How Do You Work This Thing?

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The Review of The Mirage: Confronting the Hard Truth about Our Quest for Teacher Development stated:

The description of district and teacher investment in professional development is followed by an analysis linking improvement in teacher evaluation scores to particular formats of professional development. The authors begin by noting that teachers seldom improve; only about 30 30% of public school teachers raised their standardized test scores during the years of the study, around 20% declined in performance, and approximately 50% remained stable (p. 13). (Hill, 2015)

I really can’t imagine all of teachers’ and administrators’ time being practically wasted.  Teachers and administrator learn and/or plan ant to possibly have a decline in process can be a crushing thought.

When I hear the words “professional development”, I’m usually overcome with a sense of dread.  For a long time, I really felt like it was a “filler” during our in-service days and mandated professional development days that my district has once per month.  Up until this year, everything that I learned, during professional development was with not relevant to me or sounded like a good idea but I never followed through with it.  In Empowering the Teacher Technophone Ted Talk with Kristin Daniels , she mentions that after being taught information during a professional development session is simply not enough.  When I was watching the video, I could totally relate.  There have been some things in professional development that I thought I could use in the classroom, but the same question would keep appearing.  Where do I begin?

Professional development is not and should not be “one and done”.  If this is truly a strategy or program that an individual or group that wants a district to learn, they must continue to provide support to help those individuals trying the newly taught strategy or program.  By providing merely the professional development session, it is ineffective.  Kristin Daniels stated that teachers need the assistance when they take the knowledge back to their classroom, during the application phase.  Previously in this post, I stated that I considered professional development to be ineffective prior to this year, but this year I was able to be a part of professional development being done right.  Recently, my school district switched out learning platforms from Blackboard to Canvas.  This was quite an overwhelming change for the district because teachers had all of their materials on this platform, along with the confidence of how to use it.  My district offered professional development in the beginning, but also continued to offer support on how to get started and how to keep up with the platform.  Administration appointed a fellow employee to be the “Canvas Guru”.  We were offered many more opportunities to train, but also time to meet with this individual one-on-one to get assistance.  This follow-up is on-going and helped me to find direction with this program and to keep me on track. I was able to ask specific questions related to my needs and get ideas for using it in my classroom.

All schools are composed of teachers ranging from low-tech to high-tech ability.  I would consider myself to have high-tech ability but I’m not living up to it.  The quote that popped into my head is one that I say to some of my students: “you’re not living up to your potential”. I’ve been working with the new learning platform and, as of recent, a new math program for my students.  I feel that I’m making steps in the right direction, but I need to continue because I know I’m capable of much more. I think that if I were propose my innovation plan, to implement ePortfolios school-wide, I would be showcasing my tech ability.  I would have to say that my co-workers are mid-level tech.  Everyone has really been stepping up their game, with this new learning platform.

I truly feel that my district is starting to dabble with alternative approaches to professional development.  They created a position for my co-worker to learn about Canvas, to use it, to help others with developing their Canvas page, and even stop into classrooms to provide feedback.  This has extended far beyond the one workshop we had last school year.  This continued assistance has helped so many teachers with the consistent usage of Canvas.  My hope is that administration takes this one positive experience with Canvas as the framework for professional development and the standard way to introduce, teach and foster new strategies and/or programs.

References:

Daniels, K. (2013, November 6). Empowering the teacher technophobe: Kristin Daniels at TEDxBurnsvilleED [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puiNcIFJTCU&feature=youtu.be

Heather Hill. (2015). Review of the mirage: Confronting the hard truth about our quest for teacher development. Harvard graduate school of education. Retrieved from http://www.greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Hill-TNTP.pdf

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