Over the past 6-8 years we have seen a supersonic advancement in public schools and the way our teachers now must teach. This has hit education like a tidal wave, leaving precious little time for our teachers to process it, and especially to learn how to do it well.

The consequence, in many schools, is that teachers have begun to use technology but have forced it into all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons. Research has consistently shown that technology used in inappropriate ways is actually worse for learning, and this is happening all around us.

At Grand Oak Elementary School in Huntersville, NC we have worked hard to create an environment where we are supporting our staff through this transition. We are only in our second year of existence and yet we have set the stage through our vision to become a school where teachers and students “Collaborate. Innovate. Achieve.” We aim to help teachers understand our goals for educating students while providing them with the tools, resources, and support culture to make those goals reality. In many ways, the focus on differentiation, risk-taking, and learn-by-doing activities we’re introducing to our teachers mirrors what we are asking from our students as well.

This process of adult learning has not been without bumps and obstacles. Teachers were confused, feeling inadequate, and frustrated. We listened to feedback, affirmed their progress, continue to evolve in our processes, and brought in experts to help answer questions. Most teachers were used to the “sit and get” approach to PD that allowed them to be passive consumers of information. This new way of teaching and learning allows them to take command of their learning and professional growth through topics they choose instead.

1. Technology Tuesdays. These are volunteer sessions for additional technology tool support. This is an opportunity for teachers to get additional tech support on new tools that can be integrated in to the classroom. This is done each month by school or district experts.

2. Flipped PD. Rethink professional development and begin to differentiate by allowing teachers to pick areas they want to learn about, create collaborative action plans, and then learn about their focus area. Simulate an EdCamp model, focus on more engaging and longer term PD that is more in depth rather than isolated shorter sessions.