Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Teachers say about Technology PD

I thought it would be interesting to look at what teachers have to say about Technology Staff development, lifted directly from evaluations that are done at the end of workshops I've done over the years and from hearing teachers discuss what their needs are just in conversation:
  • -I've got this new information, now what do I do with it?
  • -Sometimes there can be too much information. It was great to see, but hard to apply.
  • -I need technology explained to me in just regular terms.
  • -I like when workshops are differentiated, then it makes a difference to me!
  • -I need hands on time.
  • -Teach to me and with me, not AT me.
  • -Small groups are best when working with technology.
  • -Tech Tools and Apps need to make solid connections to content.
  • -Work time is needed to invigorate my lessons with the technology I'm learning.
  • -I wish my team/grade level/school bought into this as well.
  • -I want to be engaged and motivated.

While I paraphrased these statements, they seem to come up often from a broad group of teachers all over Western New York. I suspect that these are issues for most teachers participating in staff development anywhere regardless of its focus on technology.

As you read them, I wonder if you had the same thoughts I did:
  1. Because of the breadth of new technologies available for teachers, show and tell is not a method that makes a difference to teachers or their students. "What" something is and "How" something works are two entirely different things.
  2. Whether your students are children or adults, motivation and engagement matters. Differentiation matters. Understanding your audience and their prior knowledge bases matters.
  3. Connection to content is vital. I wrote a comment on blog the other day about having a "tool box," but knowing which tool to choose for the job at hand. The job dictates the tool, the tool doesn't force the need for the job. You don't buy a hammer because you intend to build a house with it. You decide to build a house first, and decide that a hammer would be a useful tool to use. Additionally, you need multiple tools to "build your house." The technology tools that we work with, whether hardware or software are NOT our starting point. The content, the standards, our objectives--those are the starting points, using the tools to develop the content in the best way to facilitate learning.
  4. Lighten the landscape! When working with technology, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Think of the content that teachers are teaching and choose a few tools that would "fit." I try to be sensitive to teachers whether they are computer novices or tech savvy experts. They don't all have to leave a workshop as experts, but everyone should leave with SOMETHING they can use. If that means showing only a few tools and resources, then so be it. Being overwhelmed is as bad as being bored. Balance is important.
  5. Playing is the new competency. (And also a future blog post...) Teachers, just like the students they teach, need independent practice time. This should be built in to every workshop, so that questions can be asked while the instructor is there. With all of the technology available, instructors should also be open to the "never-ending" workshop model: meaning that a "support" wiki could be created with additional resources, or a blog or forum could be set up for participants to ask questions, or at the very least, provide an email address for participants to contact the instructor.
What else can you add? Whether you are a staff development instructor or participant, what do you think about needs of teachers in workshops? What do you think about needs of students in classrooms that are trying to develop a more technological stance?


  1. Mike- this is exactly what I hear and it is not just an issue in technology PD- it is all PD. We have to help teachers move from the mindset of "get it-learn it-do it" towards "explore it-apply it-adapt it" It is in the exploration and adaptation that we make it our own.

    Learning is not a mastery skill, we never will be done, there will always be something new and different on the horizon. We have to get comfortable with learning as a process of knowing rather than learning as a static, masterable skill!

  2. I second your comments in #4. As a former Kindergarten teacher, one strength I developed was the ability to break concepts into very small steps. Now as a technology mentor, I use that same skill to find the place where a teacher’s technology level is and try to move them just one step up. Too much too fast overwhelms learners of all ages. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

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  4. All of what you've discussed is certainly echoed in our district. I've enjoyed listening to you and your local cohorts discuss solutions to better equip teachers for learning, using, and teaching new technologies. The fact that you are offering PD and instructional coaching in the area of technology speaks well of the goals of your region. We are still at the point of hearing complaints, but doing little to use those complaints to develop a plan. I have bookmarked this post as I feel it articulates the problems well and offers very useful tips for helping develop meaningful PD opportunities. Thanks!

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