I love my job. Seriously. One of my favorite components of being a Technology Integrator is the professional development that I am able to provide teachers to help them with technology skills, integration, and innovative thinking. When a teacher comes back to me and tells me that s/he used something I taught them with kids, it makes me all eyes-lit-up, jump-up-and-down, arms-flapping-happy. I have the ability to affect so many more students’ learning by providing their teachers with what they need to enhance their already awesome skill set.
Back in December, I presented at the TIES Conference in Minnesota, which is one of my other favorite parts of being a technology integrator. I was incredibly nervous because I was presenting for the first time alone. In trying to calm myself in the moments prior to beginning, I chatted my boss, Dave Gundlach, for support. He said, “Mandy, just go up there and do what you’re good at. Teach.” My stomach dropped. I was about to get up and talk at people for 50 minutes. That was never something I would have done with my students when I had a classroom. Although the session went fine, I felt like it was a massive fail because I realized that even though I love presenting and providing PD, there was a seriously high probability that I stunk at it.
In a total twist of ironic fate, my session at TIES was on providing personalized, cohesive PD for teachers in technology. I went over creating an entire curriculum of Google Apps for Education including skills practice, integration techniques, discussions, and professional readings in order to increase capacity in our teachers and make them the “experts” in Google. The Track, as we call it, has some elements of personalization in the way that it has scaffolded & tiered practice sets, choices in discussion prompts and pacing options. It can also be taken completely online through our Canvas LMS, or it is the teachers’ choice to come to monthly sessions where myself and Matt Callahan go through the online modules face to face. While I am proud of the Track and the opportunities it provides for teachers who might not have otherwise taken on learning about Google, the class option we provide is still a traditional sit and get, and every other professional development that I provide is that way as well. My problem is that I know it, and I don’t know what to do about it.
Before I even left the conference I began to research how to make PD more personalized and have come across an entire community who believes as I do (with special thanks to Jason Bretzmann and #personalizedPD which has been an amazing resource). I want to create PD that models the type of personalization we want to see in the classroom. This has been my first challenge. After all, teachers are not students. Adult learners are not the same as child learners, although many of the same ideas for personalization apply. I wanted teachers to have voice and choice in their professional development along with additional pacing options. I strongly believe that, especially in the case of technology learning, there needs to be both skills practice AND integration techniques, along with a study of growth mindset and how it relates to innovation. In putting all of this together, PD needs to be ongoing with additional embedded support versus a one-and-done model if we truly want to make sustainable changes to teaching and learning.
So, I need some innovative thinking help. I need some strategies for creating a more personalized professional development experience while still addressing different skill levels, different integration levels, different content areas, and providing specific follow up support. I would love to try and edCamp style session one day, but the sessions I need the most help with are targeted sessions where the teachers need to come out with information on a specific idea (like GAFE, for example). Any examples of professional development that went really well or conversation on personalized PD I would welcome with open arms. I am looking for my opportunity to do something different with my PD. My goal is for teachers to leave any session I provide with energy and enthusiasm to implement what they’ve learned with their students. After all, it IS all about student learning, but in this case, it starts with providing the PD that will make a difference.