Saturday, March 28, 2015

Equipping Your Professional Development Toolbox

If you are an instructional coach, educational leader, curriculum specialist, or other educational professional who works with teachers, you need to be proficient in the use of digital tools. Embrace the ongoing learning of tools that present new solutions to new problems and keep a pulse on changing technologies. This can no longer be delegated to a few educators in the system designated as “Instructional Technology Specialists”

The purposeful use technology as a learning tool is a component of modern best practices. Skilled educators in todays world understand that digital tools, along with sound pedagogy and relevant content, are all important in order to prepare students for success in a modern society.

Why? Because digital tools are a fully integrated into every aspect of our daily lives. To not incorporate them in authentic and productive ways in education represents a disconnect with the real world.

In my opinion, to be a truly effective teacher today you must equip your toolbox with digital tools. 
"Technology will not replace teachers but teachers who do not use technology will be replaced by those who do." 
 — Ray Clifford
That brings me back to the educational leaders, coaches and specialists. These professionals should exemplify the top educators in the system, knowledgable in best practices for today’s learners. This includes the use of digital tools. (see TPACK)

The modeling of instructional best practices for teachers is just as important as modeling processes for students. When conducting professional development, faculty, team and committee meetings or leading PLC’s, educational leaders need to utilize and model digital tools that enhance collaboration, productivity, communication, problem solving, and creativity. Here are a few tools that can be used with any educator audience:

All things Google- Use Google apps such as Docs, Slides, Sheets and Draw as an alternative to paper/pencil collaborations and brainstorming. Unlike butcher paper, stickies and index cards,These can be easily saved, edited and referred to after meetings and professional development. Information can be collected via Google forms or used as exit tickets. Documents can be efficiently organized and shared via Google Drive., a Chrome plugin allows you to highlight and save web documents. Using, teachers can collaborate, discuss and process web text information.

Google Classroom or Edmodo- These tools are classified as Learning Management Systems. Discussion groups, professional development courses, multi-school learning networks are some of the ways these device agnostic applications can be used. Edmodo has loads of features including folders for sharing files, an integrated badging system and the ability to make subgroups, polls and quizzes. Although not as robust, Classroom integrates easily with the Google suite of apps and new features will continue to be added. Both platforms allow you to embed video, links, images and documents and engage in discussions.
 Copy any text and insert it into Prism. Define up to 3 criteria for highlighting the text. Multiple users highlight text from any device based on criteria. A presenter can then discuss the results with the group by using the font visualization tool. This enlarges the text that is highlighted the most (like a Wordle) to show how the group perceives the content. This is a great web-based tool for activities such as collaboration, brainstorming and  sorting. Functionally it's similar to using sticky notes or poster paper only better because it can be readily saved for reference or ongoing contributions. Insert a video from the web or created by you. Add stopping points with reflection questions, feedback or comments. Track user responses to the content. is a great resource for flipping meetings and professional development or sharing information where collaboration is not essential. Get the content out to the teachers prior to meeting so you can  keep teacher time together more meaningful by engaging in professional discussions. - This tool allows users to collaborate and have discussions around media asynchronously. It can be used for flipping meetings and professional development. It enables teachers to engage in meaningful conversations and share ideas without being in a designated time and place. Comments regarding a video, image or document can be collected via, voice, text, or video and images can be annotated.

We model for our students daily; As educational leaders we must model for our teachers. Currently this is a standard best practice using strategies such as those developed by Kagan and Marzano but much less so when it comes to modeling best practices that include the integration of digital tools (which, by the way can be layered with other strategies). In order to seamlessly integrate technology as an instructional tool, we need to stop treating it as if it is a separate subject. Our goal should be to move away from coaches, specialists and trainers specific to technology. We need all instructional leaders to model effective technology integration.

Modeling the use of digital tools when working with teachers will help you develop a culture that embraces innovative instruction, 21st century learning skills and risk-taking. Be sure to let teachers know that you are committed to building your proficiency with new tools and will be using them to increase collaboration, communication, productivity and problem solving. Not only will you build capacity in teachers, modeling and utilizing technology tools during training, meetings, and PLCs will efficiently use your teachers most precious commodity— time.