A colleague and I were talking about the best kinds of pizza and — believe it or not — it made me think of classroom technology.
Like pizza, schools have preferences for toppings (devices). Sure, everyone has a classic, like pepperoni (Chromebooks), while others anticipate fresh flavors like pineapple (virtual reality). No matter the topping, all pizzas and ed tech programs should start with a solid foundation (a crust).
Professional Development Is the Foundation You Knead
Professional learning is the crust of your technology program. It’s an absolute necessity if you want devices or software to work well in a classroom or school, including new technology deployments.
Some school districts spend millions of dollars on technology, then have no money left over for much-needed professional learning. It’s unfortunate because teachers don’t often have the tools and resources they need to use technology effectively. Instead of using Chromebooks, tablets or software to transform learning in the classroom, they’re using the devices to make digital worksheets.
We want students to be interactive, creative explorers. When their teachers lack the necessary professional development and training, students are left hungry for knowledge. Without that crust, the pizza toppings fall through the grates in the oven, burned and inedible.
Layer Digital Training Resources for Extra Support
I speak with many teachers and I often hear about their No. 1 struggle: They don’t get enough professional development and training to understand the best ways to use new technology in their classrooms.
In-person professional learning can become a model for what teachers can do for their students. The best professional learning experiences are in person, in small groups, with lots of follow-up. Give educators somewhere to go after their professional learning session — digital resources, online live help, email or a portal. You do not want them feeling aimless or overwhelmed after the initial session.
Once educators feel comfortable with the technology, they can move on to creating a personalized learning experience in their classrooms. They can then create a digital extension of their classrooms where students can go for support.
We hear excellent feedback with this type of approach. Once teachers have been through this process, they are excited and relieved to have so many options for technology at their fingertips.
Let Experts Top Off Your Professional Development Program
So, you have your crust and all of your toppings. The network (sauce) is humming along nicely and giving the program a little pizzazz. Did you make sure to include something to bind everything together? What is pizza without cheese? And what is a device program without proper planning?
It’s important to connect with a professional development expert who truly understands the topic, but who also understands the needs of your school and teachers. Set up a preliminary call to discuss your current situation, needs, areas of struggle and what you’re looking to get out of professional development and follow-up.
With all these ingredients in place, you’re setting yourself up for a hearty and gratifying experience.
This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.