When it comes to planning teacher professional development, says Judy Bowling, media and technology coordinator with Livonia Public Schools in Livonia, MI, this school year has been challenging. In previous years, district leaders would have used substitutes to free teachers for school day professional development or provided learning opportunities after school hours. This year, those options aren’t available; there is a sub shortage, teachers are burned out, and they may not be comfortable with in-person professional development.
These challenges have energized Bowling, who is rethinking how to help teachers with tech. It’s an opportunity, she says, to take all the tech learning that has happened since March 2020, and push it even further.
Here are five ways to help teachers with tech right now.
Flip your PD
Instead of planning 3-hour sessions, Bowling now looks for shorter opportunities to reach teachers. She thinks of this as “flipping” PD, like teachers would flip a classroom. When she is in front of teachers, she models strategies that teachers can use. Then, when she’s not there, teachers can refer to short videos like the ones at Epson’s Teacher Hub. That way, says Bowling, teachers can circle back when they are ready.
Think about “pushing” content
This year has been so challenging that teachers may not be seeking out professional development. “Pushing” information in clever ways can reach teachers and get them thinking outside of traditional professional development. Bowling shares tech tidbits in a newsletter, posts in the teacher’s lounge, and even the bathroom. Focusing on one tech skill in many little “pushes” adds up. “It’s not one thing,” says Bowling, “but a lot of small learning moments that add up to big learning moments.”
Lean on bite-sized training
The upside of the past two years is that teachers are more comfortable trying something new. “I do think people are more comfortable taking risks,” says Bowling. That openness to do something new is an opportunity for leaders if professional development can be delivered in bite-sized pieces. This could look like providing a teacher with a video from the Epson hub of resources that fits what they’re going to try in their lesson this week. For example, if a teacher is trying to increase student participation, share a video that shows them how to use their BrightLink to share materials across multiple participants.
Start slow to go big
Teachers who are beginners to a technology may be worried about breaking something or failing. In working with new tech teachers, Bowling goes slow — showing them that everything can be undone and that failures are learning moments.
It’s worth spending time to teach those who are beginners, says Bowling, because “when they’re feeling success, they become some of the biggest cheerleaders.”
Layer in tech PD
Technology development can also involve helping teachers refine something they already do, like an end of class reflection or exit ticket. In coaching or professional development, notice where teachers can amp up daily routines. Providing teachers with the know-how to get more out of their daily routines can push their tech use one step further. The focus, says Bowling, is on learning, and the technology helps them get there.