More thoughts and insights about Pamela Livingston's book
Professional development is, just as with anything, an absolute necessity for success. Livingston states it must be "iterative, sustained, and understood by all to be a priority." Livingston's phrase "understood by all" cannot be understated here. Some leaders go into a 1:1 initiative with a good sense of the professional development needs of the staff, but fail to communicate and reassure those needs to the staff.
This professional development needs to be in many layers, and these layers vary in terms of formality and timeliness. There must be a formal "boot camp" layer of training prior to the start of implementation on how to design instructions and assessment, utilizing digital tools in a 1:1 environment. That should continue throughout each year's implementation, as with the whole staff, you look at how to implement digital tools.
Informally, sessions like "Tech Tuesdays", where teachers are allowed to show up to discuss a technique, tool, or a "how do you teach this...?", lets teachers receive hands-on training. A similar informal session could be teacher poster sessions, where they showcase some of the things they are doing in their classroom. This could be enhanced by creating some virtual communities. Some schools in Iowa have done this through collaborative Nings, which focus inwards and build strong communities of learners. Some have used Twitter to tap into the larger world-wide community. Summarizing it succinctly, professional development should spend most of its time in the stage of "coaching and feedback".
Professional development should also include the leaders as well. Livingston recommends the building principal going beyond an open-door policy to setting up a table outside the teacher's lounge to make herself available to other teachers. Technology coordinators have informal drop-ins to see teaching in action. These will give leaders a much better ideas of the actual things that teachers need help with.
There are some critical questions a district should ask itself regarding professional development:
- How do we build buy-in for intensive professional development?
- When, how, and how often do we conduct professional development?
- Who leads... early adopters, outside consultants?
- Who evaluates effectiveness and fidelity of teachers' implementation?
- What is the cost, and the funding for professional development (including compensation and substitutes)
- How and when is follow-up completed?
These questions are a good place to start. For schools starting out, Livingston recommend several other tips:
• Give laptops to teachers before students. A full year has worked well in many districts. Spending 1 semester creating common goals with the staff and then the next semester individualizing around how to integrate 1:1 in a teacher's classroom is a typical time length.
• One idea that has worked well for reducing teacher anxiety is to create a tech-savvy student cadre. This group of students can work with teachers individually during that year of preparation easier than a few tech experts in a school can.
• Keep in mind that classroom management in a 1:1 world will provide as much anxiety as tech issues. What happens when students access iTunes? How do you keep them from plagiarizing? Gather a list of concerns and then allow a panel of experts to respond to those questions.
• Teacher-led professional development sessions, especially poster-board sessions, can be recorded and shared with the community as well.
• Be sure to provide teachers with meaningful examples. Being too theoretical in technology integration, or even saying "you could do this, this, and this with this tool" isn't going to get the job done. Find actual examples of how teachers are using technology, in your school or elsewhere. And, avoid too much correspondence with paper and emails. A page of "good links" might be a good intention, but it will not be used.
• Make sure you respect the adult learning curve. Not every teacher will become a master technology user. Be sure to reach out to those not on board right away and listen to their concerns. Use those concerns for planning. Keep in mind that adult learners 1) are self-directed, 2) want to know the objectives up front, 3) need time to reflect, 4) need relevancy, and 5) need time to collaborate with others, for they have a wealth of knowledge to share with others, and sharing their knowledge with others makes them feel more comfortable and competent in areas of new learning.
• And, be sure to collect good data on the effectiveness of implementation. Teacher attitude surveys should be repeated periodically to keep a pulse on how things are going. Just like student achievement data, be sure to do assessment for several years, as there often is a honeymoon period with implementation.
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