Leveraging Technology to Change the Professional Development Landscape

My question related to ISTE Coaching standard 4b is “how do we provide technology rich professional learning programs” for teachers. Just as things have been slow to change in education, it’s been equally slow to change in professional development. We often still model traditional lecture style models that don’t embrace available technology tools or don’t utilize them in ways that mirror the blended, personalized, transformative learning environments that we want for our students.

In the conclusion of The National Educational Technology Plan there is a call for the following changes to Professional Development for Teachers:

  1. Provide pre-service and in-service educators with professional learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy and enable them to create compelling learning activities that improve learning and teaching, assessment, and instructional practices.
  2. Use technology to provide all learners with online access to effective teaching and better learning opportunities with options in places where they are not otherwise available.
  3. Develop a teaching force skilled in online and blended instruction.
  4. Develop a common set of technology competency expectations for university professors and candidates exiting teacher preparation programs for teaching in technologically enabled schools and post-secondary education institutions.

Each of these items require changing the structure of our Professional Development  toward, mastery and evidence based learning as well a providing teachers with the tools to personalize their learning and experience technology rich learning environments as a student. As the saying goes, “you teach the way you are taught”. We won’t develop new teachers who naturally think and teach differently until we produce a generation of students who had the chance to learn differently. The first step will be to shift the experiences our current teachers have in pre-service and inservice trainings so that they know what it looks and feels like to be part of a transformative, tech infused learning experience.

Transforming teaching practice is bigger than just including technology. There are certainly larger questions about pedagogy and what we can learn from the learning sciences research that will have a huge impact on teaching and learning in the future.  Jennifer Graff suggests in her paper Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments (Graff 2013) that there are three drivers that technology brings to the change process. First, it can open up opportunities to improve teaching and learning that weren’t available before. We don’t have to rely on just the experts in our districts for learning. Webinars, MOOCs and video conferencing and online learning can provide teachers with access to amazing experiences from experts in their fields. Secondly, adults without digital literacy skills will be at a disadvantage and she suggests will “suffer from a new digital divide” of adults who can function in a digital world and those that can’t. Finally, technology is an integral part of functioning and accessing “higher order competencies” that make it possible to be productive in today’s society.

She used ‘Morel’s Matrix” to evaluate technology in education based on the four stages (emerging, applying, integrating, and transforming) to look at a number of areas but the one that stuck out to me was the one on Professional Development. Transformational PD involves integration, innovation, self-management on the part of the learners and involves a personal vision and plan (Graff 2013).   

When you put that together with the recommendations of the National Technology Plan it seems like there are four main things that an Technology-Rich professional learning environment needs to have:

  1. Clarity of Professional Competencies and Expectations – It’s difficult to develop personal vision and plans as a teacher if the overall direction is not clear. If organizations can develop professional competencies, teachers (both pre-service and inservice) would be able to set achievable goals and work towards mastery. Once mastery is achieved, it would be easier to set more innovative goals with the confidence of having the skills and abilities to meet them.
  2. Teach skills the same way they’ll be used; integrated into content areas and using blended and personalized delivery methods. Teach to the ’why’ first. Model professional development that teaches content and best instructional practice with the inclusion of technology to support and enhance the learning so that teachers understand why it’s useful. If it’s something that they’ve experienced that makes a powerful difference in their learning they will be motivated to learn how to do it so they can offer the same experience to their students.
  3. Use technology to provide choice, learning flexibility (i.e. time, place, duration, learning styles) and access to quality learning opportunities.
  4. Make use of professional networks and learning communities to expand learning opportunities outside the classroom or school and to access innovative ideas and resources.

 

References

Conclusion – Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Office of Educational Technology. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/conclusion/

Groff, J. (2013). Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments. Oecd.org. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/Technology-Rich%20Innovative%20Learning%20Environments%20by%20Jennifer%20Groff.pdf

 

Differentiating Professional Development for Teachers

I’ve been an Instructional Technology TOSA for 3 years. I love teaching teachers and sharing my passion for technology in the classroom with others. What I haven’t been fond of, is trying to find the right way to offer PD. We’ve tried the district wide invites to trainings after school and gotten 3 people to show up, we’ve done building level training by teacher request and gotten 3-5 people, we’ve modeled in classrooms, we’ve sent out newsletters, made videos, trained select teachers in the buildings, created building leaders, worked with year long cohorts to develop human capacity, etc. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made huge strides and seem to narrowing in on the things that work best for us and we continue to try to adapt and make changes to meet our teachers needs but I’m not sure we’ve hit on the answers to a few critical questions. In light of the new ESSA definition of professional development, it’s time to take a new look at answering these questions:

