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.

Local Collaboration Project: The Landmark Games

The Landmark Games

This was a fun project that I did for my Global Collaborative Project for EDTC 6103 as part of my Digital Education Leadership program.

Phase 1: Connection

I decided on the Landmark Games because it tied to the Ancient Civilizations units the 6th grade classes were studying and I knew I had some awesome teachers from my Future Ready Teacher Cohort that I could count on to help me out with the project who would be willing to take a risk.

I initially sent out a global e-mail to the cohort:

The links were to various resources they could use to look at projects or video conferencing options so, in case they weren’t interested now, they could possibly take a look later.

6 various 6th grade teachers, plus a few librarians and other cohort members contacted me back. Since I had the most 6th grade teachers I chose them for the project. I did get video cameras to two librarians who were going to have their 1st grade classes meet and share stories by Skype and I’m going to work with one this spring to look at Mystery Skypes as well.

I followed up with the sixth grade teachers and added a few others I thought might be interested in playing:

In the end we are scheduled to have 4 teachers from 3 schools participate on June 5th and 6th (see execution phase for changes to the original plan)

Phase 1: Connection Reflection

I believe this project relates to ISTE Teacher Standard 1d: Model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments. Not only will the students have to work together to collaboratively come up with clues to their own landmark but they’ll have to problem solve together to try and figure out the clues to identify the three other classes landmarks. Mysteries of any kind are generally more intriguing to students and they’ll need to use their background knowledge of the cultures and geography they studied to find the answers.

In ISTE Teacher standard 5a I think this project could be a big step to getting schools to work together. My Future Ready Teacher Cohort members work together once a month but then never see each other. I’m seriously considering getting them all webcams next year just so they can talk face to face in order to collaborate. Our district is very spread geographically and this could be a very interesting way to get them “participating in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.”

Phase 2: Design

I sent out the first iteration of my Global Collaborative Project proposal to them in this form:

OK, I think we’ve got 6 players (although I haven’t heard for sure from Larisa or Lane) from three different schools. That’s probably a good enough number so that it’ doesn’t take forever to share clues. Here’s what I’m thinking for the actual activity day (it’s from my project proposal). Once I get cameras and Skype set up we’ll have the 7 of us meet by video chat to test it and firm up details of the project and decide on the reflection questions. I’m working on that for next week. Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions. I want this to be workable for you. Let me know if there is anything that doesn’t make sense. You’ll be able to keep the webcam for other projects but may be asked to share within your building until we can start getting more available.

Timeframe: Late May. One class period will need to be spent on prep, choosing their landmark, creating clues and choosing roles prior to the game. The actual Skype sessions will happen on one day in three sections that I’m hoping we can keep to 30 min each, especially if we use a collaborative doc.

Activity details:

  1. Prep: Each class will need to choose an ancient landmark from one of the areas they’ve studied this year. They will create 3 clues that fit the following criteria: 1) one coordinate (latitude or longitude), 2) at least 1 relevant associated historical date (could be in the context of a historical event) from the time period the ancient landmark was built, 3) hemisphere related clue. If subject matter such as math or history is used to give clues, it should fall within the reasonable knowledge area of the students studies. Clues should be fact based as much as possible. The Landmark must exist or have existed at one time in history on planet earth. This work needs to be done prior to Landmark day.
  2. On the Landmark day, the classes will meet on Skype in the morning. They will have 2 minutes each to introduce their class to everyone (could be video, student presentation or something to share a little about their school). All students will have nametags on to save time having to introduce individuals.
  3. Each class will have approximately 3 minutes to share their clues. Students can take notes but someone in the class will be adding their clues to the collaborative doc at the same time so no time is wasted having to repeat the question so everyone can write it down.
  4. The Skype session will end and the teams will have 60 minutes in their own classes to investigate, research and come up with additional questions for the other teams. Each team should come up with more than one question so if someone else asks it they can move to the next one. Each classroom can ask 5 questions but they can choose who they want to ask. If they want to focus on only one or two teams they can ask more than one of a particular team. The questions will be added to thecollaborative doc so everyone has access after the question phase. The teams will also need to answer the questions of course.
  5. The second Skype session will end and the students will have until the end of the day to finish their research and put together their guesses. The guesses will go into a separate collaborative doc that only the teachers can see.
  6. Toward the end of the day, we’ll get together for one last Skype session and each class will have 5 minutes to share their Landmark. They can create a poster, a video presentation, or just share. The reveal must include the following: 1) Picture of the landmark, 2) Three things that are historically significant about the landmark, and 3) Explain why they chose it. If there is time, they can add info about famous people or events related to the landmark or any other information they learned that they want to share.
  7. We’ll tally the results and see who was able to figure out the most landmarks. Perhaps there will be donuts for the winning class 🙂
  8. Students will take a short reflection survey at the end to give myself and the teachers some feedback.

I asked the Technology Director to order me 12 webcams so that I had some available for the participants. I wanted to get them out early enough that we could Skype for our first meeting, both for practice and because we were in a time crunch at this time of year. At this point I heard back from two of the teachers who didn’t feel like they had the time to do this project from my original 6.

I wish you could have seen our first Skype call. I wish I’d thought to take pictures. They were having a great time talking to each other and it was so much easier to do it this way than to ask all of them to meet me at the main office or for all of us to have to get to one school. It was an efficient way to meet.

