Are You a Tech Pilot?
I’m always looking for ways to build a sustainable, job-embedded, professional development model for technology. As much as I love running after school sessions for teachers, and even with all of the fantastic opportunities we have at YIS, like COETAIL and the weekend workshops we regularly host (our next one is coming up this weekend with Andrew Churches!), I still believe the most successful PD is takes place during a regular school day. So, for the last few months, my amazing Middle School Vice Principal, Susie, and I have been working on ways that we can support our teachers at all skill and interest levels, in addition to regular coaching through the Collaboration Cycle.
Here are a few of the ideas we’ve developed:
Somehow it always seems that the technology leaders in a school end up with all the extra work – helping colleagues, leading professional development sessions, testing new tools – without a lot of the reward. Since we have a great group of very tech savvy teachers at YIS, this was the first group I wanted to start with. Basically, these teachers are highly independent in their use of technology in their classroom, and are always willing to try something new, so I wanted to offer them the opportunity to share, collaborate, and connect with their like-minded colleagues from other departments – during the school day.
My hope is that we’ll meet as a team at least once a month, if not twice a month (fingers crossed) for a double block (90 mins). The plan is to spend time sharing, exploring and discussing new ideas. We don’t want it to be extra work (that’s why it’s during the school day, and they’ll be provided with cover for their classes), but we do want there to be a bit of a reward for all the extra work that these teachers are doing already. I think the sessions will take on a life of their own, once we meet for the first time, and I can imagine us talking about creating a blended learning environment through our blogging portal, bringing in elements of challenge based learning, developing globally collaborative projects with other schools, and just generally taking advantage of all of the amazing tools we have available at YIS.
We just announced the idea last week and I’ve had 10 teachers sign up. In a staff of about 40 in our MS/HS, that was exactly the number I was hoping for. Ultimately, I hope this group can become a mini-professional learning community that supports not only the members themselves, but the other teachers within their departments.
Although teachers can always make appointments with the Technology and Learning Coaches, or just drop-by the office, often they are busy and just need a question answered quickly. Even though our office is very close to the Main Building (where most secondary classes are held), we’re just far enough away to stop teachers from popping by in an emergency (especially if they’re rushed). Plus, because our office is shared, sometimes it doesn’t feel like a space where you can come in and chat for an extended time.
In order to make ourselves more accessible, and provide a little more privacy for extended support, we’re starting a rotational drop-in room schedule, where one of us will be available in a very central classroom for 3 periods a week (which ends up being at least 1 period a day). We’re going to start out with open, walk-in support, and see how that goes. If we feel like people are coming in with the same questions, or we feel like people aren’t sure what to do with the time, we’ll start running themed sessions – similar to what we would do during an after school technology training.
My hope is that the teachers who are less likely to stop by the technology office (for whatever reason), will feel more comfortable dropping in an empty classroom. I like that everyone will know which periods we’ll be there – they never have to worry about coming by and us not being there, plus they don’t have to make an appointment, or plan in advance. I’m also hoping we’ll get even more insight into what topics need support, and continue building quality relationships with all of our teachers.
Faculty Meeting Tech Tips
This is the first year of our Connected Learning Community (1:1 program), and the first year of using WordPress as our learning portal – both are going extremely well, but we do have lots of learning to do as a faculty. One way we’re making time for specific technology tips is to highlight an expected us of our blogs during faculty meeting time. Instead of expecting teachers to figure out how to use their blog in the most efficient way, we’re hoping to scaffold those skills, one at a time, during required meetings.
We started by developing a list of blogging expectations for teachers, in an effort to be as clear and consistent as possible. Once we had our defined list, we started walking teachers through one item in each meeting, so that by the end of the year teachers will have successfully implemented all of these foundational skills. At the moment, I’m leading these short sessions, but we hope that our Tech Pilots can start to be the leaders as the year continues. We don’t want the technology to become a burden, and we want to leave opportunities for teachers to discover the ways that the platform works best for them, so this one-by-one approach is working really well.
In addition to the faculty meeting time, we are also scheduling regular TechTidbits and SpeedGeeking time for teachers to learn from their peers who have already implemented these ideas. Earlier this year, we found that having a specific list of skills to master (and teacher leaders for each skill) was a really effective way for teachers to build their technology efficiency.
We’re hoping that these ideas will reach the advanced, beginner and intermediate level teachers in a way that feels most comfortable to them, along with providing a network of teachers who can support each other. Ultimately, my goal is that the school builds a collaborative, supportive and engaged community of learners who take risks and try new things with technology because they know they have both the resources and the support they need.
These are just the first three ideas that we’ve started implementing, and we’re always looking for more. How do you build technology learning into the school day for all teachers? What strategies have worked for you?