Friday, August 21, 2009
The New Face of Technology Professional Development
The days of one person teaching one thing for one session are gone! With technology professional development topics regularly changing and the need for teachers to grow at unprecedented rates, the trainers are faced with teaching skills that require repetition and practice. Teachers are in need of regularly scheduled professional development that will build upon prior knowledge and will allow them to practice and learn in a safe environment. The old method saw a single trainer, usually with one after-school session teaching a large group of teachers (either of varying grade levels or varying subject matter) sitting in a computer lab. While this training was going on, a percentage of the participants were grading papers, surfing the internet, checking e-mail or doing any one of a large number of tasks that they saw as being a priority over the training at hand. Having been a teacher, I not only understand this, but am quite guilty of it. This begs the question, how do we train teachers on the skills that are taking over education, yet allow them to feel that their already diminished time is being well spent?
I have looked at this and am trying to take the model of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and transfer it into my school as a microcosm of what can be. The task at hand was to develop PLN's within the teacher community and find a platform that will allow them to develop and learn at their own pace, while having a focus and a level of safety that will allow for experimentation and growth. All of this needs to occur, without teachers feeling like administration is taking even more of their limited time away.
Here are the steps that I took to set up PLN's in my school and start my teachers on a path to create their own PLN's as well. I started by asking teachers to take a self assessment of technology skills. This was not a punitive task, but rather a way for me to gauge where on scale the technology skills of each teacher lie. Once this was done, teachers were roughly grouped into knowledge level groups of no more than 8. Now starts the hard part. Each group will be enrolled in a moodle class which I (the trainer) will help to facilitate. The PLN's held in moodle will be enriched with a diigo group. This will allow the PLN's to share links, as well as discussion, readings, and other resources in the moodle room. These groups will go on all school year. Each group will be required to meet a minimum of 3 times in person. New resources will be added weekly and each participant is asked to log in once a week at their own time and own pace. The hope is that teachers will feel comfortable to support and challenge each other and that as the year progresses, my role as facilitator will wane a bit and teachers will begin to branch out and grow their PLN's on their own. The following illustration is The Networked Teacher created by Alec Couros from the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina as part of his doctoral thesis to signify the different ways in which teachers network in the 21st century. This is also a good model to use for the new professional development model. As a trainer, my job now is not to teach one skill, at one time, once. Rather my new job it to consistently provide opportunities for teachers to grow and encourage them to do this on a regular basis. As a school we set proficiencies for teachers to attain, but it is up to them to embrace the opportunities at their pace and grow. I will blog about progress as it happens.