The Problem with Technology Professional Development
Let’s take it as a given that teacher professional development in technology (and other areas) is essential. There are, however, some common complaints with how this is carried out. I’ve written another blog post about some of the mistakes I’ve personally made in this area. It comes down to this: Teachers are up to their eyeballs in work and have little patience for anything that doesn’t immediately address their needs. So teacher professional development needs to be:
- more focused around concrete take-aways.
- scheduled more flexibly.
- tailored to their skill-level with technology.
- validated by teachers that have implemented the skill and verify its usefulness.
Flipped, Opt-Out Content
This site is a keystone in our new approach to professional development in educational technology. Key lessons are developed first as online modules. Videos, guides and quizzes are all put online to allow a teacher to teach themselves about a new tool. Why would your average teacher make the time to take PD online? Well, those that have passed the course on this site are able to skip the otherwise required Monday morning professional development session. Quickly knocking out the training on their own time means they have a bonus prep period Monday morning. And it also means a smaller, more manageable group of teachers for the in-person tutorial.
The Role of the Instructional Technologist
Outside of my role in preparing PD content, I serve as an on-demand coach and solutions provider. Teachers can contact me with an idea for a project, hopeful that there’s some website or tool that will help. I track down a solution, (recently found a neat timeline tool for a History teacher) and help them implement it in class.
I also work with a team of teachers experimenting with new tech and techniques. Before I push a new tool to the faculty at large, I have this Vanguard group evaluate it and verify its value. They also serve as a key marketing tool for the technology initiative as a whole.
Build a Showcase
As much as possible, there should be no requirement that technology is used during lessons, (with exceptions like attendance, grades, and posting homework). Instead, teachers should be shown the practicality and the instructional benefits that technology offers. If those arguments are well made and the training is done comfortably, the adoption rate ought to progress steadily.
Those that implement the tools should be celebrated. Allowing teachers to share their experience in super short testimonials during faculty meetings is powerful: Teachers are encouraged to try it themselves because the recommendations are further validated and additional “expert” resources have just made themselves known.