Tech Salad

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Training Vs. Professional Development

I have a really fun job. I provide professional development and training to teachers, often embedded in the classroom teaching model lessons, co-teaching, or just stopping by to help everyone troubleshoot. I also help teachers in one-to-one appointments during the school day, in brief after-school sessions, and in long format sessions over the summer.

Is there a difference between providing training and providing professional development? Absolutely! Training is all about how to do things: click here, drag there, type this, do that. Professional development is about why we should do things: pedagogy, mission, philosophy, ethics. For the most part, it is very easy to train. Sequencing events or procedures is not extremely hard, when working with teachers who are comfortable with technology as most of our teachers already are. Providing professional development requires a very different approach because the process often involves changing teachers’ attitudes, both towards their students and the technology I’d like them to use.

I always make an effort to provide both training and professional development in a balanced approach when I work with teachers. I don’t just show teachers how to use a new tool. I point to how the tool can be used to solve an instructional difficulty the teacher might have or how it can help us meet our goal of providing deeper learning opportunities for students. Of course, there are issues that rely solely on training, and for those I try to push out some help using a handout or a video on my blog. The clearest recent example is the simple fix for a misbehaving Mail app on our laptops. There is no benefit to any student from a teacher knowing why or how to do this, and the DIY approach will save teachers the effort of walking to my office. But, when working with teachers to adopt something that the students will use, I have to be face-to-face with teachers, or in an extended interactive online class. This is why we have our firm two-hour minimum tech class requirement for all our teachers. 

Of course the tech team can make tutorials on how to use Garage Band. We could even grab some ready-made videos off a million different places and email those to teachers. We could have every teacher making amazing podcasts about their cats and their favorite recipes in no time. The challenge lies in changing the way teachers approach students’ role in education. Instead of lecturing day after day, allow students to formulate and answer questions, and share their findings with the rest of the class via serialized podcasts. We could write lengthy articles (like this blog post) with lots of tables and citations, but text doesn’t always convey messages like personal interactions do. Just like teachers in classrooms, we, as providers of professional development, need to read our audience and see the light dawn in teachers’ eyes.

This post I read recently asks whether we should train first and provide professional development later. The author and I agree that the two should go hand in hand. Not doing this would be a disservice both to teachers and students. Otherwise…

…training without professional development could just lead to poor teaching being delivered faster and more efficiently. While training should certainly be part of the equation, it should take a back seat to professional development. When it comes to education technology, pedagogy should be the driver and technology the accelerator — otherwise, technology will simply end up being the brake.

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