Whether it is a new learning management system or a fleet of Chromebooks, providing new technology tools to teachers can be a difficult task for any school district. The cost, not just in terms of the financial commitment to the district, but also in terms of change management and training, can prove to be a massive undertaking.
For districts to provide meaningful and relevant professional learning opportunities, they need to be conscious of how teachers learn best. The following tips can help teachers adapt to any new classroom tool.
Classroom teachers want and need to be involved in the planning for their professional development. Like students, adult learners appreciate being given the ability to choose their own learning pathways. Providing choice will allow teachers to incrementally learn the new skills needed to adopt any new technology.
Whether those teachers are “early adopters” of new technologies or teachers with an expertise in just one area, having faculty members facilitate professional learning sessions for other teachers can be one of the most powerful components of any plan. Experienced faculty members will be able to connect the dots of their own experiences, struggles and successes. Teachers less comfortable with technology will be able to draw upon those experiences and avoid similar pitfalls.
Providing time to apply newly acquired skills is critical to ensuring success with any new initiative. Teachers tend not to like or do well with formal learning as it does not meet their immediate needs. Providing time to play provides teachers with opportunities for informal learning, giving them the ability to learn by trial and error, observe others and complete tasks at their own pace.
Increased access to technology has given many districts the ability to offer blended professional development opportunities for teachers. Websites such as Kyte Learning, Edivate and Atomic Learning provide synchronous and asynchronous options for teachers to learn a wide variety of content. Most sites easily allow teachers to track their progress and provide either a certificate or digital badge when courses are completed.
Professional development is not effective using a one-time delivery system. To truly make improvements to instructional practices or to become comfortable with a new technology tool, teachers need time to reflect and adjust. Follow-up sessions with colleagues or instructional coaches will provide opportunities for continuous growth, effective implementation and sustainable change.
Today’s fast-paced and ever-changing educational environment has teachers juggling several different national, state and district initiatives. Organizing professional learning days that meet the varying needs of every teacher has become increasingly difficult as the pace of change far exceeds the number of days allowed for PD. The secret to any successful organization lies in its ability to train its workers. A strong professional learning plan is an investment that far exceeds the hard work, time and effort it takes to organize it.