Technology PD Needs

Following my early call to staff, we received 115 responses towards preferences in technology professional development this year. We began last Friday putting a calendar together and hope to publish it this week. I thought I’d take a moment to summarize the findings of our questionnaire for staff.

Demographics

83% of the total respondents were teachers; 2% were instructional assistants, 8% were building administrators or central office administrators, and 8% were support staff. Among the teacher respondents, 30% are teachers in our 1:1 program and 70% were not.

Applications

When it came to application software, we asked about specific titles and found that there is an interest across the board for all the options we advertised. The app with the least amount of interest was Microsoft Word (4%) and the one with the most was the combination of Google Docs and Sheets (44%). Other apps showing high interest include:

  • Microsoft Excel (26%),
  • Promethean ActivInspire (23%),
  • Google Sites (Wikis) (22%),
  • Interactive Achievement (22%),
  • iMovie (20%),
  • Apple Keynote (17%),
  • Comic Life (17%),
  • Calendaring (Calendar, iCal, Google Cal) (17%).

Learning Formats

We hope to innovate in the area of formats for professional developments, getting away from the standard 2-hour after school workshop. While every other option doesn’t offer the convenience of a one-time shot in the arm, research on professional development suggests that the “shot in the arm” approach is not as effective as on-going support. In addition, when talking to leaders in other districts, they have explored shorter PD sessions with more frequency. We might describe the difference between a 2-hour and a 20/30 minute session as the difference between a “meal” and a “snack” or “appetizer.”

In fact, among our respondents, the most popular format was the 30-minute “appetizer” session at 57%! Following that, this is how the other options shaped up:

  • 2-hour workshop (43%),
  • formalized online course (37%),
  • short videos and online tutorials (27%),
  • ongoing facilitated PLC approach (20%),
  • lunchtime or planning time stop-in (17%).

Please note that in this question, we asked for your top two formats.

I’d like to know more about…

And then we asked questions about what you want to learn how to do with technology. Again, there was interest across the board with the ideas we provided, and 6% of you also keyed-in your own ideas. Here are the top seven responses:

  1. I want to learn how to create eBooks.
  2. I want to learn how to personalize instruction with Schoology.
  3. I want to learn how to track standards and skill sets using Schoology.
  4. I want to organize a blended course experience using Schoology.
  5. I want to learn how to share curricular materials using Schoology.
  6. I want to learn how to create and manage online student discussions.
  7. I want to know more about how to use the shared iPads/iOS devices in my school.

Clearly, we have a lot of professional development to do around Schoology, and this is no big surprise.

Some of the topics above require a significant amount of time and others fit more clearly into a 20-30 minute session. In fact, there are some things that fit into an even shorter session (how to do a discussion), but the pedagogical piece of discussions could really be flushed out over a longer period of time to cover how to best engage students through discussions and peer feedback. Some teachers have this in their back pocket, and for others, it’s brand new. What’s my point? As always, one style of PD or one particular session can’t meet everyone’s needs 100% of the time, and we’ll have to be flexible with what we offer. Likewise, expectations for what we can offer in the opportunities we have have to be tempered by what the majority of our needs are as an organization.

Outcomes and Recertification

Professional development is successful when it changes the way you work, how kids learn, or when you’re more efficient. For instance, if you take a Comic Life class on storytelling and this school year your kids publish 3 different graphic novel-style stories, then likely the session had some success. Classes are less successful if you learn about a new pedagogy or application (say, GarageBand), but you never implement it because while you can now use the software, you’re unsure how best to use it with kids with a given amount of time you have. I want to talk about this for a few sentences, so please indulge me in reading further.

  1. We won’t always convince you in a session that what’s “new” is necessarily better. But please do know that we think it’s a great idea and we are here to support you. Until you put a new pedagogy or tool into the hands of kids, you really don’t know what the impact can possibly be.
  2. We know that teachers need support outside of a class. That’s why our instructional technology coaches (Bea and Zoe) are here to help. Their role can be tailor-fit to your needs: they can lead a class for you and model, they can assist you when needed, or they can simply be in the room if you’re afraid “something with blow up.” In order for their time with you to be successful, it may require some pre-planning with them. Please know in advance this should take place before you schedule them to work with you and students.
  3. The recertification system we used to use in the past assumed you’d be exploring the use of new tools and pedagogy beyond the session. If you didn’t do that, you got “free” points.
  4. Some teachers need a lot of points.
  5. To some teachers, the points are insignificant. “I took a class, and I’m overflowing in points!”

This year I’d like to innovate in this area and also on what’s “required” for technology training. This is not official and will need to be discussed with our leadership team. But I did want to share my thinking on this:

  • If we offer more than just 2-hour classes, what’s the unit for required training?
  • If teachers are really working alone to learn (either to figure out how to plan a new project-based lesson, or how to best use a new app on the iPad, or watching video tutorials), how do we capture that as legitimate PD?
  • If we offer shorter after school sessions less than an hour, how many points is that?

I’m thinking of the following. The reason why I’m sharing this, is that’d I’d like your input in the comments (or if you prefer, by email).

Proposed Changes to Technology PD

  1. Instead of a requirement of “1 class”, let’s make it based on points. The state sets a baseline of 5 points in one area, so let’s make it a requirement to earn 5 points, where 1 point=1 hour of professional development.
  2. For an online class or a PLC type meeting, that’s a potential of a lot more time. Let’s reward that with the time the designer as designated for that experience (if the online course is focused on 10 hours of “seat time,” it will be worth 10 points).
  3. After school “appetizers” or “personal 1:1 time with an ITRT get points. In good faith, these sessions will be no more than 30 minutes but equate to 1 point each. Calling into practice our core value of honor, we will award these points full-well knowing that our teachers will continue to engage in the activity beyond the face to face time with our trainers.
  4. We will provide a submission system for us to review evidence of further learning beyond our face-to-face or virtual sessions to earn points. For instance, if you attend the Comic Life class, but can later upload Comic Life examples you shared with kids, and a student artifact, we offer additional points beyond the class. A 2-hour class, for instance, turns into 5 points.

Again, looking for teacher comments on this… and then I’ll share it with Dr. Geyer and our principals for their input. Thanks!