4b. Develop technology-rich professional learning programs


I’ve often felt there is a disconnect between what is taught at technology-related professional development workshops and how it is taught. For instance, if a coach wants to teach teachers to use technology to make classroom learning more engaging, is a PowerPoint and lecture the most effective way to meet that goal? 

Throughout the latter part of the MEd program we shifted our focus to the ISTE coaching standards. As I encountered each task, I asked myself what could be done to think outside of the box and challenge the status quo.

Substandard 4B asks coaches to design, develop, and implement professional development that is the opposite of the scenario I presented above. Quality professional development should incorporate technology, allow for teachers to work with the tool, and be relevant for participants. Essentially, quality professional development follows the principles of adult learning.

My first piece of evidence for this substandard is a collection of four blog posts that I wrote on the topic of professional development. My other evidence demonstrates what professional development can look like when incorporating the best practices outlined in the aforementioned series of blog posts.

Evidence: What effective professional development looks like

Barriers & Solutions

Traditional professional development has failed teachers in many regards and it is up to technology coaches to find creative solutions to the barriers that exist.

In my 2018 post, I detail three main areas of professional development which are: coaching, Personal Learning Communities, and the workshop model. Within each area, I explore common barriers to success and I then propose solutions based on research and best practices for professional development. 

Though this post is in part a condemnation of current practices, I hope there is also some light at the end of the tunnel. Research has shown the areas that work (coaching and collaboration) and it is encouraging that schools are attempting to put this research into practice. I hope that moving forward, teachers and administrators can work together to refine the coaching and collaboration models into methods that work for each individual school and its unique culture and needs.

Initiating & Sustaining

The good news: teachers desperately want quality technology professional development. The bad news: many still aren’t receiving options for high quality, ongoing professional development. The combination of initiating and sustaining is critical to the success of technology professional development.

The blog post I wrote on initiating and sustaining professional development was written in the early stages of the MEd program’s shift towards coaching and it’s interesting to look at the many ways in which I would further refine the idea of quality initiation of professional development. However, many aspects of my post are still best practices such as creating PD that is needs-based and that allows for hands-on application of learning.

My further studies have only confirmed the notion that the sustaining side of the equation is absolutely essential in transforming classrooms into 21st Century learning labs. PD must be ongoing with opportunities for teachers to continually apply and refine new skills.

Active Learning

Passive learning through lectures, reading from assigned texts, or outlining content are still prevalent in higher education and teacher trainings despite evidence that supports active learning: “Long-term retention, understanding, and transfer is result of mental work on the part of learners who are engaged in active sense-making and knowledge construction.” (Lynch, 2017)

According to educational researcher Dr. Jay Lynch, three of the most powerful ways to incorporate active learning into instruction include production of ideas over passive collection, integration of new knowledge with existing knowledge, and frequent opportunities to engage with new content.

So what might this look like on a practical level when introducing a new tool or platform? In researching possible answers to this question, I discovered the ITPD3 Framework as introduced at the 2015 ISTE Conference by Dr. Cynthia Vavasseur, Sara Dempster, and Cammie Claytor.

Workshop Model

Despite the popularity of workshop-based professional development (one study showed over 90% participation nationwide), research does not show a link between the traditional, once and done workshop model and student achievement. In an extensive report which considered over 1,300 studies,  the studies which had the lowest number of hours of professional development using the workshop model (5-14 total) showed no statistical impact on student achievement. Conversely, in studies where teachers received an average of 49 hours of professional development using the workshop model, students’ performance was boosted by 21 percentile points. (Yoon et al, 2007)

In my February 2019 post, I examine a case study for effective implementation of the workshop model. I identify various elements that led to success in the 2005 study such as ongoing training and support, active and hands-on learning, responsive on the part of facilitators’ to teachers’ needs, and intrinsic/extrinsic rewards. 

Evidence: Twitter as a Tool for Personalized Professional Development

Professional Development (PD)  has changed drastically in the relatively short amount of time that I have been a teacher. PD no longer has to constitute a one-size-fits-all lecture model. Thanks to technology, teachers are empowered to take control of their learning. One of the most popular tools for teachers to communicate and collaborate in this fashion is Twitter.

“Teacher Twitter,” as some call the community, has become a valuable place to share resources and experiences. Teaching can often be a career that happens within the silo of your classroom. Twitter allows those walls to be broken down and for collaboration to occur on a global scale.

Because of my belief in the power of Twitter to help teachers grow and become better educators, I chose to create a workshop presentation for teachers who were not yet members of the Twitter community. While I was initially focused on helping complete Twitter newbies join Twitter, I shifted the focus of my presentation to also accommodate teachers who had a Twitter but weren’t using it to the full extent possible.

I am sharing my presentation with the hope that it will be useful for technology coaches and leaders hoping to harness the power of Twitter in their school or district. An editable link is provided so that you may edit and use the presentation however you see fit.

My presentation includes a rationale for using Twitter for PD, a step-by-step guide to setting up a Twitter, components of collaboration via real-time hashtags, and a brief overview of the way teachers can tailor Twitter to suit their needs (including Lists, Likes, Polls, and Chats). For an editable version of my Google Slides, please click here. A preview is included below.

For a more detailed look at my project and additional ways to access the content, please use the link below to view my blog post.