Shifting from Ed Tech Professional Development to Professional Learning

Ed Tech integration in education has been a major factor or catalyst in driving 21st century learning forward. When done meaningfully, student learning is propelled into greater heights, adding the needed rocket boost to engage all kinds of learners and to enable learning environments that welcome risk-taking, innovation, and creativity. However, tech integration can also be a source disappointment or frustration to both learners and teachers if tech tools are used in class for technology’s sake, out of fad, or worst, disconnected from the pedagogy. As I often remind teachers in my talks, tech tools, alone, cannot create magic in class.

 

Keeping up with Tech Changes

Where is the magic then? It is with the teacher inside the classroom. However, in order for students to meaningfully used technology tools in class, teachers must be trained to design effective and relevant learning activities that would allow for better learning with tech tools. So, teachers attend workshops, trainings, and conferences, learning new apps and skills that can help change the way they teach various minds in the classroom.

Yet, tech tools often change fast. App update notifications flood our mobile devices. New features our added to devices. With these changes come the obvious need to always make sure that teachers are updated with the skills (or app features) needed in the classroom.

How do we then sustain relevant learning or growth in our teachers, who may realistically reach that saturation point where they just realize that there is too much to learn about tech integration?

Changing Perspectives: Professional Development to Professional Learning

Teachers attend numerous Ed Tech related PDs, whether in-school or in large-scale conferences. In these PD opportunities, the attendees join mostly one-shot workshops or seminars, often depending on the expertise or topics that will be discussed or shared by the speaker. All the attendees are seen as a single homogenous group, putting  and squeezing them into a one-size-fits-all experience.

With the usual PDs, there is this traditional setup that is often experienced, such as when the seminars or workshops are too much speaker-centered and the participants are out there feeling bored or just listening to the “updates” or theories. More often, professional development sessions are often created by experts or other people that hope to “develop” teachers.

To be fair, however, professional development for Ed Tech integration has seen some major changes. For one, an Ed Tech PD should never just be about ideas or theories. A big chunk of it should involve hands on, practical, and experiential learning. Yet, without careful planning or considerations, PD trainings can be reduced into plain skills training that may often be disconnected from the needed skills in the classroom.

So, what is the missing piece in this great puzzle of professional growth?

It’s ownership of learning. This is where professional learning comes in. Today, professional learning experts and school leaders have recognized the importance of making Ed Tech trainings or workshops meaningful and relevant to the teachers. As adult learners, teachers find satisfaction and purpose if what they are learning is relevant to their context.

Professional learning recognizes the individual contexts of each teacher – the needs, challenges, and goals. In short, teacher’s VOICE must be heard. Moreover, professional learning activities must be something authentic or applicable to their present situations because it is only when a teacher sees how a tech tool can work or improve instruction, assessment, or classroom management can he or she truly realize the importance of that professional learning activity.

Six Tips in Designing Meaningful  Ed Tech Professional Learning

Let me share some of the practices or tips that I do as a professional development/ learning consultant and leader in our school.

1. Involve the participants in designing professional learning activities through getting pre-workshop data from the teachers.

Pre-workshop surveys can help gather the needed data such as Ed Tech integration skills or tools that participants consider to be of top priority to be learned, practiced, or developed. The collected data can help decide which skills or apps should be included in the workshop sessions or trainings. A professional learning leaders can also dig for more info such as technology skills level (basic or advanced) or teacher confidence that can further personalized the professional learning experiences.

2. Design various opportunities for professional learning to happen.

Skills training is essential, but sometimes, some teachers may just need some realistic hands-on workshop where they can already practice and apply what they are currently learning. Some educators would seek for closer guidance through individual coaching. Some would just simply look for inspirations or assurance or validation to what they are doing. Avoid fitting all teachers into a single kind or format of learning activity. Consider their contexts and provide experiential, active, and collaborative learning.

3. Empower and involve the resident experts in the school.

Ed Tech champions or experts are living proofs of how meaningful technology integration can improve teaching and learning. So, tap those who have experienced and improved much in their classrooms.

4. Consider giving dedicated and enough amount of time for professional learning.

Most of the grumblings or complains of teachers about professional learning is not solely about how the workshops sessions or training were run themselves. Sometimes, it is simply because there is not enough time to acquire, reflect, and plan on how to apply those newly-learned skills. Hence, it is important that teachers may be given the needed space and time to incorporate and embed the newly learned tech tools and skills in their unit or lesson plans.

5. Tap the power of technology tools.

Tight schedule, meetings, parent-teacher conferences, family life, and other commitments are already filling up the schedules of each teacher. Professional learning can happen even if the teacher is not going through a workshop or training. So why not take advantage of tech tools that can deliver bite-sized learnings or just-in-time kind of learning? Why not go beyond the school and connect with other experts via professional learning networks in social media such as Twitter or Google+ communities.

