz, et al., 1991, pg. 6).
  3. Adaptation- At this stage, teachers begin to notice changes in student learning and engagement. Their teaching methods are supported with technology. "Teachers increasingly incorporated technology in their instruction" (Ashburn & Floden, 2006, pg. 286).
  4. Appropriation- At this stage, teachers' confidence begin to grow. Their pedagogical approaches are innovative and they are more creative creating real tasks. They focus more on cooperative, project-based learning. "They come to understand technology and use it effortlessly to accomplish real work- their roles begin to shift noticeably and new instructional patterns emerge... teachers begin to reflect on teaching, to question old patterns, to speculate about causes behind the changes they are seeing in their students" (Ashburn & Floden, 2006, pg. 287).
  5. Invention- At this stage, teachers have more freedom and creativity with technology. They invent and re-invent the uses of technology in their teaching. Technology has become part of teacher knowledge and pedagogy.

As mentioned earlier, for ETPD to be effective and meaningful, it needs to provide an encouraging and supportive environment where teachers' needs are met. Sandholtz et. al., outline the types of support teachers require during the stages.
Emotional Support
Emotional Support & Technical Assistance
Emotional Support, Technical Assistance & Instructional Sharing
Emotional Support, Technical Assistance, Instructional Sharing & Collaboration
Emotional Support, Technical Assistance, Instructional Sharing & Collaboration
Emotional support involves sharing frustrations, successes and providing encouragement. Technical Assistance involves managing & using equipment, locating software, and dealing with technical problems. Instructional sharing involves discussing instructional strategies, sharing ideas, and observing instruction. Finally, collaboration involves joint planning team, team teaching, developing new methods, and interdisciplinary teaching.

As the 21st century technologies are becoming more fast-paced and complex, students need to develop the necessary skills to succeed in today's global society. The integration of an effective ETPD is critical because it equips teachers with the skills they need to empower the students. Professional developers need to conduct constant research to learn more about innovative ideas and practices. The ACOT model is a great approach to guide professional development because it provides teachers more than technical assistance. It provides teachers with new instructional practices/ methods. The model teaches one how to enhance curriculum with the use of technology.

Suggested activities
  1. After learning about the ACOT model, how can you use this information to support technological change and innovation at your school site or within your district?
  2. How does this information change, support or challenge your thinking about the type of professional development your school site implements?
  3. Read one of the "Suggested Resources" and think about how professional development can gear teachers to develop more student-centered activities?

Suggested links/ resources
ACOT. (2007). Apple classrooms of tomorrow. Retrieved November, 2011, from

Common, D. (1983) Who should have the power to change schools: Teachers or policy makers? Education-Canada, 23(2), 40-45.

Dwyer, D., Ringstaff, C., & Sandholtz, J.H. (1990) The Evolution of Teachers’ Instructional Beliefs and Practices in High-Access-to-Technology Classrooms. (Paper presented at the
annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, 1990.)

Sandholtz, J.H., Ringstaff, C., Dwyer, D.C. (1997). Teaching with Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.

Dwyer D., et al. (1995). Changing the Conversion About Teaching Learning & Technology- A Report on 10 years of ACOT Research. (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, 1995.) Apple Computer Inc.

Dwyer D., Ringstaff, C., Sandholtz, J.D. (1990). Apple Classroom of Tomorrow, Report 8, Teacher Beliefs and Practices Part I: Patterns of Change. The Evolution of Teachers’ Instructional Beliefs and Practices in High-Access-to-Technology Classrooms. (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, 1990.)

Ashburn, E.A., Floden, R. (2006). Meaningful Learning using Technology New York: Teachers College Press.

Borthwick, A., Pierson, M. (2008). Excerpt: Transforming Classroom Practice Professional Development Strategies in Educational Technology. International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Ringstaff C., Yocam K., Marsh, J., (1996). Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, Report 22, Integrating Technology into Classroom Instruction: An Assessment of the Impact of the ACOT Teacher Development Center Project. (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, 1996.)
Apple Computer Inc.

Sandholtz, J.D., Ringstaff C., Dwyer, D. (1991). Apple Classroom of Tomorrow Research, Report 13, The Relationship between Technological Innovation and Collegial Interaction.
Apple Computer Inc. (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, 1991.) Apple Computer Inc.

-----------, (1991). Teaching in high-tech environments: Classroom Management Revisited. Apple Computer Inc., (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, Boston, 1991.)