First, let me say that this article is less of an instruction manual on creating a culture for digital learning, as much as a cry for a need in culture-shift. While I will be sharing some resources here, I am mostly trying to lead the charge and empower readers toward building that culture in their district.
While attending a workshop on Refreshing the ISTE Standards for Adminstrators, I ran across a few resources that I wanted to share, but ultimately I wanted to state a few items worth mentioning:
Creating Tiers of Support
For any school district that is planning to move forward with 1:1 or that is trying to increase awareness regarding the use of digital tools in instruction, there must be support for stakeholders at every level – and that support starts with the Administration. Superintendents, Principals, and Directors must be able to model change by using the technology they are trying to implement. New technology tools cannot be looked at in terms of the “tools they use vs. tools we use”. If teachers and support staff are going to model use for students, then they must also see the buy-in and use by the administration.
Likewise, if there is a need for modeling the use of technology, there must also be levels of professional development to support effective use of technology. Just knowing how to turn on a device, or login to software does not necessitate effective use. Work with your IT Department and your faculty to find knowledgeable – and approachable – users who are skilled at providing professional development.
Additionally, PD is not always something that happens in a workshop after school. Teachers need choice. Find a way to provide Professional Development in Face to Face formats, as well as online. If you need help getting this set up, use a tool such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey to create a questionnaire. Ask teachers the following:
- What Professional Development needs do you have?
- What software / hardware training would benefit you most?
- When are you most available for training?
- What format fits your needs most?
Obviously, you will need to phrase these questions in the form of multiple choice responses that are filled with technology you have available at your district, but you may also want to create “other” options that allow teachers to voice the need for new tools that may be available. As for time, you may have some teachers that respond well to after school training, while others would want training during their planning period. Some may even attend a Saturday or summer session, so think outside of the box.
Finally, you may want to look at online options for PD. You can use free tools such as Google Classroom, Canvas (yes there are free options), or Moodle. But there are also paid options available as well. A simple Google search will yield good results for learning management systems. Find one that fits your PD needs. If you are using one of these tools for student learning, use the same tool for Faculty PD. This allows you to model the type of behavior with teachers, that you want them to model with their students. If you need help getting started with Google Classroom, check out my YouTube Channel.
Professional Learning Networks
While a great deal can be accomplished by providing in-house Professional Development, there is also something to be said about building a Professional Learning Network. Help your teachers learn and discover instructional uses of technology through social media outlets. Introduce teachers to Twitter and Google+ so they c
an find resources and discussion they need. Start with a search of #ISTE17 to see what is going on this week, and you’ll find a ton of great conversations going.
Also, create ways to get teachers out of their silos. Leverage the use of Google Groups or similar tools, to create your own PLN in district. Create Groups based on grade level, subject level, or instructional tools/tips. Use a Google Site to set up your groups, and let teachers start the discussion. You may have to get the discussion going first, and may have to do a little arm twisting to get everyone started, but once the conversation starts, it can be beneficial for everyone.
Parents / Students / Community
Finally, in terms of stakeholders, don’t forget to include your largest customer base – students, parents, and community members. Often, we buy technology for instructional use, but do not spend the time to showcase these tools to the community, or train students on effective use. Instead, we jump in and use a tool and expect everyone to be fine with it – after all, aren’t students more tech savvy than we are? Not always! They can be great consumers of technology, but they aren’t always effective users or creators. So to that end, try these ideas:
- Parent Night – Introduce technology to parents. Let them know the tools their students will be using, and let them know how they can assist in teaching proper use, care, and access.
- Technology Fair – showcase tech tools used in school, drawing specific attention to how students are leveraging technology through projects.
- Student Training – provide some time at the beginning of every year to help students learn and understand tools – both how to access, and why it is being used. Draw connections to career and college use of these tools.
Hopefully this article jump starts some discussion for your district. If you have ideas or tips regarding this topic, please feel free to share in the comments section.