  1. How do we scaffold learning for teachers? – I like the idea of professional development being broken down into three phases: Knowing, Doing and Experiencing. The Knowing is understanding the why of using a tool, a instructional  strategy or process. It gets to purpose and gets teachers excited about how something can help their students or change their teaching. The Doing is the skill building, what skills does a teacher need to do that project with their students or use that strategy? If they are excited enough about the why, the hope is that there will be some motivation to learn the skills needed to successfully implement and that they’ll seek out some of that learning if you make it available to them. The Experiencing is the elusive transferability of those skills to other projects and building the confidence and automaticity with a tool or skill that will make it easier to take a risk with other tech learning.
  2. How to we make it relevant for teachers? – Large group tech trainings are almost destined for frustration on the part of some participants. Either you are moving too fast or too slow for someone and half of them know what you are covering already and are waiting for something new. How do we keep it relevant and personalized  for all learners in a training without having to do everything one-on-one.
  3. How do we make it hands on? – I think part of this is making sure that our teachers are experiencing rich, tech infused PD… as a student. They need that perspective and they need to see trainers model what it can look like to use technology to teach with all the strategies they know are best practice as well as model dealing with the occasional troubleshooting issue. We can’t have more “sit and get” sessions to teach blended learning. It just doesn’t make sense.
  4. How do we make the learning sustainable over time? I run into teachers at grade levels between 3rd and 9th grade who feel that they have to teach Powerpoint because the students “don’t know how to do it”. I’d argue that the older students probably do and just need a reminder or their friends will help them figure it out. The bigger issue is how do we help students revisit skills regularly enough that things like Powerpoint are just tools that a student pulls out of their pocket when the teacher gives them a choice of how they want to present their learning. And how do we do the same thing for teachers with our PD so that they aren’t “relearning” a tool every time they need to use it.

There is a model called H.A.C.K. Model of Innovative Instruction out of the Doceo Center  of Northwest Nazarene University. They’ve created a system for teaching using something similar to the SAMR model that stretches the Professional Development for teachers out over time and pushes them to use the same tools to provide more and more choice and sophistication for students. The short version is that they would teach teachers how to use one tool in their classroom until they were comfortable with it and then move onto another. Once they had two or three under their belt, they’d start learning to teach students to make choices between the right tools for the job and apply them to new projects. Eventually, they’d lead them to teaching the students to use the same tools to mix, remix or create their own projects. The tools don’t necessarily change a whole lot through the year but the way they are used might become more sophisticated. If we could start doing something like that with teachers and teaching them some core technology skills and tools appropriate for their grade level, maybe we could continue to encourage them to use those same tools in new ways. It’s something to think about.

Community Engagement Project – Differentiating Instruction for Teachers

The conclusion I came to after the thinking I’ve done this quarter in my Digital Education Leadership Program is that we have to find a way to start looking at how we can differentiate professional learning opportunities for teachers. I’ll acknowledge that there are differences between K-12 students and Adult Learners, although, as I posted in a previous blog post (Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders) the differences aren’t as wide as you’d think. They still need choice, they would rather do than listen, they don’t want to waste their time learning something they already know or that doesn’t apply to them and they want to talk to each other, collaborate, and engage with the learning in different ways.

I choose to submit my workshop proposal (Differentiating Professional Development for Teachers)  to NCCE 2018 because it’s local and I’ve presented before. Talking to my colleagues at that conference has become part of my professional development for the year and I’d like to get more involved. I chose a 2 hour workshop model because I want to model what I’m suggesting about differentiated Professional Development. I’d like the chance for my participants to experience that kind of PD as a “student”.

I’m using Canvas because my district is using it and the “how to” videos I’m hoping to host in KyteLearning.com, which is a new video learning platform our district is beginning to use to provide on demand training for a variety of common software tools as well as custom content we’ll create for our own uses.

The topic I chose to model with is a PD around the topic of Video/Web Conferencing. I chose it because it’s applicable across grade levels and content areas. I’ll start with a discussion around the new ESSA definition of professional development. There will be lots of opportunities built in for interaction by the participants because I’m curious if their understandings of the legislation are different than my interpretation.

When we are ready to model differentiated PD the participants will have the chance to take a quick quiz which will guide them one of three pages in the Canvas course I created. The beginning group will watch some videos about the basics of video/web conferencing and how to set them up. The second group will have had some previous experience or knowledge and will spend their time with me talking more about their experiences, how to prepare students for a successful conference and they will work together to come up with some video conference ideas. The third group will hopefully have done a video/web conference before and will participate an independent group to discuss how to use video/web conferencing to redefine projects and lessons, how to get students more involved in planning and hosting them and will also work on planning some lesson ideas to share.

All the groups will be actively contributing to a shared doc where they can leave their contact information if they want to work together after the workshop to collaborate with teachers in other districts to actually put some of their ideas into practice. The ideas will also be there to look at later.

As an added bonus, we’ve been talking a lot this quarter about accessibility. I’m putting a module at the end of the course that will contain some resources for creating accessible content. It’s under construction but I did create this first video that is closed captioned.

I’m excited about the possibilities although I suspect it will a lot of work at first as I’m figuring out how to make this a reality for PD in my own district. I’m hoping that as the conference rolls around in February I’ll have a much better feel for how this actually will work and can share some of the things I learned with the workshop participants.