Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What goes well with Salty Chips?

A teacher cannot live on 'salty chips' alone. Once the availability of technological tools can be guaranteed, teachers need to be engaged in ongoing professional development. Such PD needs to be ubiquitous, ongoing, and customized.

I've often wondered how we can succeed in harnessing the latest attendance software; or in implementing new report card software, yet we fail to make meaningful use of most available e-learning tools. There are ways to ensure that professional learning is appetizing.

Entrust teachers to bring forth their own agendas. Teach teachers the skills that they are interested in learning.

Provide training throughout the school day/week/month/year. Waiting for system-wide PD days is not enough.

Ensure common 'planning time' among teaching colleagues. This will allow educators to engage in meaningful, ongoing dialogue about how to engage learners with evolving technologies.

Provide planning time in large blocks rather than in small chunks. We need to get creative with scheduling. Small chunks of time are good for little more than grabbing a snack; making a phone call; checking the news of the day; running a few copies; marking a few papers...

Encourage teachers to mentor one another. There are niche experts everywhere. For example: If one teacher knows how to get digital images from a camera - to a computer - to a student's media project, then there is no reason why that expertise can't be shared.

Recognize teachers for using present day tools.
Share 'good news' technology stories in your school or board-wide newsletters.

Make optional training ultra-convenient.
Provide sessions close to where the teachers work... in their classrooms; or at the nearest resource centre/computer lab. Offer 'at the elbow' support before school; at noon hour; and after school.

Be open to having students attend.
Consider allowing teachers to be accompanied by student-assistants. If a teacher has a classroom ally that can help in setting up or using the tools, they are far more likely to be used.

Offer incentives to participants! Salty chips in the form of classroom technology is highly motivating, but don't underestimate the value of fresh fruit, cold drinks, and cookies in creating a welcome learning environment.

Photo Credit: Michael Young