Expanding a Teacher’s Tech Toolbox through Meaningful Professional Development
by Jamie Forshey, Guest Blogger
As Dr. Gary Stager once said, “Professional development does not work when it occurs outside the context of practice.” My sentiments exactly! As an instructional technology coach, I specifically focus on creating and facilitating professional development that focuses on improving teacher effectiveness with the intent of increasing student achievement. For me, this involves crafting training that not only teaches educators to efficiently integrate emerging technologies, but to do so in a way in which literacy strategies are promoted as well. To do anything less, is futile – a mere time filler. Albeit a fun and engaging one; however, not one that addresses higher order thinking skills.
One way to achieve the goal of meaningful training is to “walk the talk”. Besides showing participants how to use specific technologies and examples of finished products, it is important to model the use of tools and demonstrate how they can be blended with instructional practices to enrich academic content. For buy in to occur, teachers need to experience for themselves how the recommended strategies will make a difference in their classrooms.
For educational leaders to expect teachers to embrace new technologies that have the potential to enhance instruction, the sessions must be hands-on in nature. In fact, providing teachers with time to experiment with tools and if time permits, to actually create a product that can be immediately utilized in the classroom is essential. Not only does this approach generate excitement, but it also creates a sense of confidence that is often needed for those who are less tech savvy. In addition, the more immediate the application of knowledge, the more likely the teachers will see the benefits of utilizing tools and strategies to actively involve students in the learning process.
Another important component of professional development is ensuring that the topic is relevant to the audience. In other words, tools, applications and strategies should not only be selected on the basis of current best practices, but they should be applicable in all content areas that span the K-12 curriculum. Similar to designing a lesson plan, it is important to plan a training that engages all learners, regardless of learning style, experience or expertise. Leveraging the power of community by incorporating activities that provide teachers with the opportunity to have dialogue regarding the implementation of new techniques is also essential.
Overall, effective professional development should expand a teacher’s “toolbox” with knowledge that can be seamlessly connected to the wealth of strategies already in place. When this occurs, the ultimate goal is accomplished: Student learning takes place in an educational environment filled with reading, writing, speaking and listening through the use of technology – 21st Century skills needed to thrive in our society!
About the Author
Jamie Forshey is an Instructional Technology Coach and Computer Teacher at the Bellwood-Antis School District in Central, PA. Check out her “Cool Tools for the Classroom” blog at http://edutech4teachers.edublogs.org. For additional tech toolbox ideas, follow her Edutech for Teachers on Facebook and @edutech20 on Twitter.