We know professional development is not everyone's favorite thing. However, with the increase in student tech usage, educational technology professional development has become a necessity for the scores of school staff members who will be using (and monitoring the use of) these new tools as pieces of their daily instruction.
Whether your school is seeking to promote new Blended Learning techniques, instituting a BYOD/BYOT policy, or going full speed ahead with Flipped Classrooms, teachers and staff are going to need to be aware of how to leverage technology and avoid classroom management nightmares.
Below is a list of six simple steps our Professional Development team put together to help you and your colleagues get the most out of your EdTech PD!
1) Dont Bury the Lede - Explain the Advantages
Regardless if the PD is being administered internally or put on by an outside team, your school and administration staff must personally explain why the technology is important to the growth and progress of student learning right from the get-go.
Some members of your staff may be defiant or apprehensive towards technology usage, so they'll want to hear and see exactly why educational technology is being instituted and promoted before getting into the in's-and-out's.
2) Provide Succinct and Easy-to-Follow Walkthroughs and Directions
This step may seem obvious but youd be surprised how often the idea of simple directions and walkthroughs is neglected. It's all well and good to have some techie explaining how adaptive learning technology or digital data can be good for your students/staff. However, if he or she is rattling off confusing tech jargon while buzzing around through the program on a projector, your staff probably wont get much benefit.
Instead, do your best to get as many staff members as you can following along and using the technology during the PD sessions. This helps them get a feel for functionality, pace, etc. We understand that you may not be able to provide a 1:1 device to staff ratio, but we've found from experience that getting as close as possible to that 1:1 ratio produces some great development dividends.
3) Showcase the Teacher AND Student Perspectives
The advantages of covering functionalities and use cases from the teacher side are pretty clear, but don't neglect the student side too. Be sure to show your participants both sides of the spectrum, and encourage them to play around with and explore each and every nuance.
We have no doubt your digital native students will take to the educational technology like ducks to water. They were born exploring the edges of what can be done with technology. Therefore, providing explanations and demonstrations of student views, functionality, and limitations during your professional development is vital to maximizing the learning abilities of your chosen EdTech resources.
4) Encourage having a Plan B prepared at all times
Who needs a backup plan? Technology always works perfectly, said no one ever! As an educational software provider, we'd love for that statement to be true, but its simply not the case.
So many variables can arise that may derail your usage of technology in the classroom. Thats why being cognizant of promoting backup activities and lessons during the PD is a great plan. Dont get us wrong, the benefits of educational technology vastly outweigh not using them out of classroom management fears. But as all educators know, it's always better to be prepared than overwhelmed.
5) Promote a Do-it-yourself Attitude while Providing Full Support
At Wowzers, we are big promoters of making EdTech platforms your own. What we mean is that educators should have their teaching autonomy enhanced by technology, not restrained. The same goes for EdTech Professional Development. Encourage your staff to experiment with educational technology on their own to identify how the functionality fits within their teaching personalities and strengths.
On the same hand, make it clear to your staff that there is a full buy-in from the administration, technology officials, and curriculum personnel. We have found that when schools allow their teachers flourish with instructional technology when given a high level of autonomy and administrative support.
Bonus Tip: Dont Focus on just the Techie Teachers, Share the Fun!
It's ideal to have each staff member attend tech-focused PD sessions. However, sometimes thats just not possible, and you may only have a select members who serve as your coaches for the rest of the team. If that's the case, we advise grabbing a group of representatives who have varying degrees of tech familiarity.
Here's why: the tech-savvy staff members will strive and adapt to the technology pretty quickly, but that's not a true representation of your staff. There will be members who have little to no tech experience as well. Try forming a team that encompasses all ranges of tech understanding, so that each coach offers a different perspective towards learning the technology.