Thinking differently isn’t enough. We can think differently all we want, but that’s only a step in the right direction. It takes more than just a step to evoke change. We also can’t simply replace one thing with another, such as when teachers replace pencil and paper with computers and tablets. In many cases, all that has been done was replace the traditional with a far more expensive tool, unless educators decide to use the tool to make their lessons do something new or better.
As an instructional technology resource teacher trying to help teachers see how they can innovate with the technology they have in their classroom can be rather difficult. My district recently received a large load of Chromebooks. All levels received a cart of 30-40 Chromebooks to share between 2 or 3 teachers. At the high school level, all English teachers received their own Chromebook carts. This is great!… except it’s not. We’re almost 2 months into the school year and teachers are typically using the Chromebook for the following: MAP or IA testing, Mobymax/Study Island, or simply having them type up papers. This is one use for a Chromebook, but it’s nowhere near the best use. All that’s been done is replaced the typical pencil and paper tools. And while the data and computer adaptive nature of some of the above programs are amazing, that’s not all that the Chromebooks should be used for.
My fellow ITRTs and I are trying to counter this use of the tool, but it’s very difficult to accomplish. So far we’ve offered professional development that’s been lacking in attendance, usually a handful at most. When I came on board this year, I made the suggestion to move to doing Google Classroom self-guided professional development. Our teachers had 3 options to partake- in person, Google Classroom-based, or 1:1 with one of us instead. Our sessions that are being offered are based on the feedback given from staff so we go from offering Google-based sessions to others, such as Kahoot or Seesaw Portfolios.
Despite the feedback and new ways of attending sessions, we feel the reception to be lukewarm at best. This is a problem for us because in most cases professional development isn’t mandatory for teachers. They have to attend anything offered on a staff day, and they need 180 points for licensure renewal (VA requirement), but they don’t need to attend so many sessions a year. It was like this in my previous district. They had to get 18 hours of PD each year, but if they attended the Opening Day session and the next day, they easily had 12 hours completed.
Even if the trainers have the tools to help teachers begin to innovate their lessons or to help inspire them with something new, it does no good without teachers attending the sessions. This is my 3rd year in instructional technology, and still I don’t have the answer to this. I haven’t figured out a way to make professional development sessions new and better, at least in the sense of getting more people to attend them. I have moved away from the sit and get method, and the sessions I offer have teachers doing hands -on work. I know this still isn’t enough, and I’m working to improve in that regard.
If you are a teacher, it would really help me if you would give me some perspective, on why you choose not to attend professional development. What would make you want to attend a session, especially if all you have to go on is the description before signing up?