For my month 3 Master’s class (Emergent Technologies in a Collabortive Culture) at Full Sail, we have to read a book put out by ISTE called Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools. This has been a good review for me about pedagogical processes and considerations with Web 2.0 tools. The chapter I was particulary interested in, however, was the one on “Professional Development” (PD). Being a Technology Integration Specialist at my school, providing PD is an important part of my job description. And, in order for technology integration to become a seamless part of every educator’s practice, PD is an essential element needed to get to that point of seamless integration in a school.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, PD “will need to come from all angles- top down, bottom up, grade level to grade level, subject teacher to subject teacher, and even student to faculty.” I continued to say that “explicit support and dedication to the transformation process from administrators and school boards will be essential.” (a little aside here- I think that was the first time I’ve ever quoted myself. Weird!) I think this second point about the top down leadership angle is so important. If our administrators don’t have a vision nor provide leadership for educational transformation as a fundamental goal (with technology integration being a part of the transformation process), then it will be difficult to truly unfreeze the status quo (if we are thinking of ‘unfreezing’ in terms of Lewin’s Change Theory).
For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about how best this process could work from the top down (administrators) angle. I’ve had (and continue to have) conversations with like-minded colleagues and even with my immediate administrator about this. Ideas are generated, but we never seem to finalize a strong idea in how to proceed.
Today, however, I just came across a few great ideas in the ISTE book in how to proceed (this is specifically in regards to training for technology integration). Here’s a summary of the ideas (from p. 111):
1. Change two simple things in the teacher evaluation process- require teachers to show how they are integrating technology in one formally observed lesson; have an element of technology integration be part of each teacher’s annual goals.
2. Require teachers to attend a certain number of PD workshops each year relating to technology integration.
3. Poll teachers each year on their needs and desires and offer specially tailored PD workshops based off of the feedback.
4. Offer special designations to teachers who do a certain number PD workshops relating to technology integration and can show explicit application in the classroom of what they’ve learned.
5. Skype in experts on various elements of technology integration to provide specialized training so that costs can be cut from having to travel to PD workshops that are out of town.
All of these are excellent ideas. I especially like numbers 1, 2, and 4. I think these three processes more clearly show that there is vision and expectation of ALL faculty to be actively involved in the learning process. This learning process and, of course, the implementation of the newly found technology integration skills will help the evolution of relevant and authentic 21st century learning environments. This would be the ultimate goal.
Transformation and change isn’t easy regardless of the angle of approach. For the top down angle, we must have leaders who don’t fear change if it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
Solomon, G and Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. Washington D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.
Providing professional development (PD) is one of the critical actions needed in order to transform our schools toward engaging, relevant, and authentic 21st century learning environments. Faculty and staff at all levels of schools need to provide, encourage, and attend PD opportunities of different types whenever they arise and fit their schedule. At the same time, learning how to use technology to create a dynamic personal learning network (PLN) is a very important process so that we can professionally develop ourselves. In order to facilitate these processes, professional development will need to come from all angles- top down, bottom up, grade level to grade level, subject teacher to subject teacher, and even student to faculty. Moreover, explicit support and dedication to the transformation process from administrators and school boards will be essential. In order to start the transformation at the International School of Beijing from a bottom up angle, I, along with two other Apple Distinguished Educators (Jeff Plaman and Rob Cormack) teamed up to create a multisession PD oppportunity called 7 Steps toward 21st Century Education.
The idea for the PD initially came about through a couple of conversations with our high school principal about facilitating a “23 Things” type of PD to introduce colleagues to the powerful world of Web 2.0. From there we continued the discussion among ourselves, eventually moving to collaborative planning meetings with the curriculum and PD directors at the school. In that process, we decided that the focus of 21st Century learning-related PD shouldn’t just focus on technology, but rather on the shifted focus in what needs to be learned this century and the reasons why we need to transform the way we educate our students today. Technology is an important means to the larger ends, but there are also other ways in which transformed learning environments can occur and achieve the goals without technology. However, since the integration of technology does tend to be a weak point for many teachers at our school, we did decide to emphasize ways to integrate technology in the process of achieving the larger goals as part of the PD. In creating the Steps for this PD we largely referenced the new ISTE standards and the Route 21 framework. We also fused our own ideas based off of conversations between each other, like-minded educators in our own PLN’s, books like A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, and educational organizations like Edutopia .
The next question was how to deliver this PD. We thought about just doing it all online, but we realized this might limit the number of participants. We also came to the conclusion that having face-to-face (F2F) time is still important in PD today. So, we decided to create a hybrid learning environment for the course. Along with face-to-face meetings that correspond with the Steps (plus an introductory F2F session), we created a Ning to be our online platform for asynchronous learning and interaction.
In order for our colleagues to get a sense of what a dynamic online personal learning network feels like, Jeff, Rob, and I encouraged people in our own PLNs to join the Ning before the F2F sessions began. The response was great! Bringing in outsiders into a single school’s PD offering was a departure from the usual in-house PD process. Technology, when used effectively in the classroom, can help blow out the walls of time and space in the learning process. With that idea in mind, we thought by allowing remote educators and experts to join our online PD environment, thus blowing out the walls of the school, it would make a much more dynamic learning experience for our colleagues.
Lastly, we are planning on bringing in some students during one of the Steps to facilitate a discussion or activity. Students can be a great source of insight and ideas in this shifting process. We can’t forget that they aren’t only the recipients of what we do as educators- they should be a partner in the process. And, we need to realize that it’s ok to give up control at times and let the students educate us.
Step 1- Different Education for a Different World
Step 2- The World is at Your Fingertips (Communication)
Step 3- There Is No “I” in We, World, & Success (Collaboration)
Step 4- Work and Learn Smarter, Not Harder (Information Fluency)
Step 5- Technology and a Whole Brain Approach (Creativity & Innovation)
Step 6- Cultivating Habits of the Mind (Critical Thinking & Problem Solving)
Step 7- Bringing It All Together