Feb 20 2024

Support K–12 Technology Integration with Professional Development

Educators must know how to use their tech tools before they can teach with them. Professional development can help schools close the digital design divide called out in the National Educational Technology Plan.

Many factors can hinder strong tech integration in K–12 education, such as the misconception that newer teachers already know how to use technology, even though using social media does not translate to knowing how to use technology as a teaching tool. When educational technology use isn’t measured, professional development to support integrating it can also fall lower on the priorities list. This is common when the IT team doesn’t have a seat at the table as professional development is being planned and portraits of a graduate are being created.

Schools are also seeing pushback from educators and the community about tech use and screen time for students following the spike in device use during the pandemic. Instead of finding ways to use technology and digital solutions in moderation, some teachers are turning away from it altogether.

Underpinning all of this is a shortage of time and money for tech integration solutions, including professional development. Understandably, training for other areas, such as literacy, is prioritized over technology skills. However, content area and technology training are not mutually exclusive. When curriculum and technology leaders work together, professional development can support teachers as they enhance their pedagogical skills and their ability to integrate tools, such as those from Google and Microsoft, to support teaching and learning. When teachers understand how technology and content are connected, they learn how to integrate tech tools into their lessons, improving the adoption of these resources. It also helps avoid time constraints because districts can fulfill multiple needs with one professional development session.

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This type of collaboration is now more important than ever because professional development is included in the digital design divide section of the updated National Educational Technology Plan.

Professional Development in the National Educational Technology Plan

The pandemic highlighted the access divide, and the 2024 update to the NETP includes it as one of three digital divides in K–12 education. The other two are the use divide, which involves students’ opportunities to use technology to learn, and the design divide, which includes teachers’ ability to create lessons supported by technology.

To close the design divide, K–12 schools must provide every educator the time and support they need to build their capacities to design learning experiences with digital tools and enhance their digital literacy skills so they can model them to students and other stakeholders.

The NETP highlights examples of professional development activities to support closing the design divide, and many education agencies have structures in place to support this as well. Many districts work with outside groups to support teacher professional development. Wherever an agency stands in the process of closing the design divide, CDW can offer resources via its full-stack approach to supporting educators with professional development.

CDW also takes a vendor-agnostic approach, giving schools access to its partnerships with different trusted professional development providers who align with the NETP, are experts in more than just technology integration, and can customize topics and formats aligned with stakeholder needs.

Onsite professional development — where trainers can be hands-on with educators and support them as they practice skills — is often the most popular format. But there are also options for virtual and asynchronous PD. CDW can even help schools set up and host their own ed tech mini-conferences, which are a great way for educators to learn about digital tools and solutions without the expense of traveling to a traditional expo.

KEEP READING: Schools let educators take the lead in professional development.

Keys to Successful K–12 Professional Development

When hosting professional development in any format, there are a few key components that will make the training successful.

First, administrators and technology professionals in K–12 districts understand their users. Asking what they want, how they learn, and what’s important for their classrooms can provide a sense of direction and prioritization for the professional development offered. It can also help IT departments share existing tools and solutions with teachers so they can leverage them with students.

From there, understanding what formats participants are interested in and how they like to learn can help districts tailor professional development to their staff so that it’s well received.

Additionally, support for professional development needs to come from the district office. This allows professional development to be consistent across disciplines, whether users are training on literacy or technology.

If schools create a level of consistency across all types of professional development, it increases the ability to track participation and feedback to highlight successes and opportunities for change. It’s easier to engage with professional development when there aren’t different ways to sign up, depending on the department. And it may be easier for participants to attend when sessions are always held at the same time. Consistency allows schools to look for areas where they can meet multiple needs with one training — for instance, combining training on literacy and technology tools — thus avoiding time conflicts and ensuring all teachers can participate in the PD they are interested in and required to complete.

By accounting for these things during the planning, implementation, and evaluation process and engaging multiple stakeholders, you’re creating an environment to support all topics in ways that align to participants’ input. Fostering that type of collaboration and feedback also build trust and support for technology integration initiatives.

Finally, one of the best things schools can do is showcase success stories. This boosts tech integration because it helps teachers imagine themselves using the technology rather than simply seeing the tech tools as products.

Engaging, consistent professional development will allow schools to find success with ed tech integration, which will help them close the digital design divide and ultimately improve learning environments for all students.

This article is part of the ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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