An effective teacher understands their students and creates opportunities for them to learn based on each student’s needs. This is one way that we help each student learn based on their prior knowledge while creating opportunities for them to further their own learning. Often though, our school professional development plans are based on a “one-size fits all” mentality that is nothing of the sort. Now due to budget constraints that schools have, and a lack of time afforded to teachers, this is sometimes the only option that we have. If we can help it as administrators though, we should try to differentiate the learning to help move people along based on their own learning and needs.. This is ESPECIALLY true in the area of technology integration.
Learning from my experience
As a former Technology Integration Coordinator before my time in administration, I had the opportunity to do many workshops with many on different aspects of technology. One of the things that I learned immediately was that teachers were at such a varying level that it was hard to prepare sessions that would help the different levels. Some would be so far behind while others would be so far ahead. I learned quickly to always have tutorials written out for my audience, with activities that they could do if they were ahead, or read if they were behind. You definitely have to be patient with your audience and now I rarely get flustered when someone is ahead or behind; they are right on time for their own learning. At the end of each of my sessions, the goal was for each teacher to have something that they could implement in their classroom the following day. They would always come out with some “product” that they would be able to use immediately in the classroom. It was also SO important that teachers knew that they could contact me after the session and that I would support them after in their learning. Many took me up on that and emailed, called, or I would come out to their school. This follow up was so essential to ensure that they have furthered their learning in whatever area it was that I was teaching.
Implementing a plan for my school
With the knowledge that I had in my previous role, I decided to create a plan for our school that would benefit the different areas of learning within my new school. This also gave me the opportunity as principal to understand where staff would need more support and how I could provide this for them. At the beginning of the year, I put money aside to provide for one full sub day for each teacher in our school. The teachers would work in groups of 2-3 with myself and their grade level partner(s). They would split this one full day into two half-days so that no one was overwhelmed with content and I could do a follow up meeting. The goal of each lesson was to ensure that teachers learned how to effectively integrate SmartBoard technology into the classroom to improve learning (Note: ensure that you define what “effective” means as there is much debate on whether SmartBoard are effective or not). This was implemented since we installed SmartBoards in every classroom in our school and it was important that we gave teachers the opportunity to learn how to use this so it did not just sit and collect dust in the classroom.
Before each session, teachers were asked about what they wanted to learn in this initiative so that they could focus on something curriculum specific. I would put together resources for them ahead of time, but would also show them places that they could look up resources for the SmartBoard as well.