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:

YIS Tech Pilots

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.

Wired Workday

OpenAlthough 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.

Probably the best checklist in the worldWe 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.

Final Thoughts

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?

Image Credits

20 thoughts on “Are You a Tech Pilot?

  1. Great post, Kim – We too are prioritizing sustained, job-embedded PD at Graded School in SP. I would love to have you join our session at ASB about examining a PD model that uses the tools to engage teachers in learning aligned to our school-wide assessment goal, instead of teaching to the tool. Your feedback and insights would be valuable.

  2. Hello Mrs. Cofino, My name is Brandy I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently in Edm310. I just wanted too say that I think it is wonderful that you have these meetings where teachers can get together and talk about the new technology that they are using in their class rooms. It makes a nice support group where if anyone has questions they can work together and learn to use the technology instead of just struggling through it.

  3. These are awesome ideas for building PD into the school day so that teachers get the help they need in a timely manner. I really like your blog expectations and how you weave the parts in to staff meetings/trainings throughout the year so that all teachers are successful by the end of the year. Wow!
    Sharon Ellner´s last blog post ..Striking a Balance Between Showing and Guiding

  4. Kim, these are fabulous ideas! I especially like the way they tuck technology learning into the day for teachers. The teacher pilots, when ready, will be able to guide their teammates, and others in a way that is nonthreatening. They, and the speedgeeking teachers can share the technology they use in their classrooms at the team level, bringing those who may be a bit intimidated on board through the tech connection to curriculum being taught at each grade level. So exciting!!!

  5. Your blog was very helpful to me. I start to see the benefit of having a blog. The attitude of others around me are still skeptical and that has some impact on my attitude toward this project. But your blog makes this approach seem valuable and I can see how this would have benefit to educators. Thanks

  6. One thing we’ve tried is an “each one teach one” approach. A fellow teacher (who knows tech well), teaches something to his class. His students, then, come into my classroom and teach my students 1:1. My class then goes to another class.

    This method takes the pressure off the teacher to have to know everything (at least the tech part – they still need to be clear about what they want the end product to look like).

    The one rule we give to student “teachers”: You cannot touch the learner’s computer. You can communicate directions using words. You can put your computer beside theirs and model. You can lead them to tutorials…but you need to communicate without doing it for them.

    Just an idea.
    Janet | expateducator.com
    Janet Abercrombie´s last blog post ..A Low-Tech Project Students Treasure: Civil War Journals

  7. Thank you for your post. I think that the tech specialists at my place of employ try to integrate workshops, training and such into the school day. But, it is often for limited periods of time, e.g. 30 minutes, which is often not nearly enough. There are times when I want and need a more intensive experience, and, while online training is a good place to begin, I really do want and appreciate the 1:1, in person, hands on training experience. Not sure, however, this will happen, given the time and personnel constraints.
    teachermrw´s last blog post ..A Cultural Visitor

  8. Kim,
    I have found your posts extremely informative, especially the technology toolbox. I have been looking for ways to integrate technology into my lessons, and this has helped me a great deal. As an older teacher who is willing to take risks and try new things, I find the time commitment necessary to learn about and implement some of these new ideas overwhelming without support. How did you create a tech community and move your tech department from a place that distributes and fixes hardware to a professional development community? I can only dream about having a technology coach. What steps did you take to convince your administrators to support your vision?
    Denise´s last blog post ..Hello world!

  9. Dear Kim,

    My name is Eva and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama. Just by reading this one post of yours, I can just feel your passion for teaching and using technology. I am still adjusting the concept of using so much technology in the classroom. I loved your ideas about the team meetings and setting time aside to answer teachers’ questions when they have limited time themselves. I’m sure the teachers greatly appreciate all that you do!


  10. Kim

    Love the Teachers Blogging Expectations and the time admin has committed to the teachers to expand their understanding of blogging. How did you make it an expectation that all teachers have a blog? Were these blog expectations negotiated with staff? I like the fact that blogs are a public forum, this is an issue at my school where blogs (class blogs) are private, only open to BIS community members, which for me kind of takes alot of the purpose out of a blog, to share ideas, opinions and resources. I always remember your ‘work with the willing’ statement. I just wish I had more ‘willing’! It’s slow but more and more are finding that blogging is such a great tool in many ways and that’s what keeps me going. Great post, thanks
    Jason Graham´s last blog post ..Learning is Contagious – Luckily Dengue Fever Isn’t! The process of Action

  11. “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.” This happens to be my favorite quote from your post. My name is Heather Weaver and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about you and your career as an educator. I admire your courage to live abroad and teach.

    I would hope that the goal for every school, as we walk this technology journey together, would be to encourage their teachers and students to try new things with the confidence that the necessary support is in place.

    Thank you for all of the wonderful information and encouraging achievements!
    Best Wishes,
    Heather Weaver

  12. The concepts of regular coaching through the Collaboration Cycle are a great ideas and sounds exciting. It is great of you to think of ways to support teachers at all skill and interest levels. I admire your commitment to being a game changer by thinking creatively about ways to empower educational professional. How has it been working in an international environment? How can I learn more about the Collaboration Cycle?

  13. I completely liked your well thought approach towards offering teachers with this opportunity of getting comfortable with tech and improving upon their tech efficiency. I especially liked your well chalked out expectation of teachers when blogging (a list of blogging expectations for teachers), which helps them to know their current stand in blogging and their goal to meet the school’s expectation.
    Anu Ahuja´s last blog post ..Budding Technology

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