  1. We picked a couple of sets of dates as options May 30 and 31st and June 5th and 6th. Eventually, just because of scheduling, we had to go with the 5th and 6th.
  2. We talked about the project and made some adjustments to better fit their schedules. We decided to do 2 Skype calls. One on the first day at 10am to share clues, we’d post the questions for the other classes by 1pm and answers by the end of the day in a collaborative doc and they Skype again the following day at 10am to share the answers.

These changes better fit the teachers busy schedules and saved us a Skype call.

We also discussed roles and norms, although this will partly be a learn as we go experience. One of the teachers has done a number of Mystery Skypes and shared a list of “jobs” he had for his students.

Phase 2: Design Reflection

No plan ever survives the first go round intact. This is what the original project morphed into based on teachers feedback:

We are getting closer:

Timeframe: Either May 30 and 31st or June 5th and 6th. Please return this e-mail and let me know which one works.

Day 1:

10am   Skype

1pm Have your 5 questions posted to the collaborative doc

3pm Have answers to your questions posted to the collaborative doc

Day 2:

Make your guesses in the teacher shared doc

10am   Skype to reveal answers

Activity details:

  1. Prior to Day 1:  Each class will need to choose an ancient landmark from one of the areas they’ve studied this year. They will create 3 clues that fit the following criteria:
    1. One coordinate (latitude or longitude – the idea is to give them the general area, don’t make it so specific that it gives it away!!),
    2. At least 1 relevant associated historical date (could be in the context of a historical event) from the time period the ancient landmark was built,
    3. Hemisphere related clue. If subject matter such as math or history is used to give clues, it should fall within the reasonable knowledge area of the students studies.
    4. Clues should be fact based as much as possible.
    5. The Landmark must exist or have existed at one time in history on planet earth.
  2. On the Landmark day, the classes will meet on Skype at 10am that morning. They will have 5 minutes each to introduce their class to everyone (could be video, student presentation or something to share a little about their school). Please have students wear nametags to save time having to introduce individuals.
  3. Choose one student to add the clues to the collaborative doc so no time is wasted having to repeat the question so everyone can write it down.
  4. The Skype session will end and the teams will have until 1pm in their own classes to investigate, research and come up with additional questions for the other teams. Each team should come up with more than one question so if someone else asks it they can move to the next one. Each classroom can ask 5 questions but they can choose who they want to ask. If they want to focus on only one or two teams they can ask more than one of a particular team. The questions will be added to thecollaborative doc so everyone has access after the question phase.
  5. The teams will have until the end of the day to post answers to the questions they were asked. And they have until the next Skype session to post their guesses.
  6. Day 2: Prior to 9:30am each team needs to make their guesses into the collaborative doc that only the teachers can see.
  7. We’ll get together for one last Skype session at 10am and each class will have 5 minutes to share their Landmark. They can create a poster, a video presentation, or just share. The reveal must include the following: 1) Picture of the landmark, 2) Three things that are historically significant about the landmark, and 3) Explain why they chose it. If there is time, they can add info about famous people or events related to the landmark or any other information they learned that they want to share.
  8. We’ll tally the results and see who was able to figure out the most landmarks. Perhaps there will be donuts for the winning class 🙂
  9. Students will take a short reflection survey at the end to give myself and the teachers some feedback.

The links to the collaborative doc are embedded in the text and the I sent it to them as part of the meeting notes in an Outlook Calendar invite.

I think this project will help teachers with ISTE Teacher 1c: Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning and creative processes. This type of activity will give the teachers some good formative assessment on what they students learned about the Ancient Civilizations they were studying. The quality and depth of the clues they are able to generate and the questions they are able to ask about others landmarks will be interesting.

ISTE Teacher standard 2a: Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity. I think that an activity like this that is collaborative, requires some more in depth knowledge of their topics and includes video conferencing with a different audience than they are used to as well as having to share in different ways than they are used to can up the ante in terms of relevance and learning. When you are sharing with another audience there is always more of an impetus to make it look good and the student’s will have to adapt quickly if they realize they don’t have enough information to make guess the first time and have to ask more questions. I’m excited to see how they react to this project.

Phase 3: Execution

The project won’t be executed until just after the deadline but I’ll include pictures and the survey results hear as soon as we are done on June 6th.

Phase 3: Execution Reflection

I think I can make connections to the ISTE standards 3 and 4 even before the project is completed but I’ll make adjustments if anything surprises me.

I think a lot of the success of this project will hinge on ISTE 3c: Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media formats. Skyping will be brand new to three out of the four teachers. They’ve already practiced communicating by Skype (and I’ve heard they’ve been playing with it just between themselves already). They know intellectually that this is new to their students as well and it will be distracting at first but I’m not sure they know what that really means in terms of communication with their students about behavior, norms, etc. We did talk about it, and I will remind them but I think they’ll learn a lot about how to teach video conference communication skills through this first project.

4c: Promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information will need to be a big topic for discussion prior to this event. I’ll be sending out a reminder to staff prior to the games about digital citizenship reminders as well as reminders about logistics. Hopefully, they will prepare their classes in advance for the project.

Phase 4: Reflection

In terms of my own relationship to the ISTE Teacher standards I think this is one of the ways I can exhibit my own leadership (5b). I’m demonstrating a possible way to redefine a lesson related to their content area in a tech infused way. I may have given the teachers the starting point but they shared in the process of defining and redefining some of the processes and time frames to better suit their needs and students. And, I’m hoping, that they will try this again next year and include more teachers now that they know how to work with Skype and have survived one project. I think they’ll find other ways to use the cameras next year and I know these particular teachers will find ways to share with others.