6. Sustain the professional learning of the teachers through providing support or individual coaching.

Put in place a mentoring system so that expert teachers may continue to impart their expertise to those who may need their help or coaching. Create a culture of learning and collaboration through allowing teachers to share their learnings, mistakes, challenges, and solutions to each other.

Just as much as our students deserve the best education, teachers, too, deserve high-quality professional learning. Remember, we, as teachers, can only impart what we have. Tech may change quickly, but our role as teachers still matter! Teachers, still, matter. So, keep on learning.

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5 Professional Learning Opportunities for EdTech Teachers

Professional learning or professional development is an essential aspect of being a 21st century teacher. As students continue to learn in the classroom, teachers must also continue to learn in order to improve their teaching skills. For EdTech integrators or teachers, the integration of technology in the classroom sometimes require constant updating about the new tech tools that are available and how they can be employed pedagogically.

 

Continued professional learning can be in the form of formal classes though enrolling in further or university studies. Informal professional learning, which has taken various forms, gives teachers a more independent and personal take or choice in whatever aspect of teaching they want to improve on. With technology’s deeper involvement and integration in education, teachers can also take advantage of various professional learning or development opportunities that can be accessed through Internet or online resources.

5 Professional Learning Opportunities

Here are five informal professional learning or professional development opportunities that can help teachers increase their knowledge on new technologies, trends, and best practices in integrating technology in education.

 

a. Participating in School Initiated PDs

In order to improve learning and teaching, schools should initiate professional development (PD) sessions for teachers. It can be a school-wide event where all teachers are required to attend and participate or small departmental or grade level meeting or workshop. Simultaneous breakout sessions or trainings on the use of a certain app, strategy, or teaching method can be developed or planned for a school-wide PD event. For smaller scale events, professional sharing and conversations are great examples for teachers to share tech tools used in class, best practices in integrating tech or success stories in the classroom.

Teachers can also volunteer and participate in tech coaching and mentoring sessions. Novice teachers can work with tech integration mentors or experts in the school so that they can further improve and polish their teaching skills with tech integration. Pushing it further, teachers may also work and learn with students who are “tech experts.” Although this opportunity might threaten some teachers, it is also a good opportunity to show that students can also participate in helping a teacher understand a certain tech tool or how to use or manipulate it.

 

b. Joining Local Learning Community 

Educators in local areas form learning communities or groups which aims to create opportunities for teachers from different schools and contexts to share their expertise about integrating technology in the classroom. This is a very helpful opportunity because the different contexts where the members are coming from can provide more data or insights to how a certain tech tool, strategy, or teaching method can be used in class. Since the sharing or conversations are based on experiences in the classroom, each member can learn and avoid mistakes committed by another teacher. Further, the learning community can work on how they can replicate the successes and maybe, improve further what was shared.

Meet ups are often arranged by a learning community leader. Members attend and take with them whatever data or story they can share to other people. A few examples are local Google Educators Group and EdTech community meet ups.

 

c. Attending Professional Conferences

Teachers can surely increase their knowledge and acquire more skills when attending local, national, or international EdTech conferences. Professional conferences are great opportunities for teachers to personally learn from known experts or innovators in the education and technology integration field. Visiting exhibits from participating EdTech companies is also an interesting way to try out new tools that are being offered or showcased. Moreover, teachers can also take advantage of breaks during sessions to personally connect and meet with other educators attending the conference. It is a great time to personally build your connections among the education circle.

Check this site to know more about EdTech conferences.

 

d. Creating a Professional Learning Network in Social Media

A lot of educators have seen and have experienced how helpful and wonderful it is to create a Professional Learning Network (PLN) in various social media platform. The power of social media has opened a greater, quicker, and more efficient way for teachers around the world to connect, share best practices, and engage into deeper reflection or discussions in teaching and learning in general.

More specifically, Twitter has been a massive tool for educators from different places in the world to connect and learn from each other. Educational chats and hashtags in Twitter have grown so much and have seen various forms to accommodate the different subject, learning, or educational areas being discussed in Twitter. Educational chats based on locations and learning principles or ideas are also available to be explored and for participation. Check this site and discover education chats in Twitter.

Other platforms that offer PLN opportunities are Google+ Communities and LinkedIn Groups.

 

e. Taking online trainings and certifications

Some EdTech companies and universities are also offering free online training opportunities for teachers to further deepen their knowledge on EdTech integration in teaching and learning. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) or simply, online courses have been popular means for teachers to take further studies or trainings. While most of the training are free, getting certified sometimes would require payment.

A recent excellent example for online trainings are the Google Certification Trainings, where educators can train for the integration of Google Apps for Education in the classroom. The training is free and can be accessed wherever and whenever. The certification, though, requires an online assessment for a fee.

 

Do you still have more professional learning opportunities that you can share? Sound it off in the comment section.