“Professional learning and development programs should transition to support and develop educators’ identities as fluent users of technology; creative and collaborative problem solvers; and adaptive, socially aware experts throughout their careers.” – 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update
To build the capacity of school staff to use and integrate technology, it is critical that the school culture supports continuous learning for all staff. Giving staff concrete strategies to integrate technology into instruction—and the confidence and knowledge to use those strategies—supports student learning and gives students the opportunity to achieve higher academic outcomes. Professional learning opportunities should be offered to both administrators and teachers, and should be provided in a variety of formats, both face to face and online. Research highlights the importance of offering “just in time” and well-planned professional learning opportunities to ensure that teachers have the skills they need to be successful in the digital classroom.
Research to Practice
Providing professional learning opportunities for administrators and teachers has been the most frequently neglected component of technology integration since schools began using technology. However, professional learning is critical to building the collective capacity of staff and stakeholders and creating the school change required to transform learning and teaching through the power of technology. Teachers will benefit from consistent, ongoing professional learning opportunities that are aligned with school initiatives and goals. Through these professional learning opportunities, your leadership team will enhance their skills in advancing school change initiatives and developing the infrastructure to support the initiative. Ongoing professional learning that builds internal capacity and increases the instructional expertise of staff requires time and planning, but it is well worth the investment. Research findings on districts across the country suggest that school leaders who provide time for professional learning and collaboration at least monthly have higher rates of success when integrating school change and implementing technology.
Refine PD goals and set a focus for PD efforts
- Consider focusing on technology logistics, such as the technical skills required to use the new devices and/or software and establishing routines for student use.
- Emphasize best practices for technology in pedagogy and integrating technology throughout the curriculum to support goals and personalize instruction.
- Start with a clearly defined objective that relates to specific action steps for the teacher to implement in his/her classroom.
- Support teacher proficiency in using data effectively to meet the needs of students and personalize learning.
Define modes and frequency of professional learning opportunities
- Provide targeted, bite-size workshops rather than trying to accomplish all your objectives and goals in a onetime professional learning day.
- Utilize existing professional development opportunities. For example, were you to be conducting a series of short, one-hour workshops with reading specialists during their weekly team meetings, you could include a workshop on using technology to enhance student summarizing skills.
- Involve participants by asking them to design, implement, and share at least one lesson or activity using technology with the evidence-based strategy prior to the next weekly meeting. Ensure that the opportunities are frequent, aligned with school initiatives and goals, and provided in a variety of formats and settings (i.e., workshops, all-day seminars, peer coaching and mentoring, collaborating, co-planning, and online learning).
- Blend online and face-to-face professional development, which is cost-effective because virtual experiences eliminate the costs of travel and substitutes.
- Incorporate professional learning opportunities into a teacher’s daily or weekly schedule by using creative scheduling.
- Develop peer-to-peer learning networks within your school, district, and community. Secure partnerships with local business or other organizations, alumni, and teacher expert to provide professional development.
- Partner with other districts, local, and county governments to share professional development opportunities and the associated costs, and to build larger support networks.
Reflect and refine professional learning plan
- Engage your leadership team in developing a plan for professional learning in your district and/or school with concrete and actionable goals.
- Include initial workshops to launch the initiative, as well as targeted opportunities to support ongoing learning and growth.
- Invite teachers to report out and reflect on how they used the technology, share successes, and troubleshoot issues with their colleagues. Ideally, these actionable objectives should be observable in classrooms so that administrators can keep track of whether they are being implemented effectively.
- Aim to offer weekly or even biweekly professional learning opportunities to provide the support needed to foster change in practice and to build the confidence in staff to implement the new skills.
- Provide multiple opportunities to practice new skills, get feedback on their progress, and reflect on performance.
- Ensure your leadership team is modeling the expectations around professional learning; Principals and administrators need to take time to participate in professional learning opportunities in order to enhance their skills in garnering teacher buy-in and their knowledge of best practices and technology-transformed learning.
- Consider including micro-credentialing opportunities for professional development. These will enable your educators to develop new discrete skills without the burden of time or resources large professional development courses can take.
Types of Professional Learning to Consider
- Teacher collaboration
- Coaching and mentoring
- Faculty department training
- Online professional learning
- Summer workshops
- Peer-to-peer coaching
Personalized Learning: Blurring the Line Between Assistive and Educational Technology
2017 National Education Technology Plan Update