Professional Development in Technology

I recently came across a blog by a Head of English in a school. It’s interesting to hear the views of a non-ICT specialist about what works or might work in getting teachers engaged. There are some very useful points made in the post entitled Professional Development in Schools:

Listening to staff after PD, their number one complaint is about not getting time to play and make stuff with what they just learned

This is absolutely correct in my experience. In fact, one of the most successful training sessions I ever ran was one where I allowed the teachers to spend three hours playing and experimenting, with myself and a technician on hand to give advice and guidance when asked. Teachers often think that they have to be doing and speaking all the time. You don’t.

Make sure the project is based on something that can actually be used in the classroom (not just an excuse to try new tools) following a sound curriculum planning process.

Something which ought not need to be said, but it’s all too often the case that people fall into the trap of pursuing gadgets and widgets for their own sake. The key question to ask about anything in education is “So what?”. If you can’t answer that question truthfully and convincingly in terms of students learning outcomes, then why are you undertaking that activity?

Are lunch and learns the answer?Another idea is that of “Lunch and Learns”, taken from Bianca Hewes’ blog. The idea is that you run short lunchtime sessions which teachers may attend in order to refresh their knowledge of, or be introduced to, an application. I have to say that although I can see the attractiveness of this, I have an ambivalence towards it, for the following reasons.

Firstly, I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the best thing to do at lunchtime is have lunch, followed by doing the crossword, chatting with friends, going for a walk or staring into space. I can’t see how working at lunchtime can be effective or even healthy – which is why for the past eight years I have eschewed breakfast meetings whenever possible.

On the other hand, I can see that lunch and learns are an attractive alternative to twilights and learns. Perhaps the important thing is to experiment and find out what appeals most to your colleagues.

The author of the blog, M Giddins, surprised me by saying that she avidly followed my 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader series -- “surprised” because I’d written the series for ed tech leaders rather than other subject leaders, and it hadn’t occurred to me that others might find it useful. I put this to her, and she responded by saying:

I think now that any leader in education also falls into the role of educational technology leader in some ways. I have a faculty that need to be guided in their quest for technology integration and I need to be both the one who models, leads and inspires as well as the solver of the practical problems sometimes inherent in the integration of technology. Your series was very clear about the WHY behind the practical solutions that you offered, which made it possible to apply different solutions to suit my situation.

Finally, there is a link to a list of tools which is definitely worth exploring. The ones I know about already have a rightful place on the list, and I’m looking forward to exploring the others.

This précis of the article hardly does it justice, so do take the time to read the original, which is as inspiring as it is engagingly written.

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