Equipping classrooms with technology is a good start, but schools also need to train teachers how to integrate those tools into their lessons and make learning more engaging for students. Teachers seem to be demanding it, in fact. According to CDW•G's Learn Now, Lecture Later report, 76 percent of high school IT professionals have received more teacher requests for help with technology integration and related professional development over the past two years.
Colin Opseth, a teacher and director of information technology for elementary school students in California's Oro Grande School District, says the IT team provides training on everything from how to use different types of educational software to how to make the most of interactive whiteboards in the classroom. Teachers — who receive two weeks of professional development every August, before the new school year starts (in addition to other opportunities throughout the year) — also share their best practices with each other, he adds.
Administrators and curriculum department personnel, meanwhile, provide training on how to implement and manage a project-based learning environment, says Michael Andreasen, the district's director of IT for sixth- through 12th-grade students. "Project-based learning is very different from what you learn when you get your teacher's credential, so we have to make sure teachers are comfortable with that environment," he explains. "You have to welcome communication with students, collaboration and sharing of ideas. It's a big shift from a traditional classroom."
Michigan's Port Huron Area School District also invests in a variety of professional development opportunities. Whenever the IT department purchases equipment, it requires the manufacturer to offer webinars or onsite training for staff, says Mark Washington, the district's director of technology and media services. Technology trainers also visit each school on a monthly basis to help individual teachers or small groups of teachers learn to work with district tools.
PHASD recently installed a new video server and video distribution system, which allows IT staff to record videos of its training sessions. Those videos are then posted online, giving teachers the opportunity to learn off-hours and at their own pace, he adds.