Rethinking Tech PD for Teachers

[This post is an excerpt from my EDURO: Coaching from Theory to Practice certificate course from 2015]

Every year our school picks a whole-school goal. Last year (my first year at ISZL), we were fortunate as the goal was ‘Technology’. The two PD days in February were designated to the EdTech Team to design and facilitate, and we had Jeff Utecht come and present for two days while we led workshops. We also put a call out to the whole staff to see who would like to prepare and lead 90 minute workshops to groups up to 20 teachers (we have about 250 staff). We were thrilled at the responses and had simultaneous workshops running throughout the two days…see Google Doc here for the themes offered. This was a great way for teachers to showcase great things happening in their classroom and also feel empowered to lead and help other educators. I think it was also beneficial for so many teachers to see their peers taking a risk and showcasing innovative things they’ve tried in the classroom. We chose a catchy name for the conference, C.I.A: Create, Innovate, Apply and I developed posters with QR codes that linked to related posts from Jeff Utecht’s blog and from his book, “Reach”.

Create Innovate Apply POSTER


The entire 2-day conference involved a significant amount of planning and we used this planning template to map out the schedule. One of the most successful aspects of the two days was the Technology Playground we set up: 20 iPads (2 at each table) were set up using Guided-Access with a specific App for teachers to try. The goal was for independent exploration, so each table had a mini instructional sheet with the app logo on it. A few of the apps we included were: Puppet Pals, Easy Blogger Jr, Explain Everything, iMovie…as well as the iBooks app with a few ‘free’ iBooks such as Design Secrets Revealed, Twitter A Cultural GuideBook and Transforming Math with iPad.

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[If you haven’t heard of the ADE Collection “One Best Thing” Project ~over 100 free iBooks on iTunes, written BY teachers FOR teachers~ I highly recommend taking a look and suggesting it for teachers to add to their iPads/Macbooks/iMacs.]

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To encourage teachers to familiarise themselves with the GAFE environment, we hosted whole-school feedback through a Google Slide Template where teams could post their video/photo-reflections and share back with staff. This was a very effective way to get teachers using the platforms our school provides, and also encouraged a few teachers to be risk-takers and share their learning using a creative tool/platform like Puppet Pals or iMovie. Teachers shared these reflections in a carousel format at the first staff meeting following the PD.

Jeff Utecht was a fabulous presenter and really engaged and challenged the staff to stretch their thinking and confront their mindsets about what tech integration is and what it could and should look like. He hosted the entire two days on his website here The feedback from the conference was primarily supportive and positive. Most teachers felt a shift in their thinking about various devices their class had access to and were more willing to use the SAMR model to help them re-think learning engagements with iPad and Macbooks. Unfortunately, as the conference finished and regular routines started up again, a lot of the goals teachers had set for themselves fell by the wayside and for tech integration took a back seat.

Maintaining momentum for whole-school Tech Innovation and Change is a much larger, long-term goal that needs a focus, a plan, and constant review.

This year our school goal is ‘Literacy’, and we are hosting 2 upcoming PDs in October. While the school has hired outside workshop leaders to run 3 courses (ESL in the Mainstream, Symbolic Language, and PYP Reading & Writing through Inquiry), Kim.L and I (the ES EdTech team) is also offering two days of Digital and Visual Literacy PD for specialist (PE and Art) and several classroom teachers from Early Years to Grade 5. Unfortunately, attendance for the 2 workshop days was out of our hands, and the teachers who are participating were the ‘left-overs’ who either already had the training in the 3 workshops offered, or didn’t fit into those workshops. Still, we are quite excited about the range and diversity of our participants since this will hopefully help disperse the knowledge more widely and also will provide more opportunities for exploring Digital Literacy in several fields. I developed this plan on Google Docs to help us map out the two days We’ve decided to vary the two-days of PD so that teachers have a chance to explore new apps and work independently or in teams on some practical project-based tasks. We are still fine-tuning the plan as the past two weeks we’ve both been absent on Student Trips, but we plan to finish this by next Friday, before we leave for the October Holiday.

Reflecting on the ideas from Kim Cofino’s blog Sustaining Change: The Next Level of PD, I would like to suggest to my school’s Admin that in future, perhaps our school could adopt more of a Group PD approach, rather than the Whole School PD approach which only really happens twice a year. As I mentioned from our previous experience running the C.I.A Tech PD last year, this kind of whole-school PD tends to be well-received at the time, then quickly forgotten about.

Kim Cofino also shares her perspective on this:

As valuable as these experiences are, they are often a ‘one off‘…”

…offered once and never heard from again. [Group PD] is, I think, the next step to building a community of learners in an institution, and one that can be especially enhanced by new web 2.0 tools like social networking. I feel like I’m at the verge of understanding how to help facilitate this experience, but I’m just figuring things out as I go.””

In terms of our school’s current PD model, we are at least allowing for teachers to choose a workshop that appeal to them, which is a step towards collaborative group learning. Unfortunately, our digital literacy workshop wasn’t one of the options, and I do think many more teachers would have signed up for our Visual/Digital Literacy and GAFE workshop if it had been on the original survey. Kim’s blog supports this when she writes,

“We want to make the group open to any and all that are interested, centred around a common purpose. We want to tap into each individual’s desire to learn, but also their desire to be part of a group, to be supported and to be needed.””

Currently, we have about 10% of the staff attending our workshop (10 teachers total) although they represent nearly every grade level and a couple specialist areas. Hopefully, our approach to the workshops will promote further interest into Visual & Digital Literacy.

Working from ‘the bottom up’ in small groups may also reach the ears of a wider audience and hopefully promote change from within.

One thing we can do to extend the workshop we lead is see where teachers’ interests are at the end, and offer future interest groups to continue the discussion and learning.

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