As an instructional technologist, when I’m introducing new technology ideas, I find that educator personalities generally fall into one of four categories:
- I’m in!
- Show me what you mean.
- I’m not convinced.
- Not in my classroom!
It’s not easy to meet the needs of all these types at the same time, so the way I introduce new tech ideas varies. It is my goal to meet teachers in their comfort zone and take them the next step. When I know whole-school PD days are on the horizon, I start asking my teachers what they want to learn in the area of educational technology. Our curriculum director and I then map out an EdCamp experience for our teachers that includes not only technology options but a variety of helpful authentic “take this back and make it work” ideas. Teachers are offered three or four choices of learning topics every 30 minutes. This format allows the teachers to quickly digest something they might want to learn more about and also allows them some choice in their learning path.
When we set up the day, we often ask teachers that are exceptional in different areas to share or demonstrate. This makes them feel affirmed, and it grows teacher leaders as resources as well. I’ve found teachers are much more receptive to learning from each other than from me, the technology person, telling them how great an idea is – especially when I don’t have a classroom of students with which to try these concepts. I enlist early adopters to lead sessions so that teachers see it from their real-world perspective, and anytime teachers can take an app/website/idea for a “test drive” alongside someone who has used it makes it far less scary. Setting up those opportunities during professional development days is a plus. While this is a brief introduction time, it allows me to ascertain who sees value in the concepts and to follow up for more one-on-one instruction with specific teachers.
This year, we introduced some required curriculum changes to the teachers. Unfortunately, it was during the back-to-school rush. I tried to make the experience as hands-on as possible, with the goal of each teacher leaving a session with a lesson plan in hand. I often will introduce the concept with a hook that they can use in their classrooms as well. For instance, to introduce a day of project-based learning curriculum writing, we used a BreakoutEDU game to encourage rapid learning of the basic concepts. Not only did our teachers learn about project-based learning but they also found out I had a BreakoutEDU toolbox available that they could utilize for critical thinking opportunities.
If you want teachers to try new things and to teach using different methods, you have to model that in professional development opportunities! Look for ways to create small group, station rotation, flipped learning, inquiry-based, hands-on, connecting concepts to tasks type things that aid teachers in thinking outside their norm. The phrase professional development often incites moans of despair, but it doesn’t have to. Find the pul se of your teachers, engage them, and then ask for reflection to so that future professional development days will be seen as opportunities rather than a burden.
A guest post by Julie Davis:
A former accountant, Julie Davis has been an educator for 14 years. She earned her master’s degree in instructional technology and serves as a technology coach and lower school technology coordinator at Chattanooga Christian School, the largest private K-12 school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This school is knee-deep in technology integration and a 1:1 computing initiative in grades 5-11. She enjoys helping teachers integrate technology into their lessons while giving them the support and tools to be successful. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.