Step-by-Step Professional Development in Technology by Sarah T. Meltzer provides easy-to-follow guidelines for bringing about effective professional development in technology from start to finish. She takes you step-by-step through the process of planning, implementing, and managing professional development opportunities. Read below for six great tips for a successful professional development in technology section.
Provide Hands-On Training
It is critical to have adequate equipment and materials for all participants to work independently. Ideally, this equipment is the same teachers will be expected to use in the classroom. Mirroring the expected environment as much as possible is important for success because many adults are not adaptable when it comes to technology. Any hardware or software training where teachers are expected to be able to integrate the skills into their teaching and develop a comfort level of use will not be successful if teachers are not provided the opportunity to explore independently.
Schedule Enough Time
It is important to schedule enough time for formal training so that teachers can receive the necessary information and apply their knowledge with input and support from the instructor. Additional time should be provided following training with support for teachers to develop their comfort level (e.g., schedule times when a computer lab is available or specific times when resource or mentor teachers may be available to answer questions). Be careful not to make the training too long so teachers feel time was not wasted.
The additional help sessions assist teachers who need to build their comfort level. Full-day trainings are often disliked because of such issues as:
- Teachers are away from their students all day.
- Time is lost for lunch, breaks, and other school interruptions.
- Many substitutes (if even available) in a school can be very disruptive to the school.
- The amount of content covered in a full day can be overwhelming to participants.
In multiple short trainings, more can often be accomplished with fewer people. In addition, multiple trainings allow participants to absorb and practice what they have learned between trainings.
Address Individual Differences
The implementation process needs to address the varying skill levels of the participants.
Although the software training or required skill may be new to all teachers, the overall level of experience with technology can vary considerably. Thus, it may be helpful to pair technology-experienced teachers with those who have less experience. Being aware of these differences will help improve the comfort level of the less experienced, potentially insecure participants. When planning training sessions that are curriculum specific, it is important to consider the individual focus of the participants. For example, if the training is focused on improving student math skills, participants who are English teachers may not feel the training is necessary for them. If the intention is for a crosscurricular approach, this direction should be made clear before the implementation activities to ensure acceptance from faculty.
The availability of specific hardware and software may have a critical impact on the success of an implementation. If teachers are provided training, but the software is not available in their classroom or even their school, the implementation may need to be repeated. For example, if the plan is to install interactive whiteboards in all math classrooms, but only one has been installed thus far, the training should not be scheduled until all have been installed. If teachers leave the training and are not able to immediately use the whiteboards to practice, they’ll be asking for additional training or more instruction when the whiteboards are installed in their classrooms. Do not rush the implementation schedule for the sake of the overall project. In some cases, and if at all possible, it would be beneficial for teachers to have access to the software and/or materials from home. This may be easy, depending on the software and vendor resources. Having home access allows teachers the opportunity to work at their own pace.
Choose an Adequate Location
Finding an adequate location for training is often a problem. Many districts prefer to have teachers leave their own schools and attend training in a central location. Although this can make training easier and eliminate many school-based interruptions, most teachers prefer not to travel. Furthermore, scheduling training in the home school allows teachers to be trained on familiar equipment in a comfortable location. Teachers are more likely to continue to practice their new skills or explore the software if they are comfortable and feel they can replicate the training environment. While providing training at the home school site may be ideal, this is not to say the training cannot be successful if it is held at a central location. Each situation must be evaluated based on time, distance, opportunity, and the goals of the plan.
Demonstrating the expected use and implementation process is critical for participants in any training. The old adages “a picture is worth a thousand words” and “seeing is believing” hold true in this case. When teachers observe someone modeling the expected behavior, they develop a much clearer understanding of the capability of the hardware or software. This is most beneficial when the modeling can be done before, during, and following the training. For example, teachers may be receiving professional development on the use of the interactive whiteboard and be expected to integrate their new skills into classroom instruction. These teachers need to observe other teachers modeling the expected behavior with a classroom full of students. Demonstrations may be provided during the training, but it is best to also schedule visits to classrooms where teachers model the expected behavior with their students.