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The 4 most common mistakes districts make in professional development

By Dianne Pappafotopoulos, M.Ed
November 30th, 2016

Expert details the mistakes district leaders often make in tech-based PD; offers enlightening solution.

tech-based PD

Across the globe, teachers are continually asked to integrate technology into their curriculums to keep up with future-ready skills and in turn they complain that they need more professional development. District administrators then tend to incorporate four common mistakes in professional development programming.

The problem is this: District leaders hear that teachers need more tech-based professional development when, in reality, the ask is much more nuanced: they are pleading with the education system for more time to plan, participate in training, experiment with new technologies and share best practices. Because of this disconnect, tech-based (and, really, overall) professional development offered to teachers is often not as effective as it could be.

The 4 Most Common Mistakes in Tech-Based Professional Development

1. Assuming your hired specialists will do it naturally

Across the country, school systems hire library media specialists, digital media specialists, technology integration specialists, and other types of curriculum training personnel to deliver instruction, offer staff training and guide teachers through changes in pedagogy; but what is their role and how are they supported in a system where the focus is mainly aimed at time-on-task, teaching core curriculum subjects?

2. Squeezing tech-based PD whenever you can

In my experience, offering PD before school, at lunchtime, after school, on weekends and during summer hours is just not feasible. Teachers are always planning, evaluating, and assessing their own curriculums and spend most of their “free” time addressing those needs to improve teaching and learning. As a result, even suggesting that teachers give up their unscheduled teaching hours is bound to get negative results and rightly so.

3. Relying on LMS or Online PD

One common mistake is to offer online tech-based PD through Learning Management Systems (LMS) or other online platforms where teachers can log in and work at their own pace; but even that fails over time since there is usually little incentive for them to complete the tasks. Furthermore, in an online environment, if teachers complete course work on their own time, there is still no guarantee that they will use the newly obtained knowledge in their classrooms.

4. Forcing it through the curriculum

The use of technology always brings about change. With little planning time, changing curriculum content to integrate technology and ensuring that it will enhance the classroom experience can be somewhat overwhelming when everything is working well. With some teachers, “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” is the silent attitude.

To support this effort, some schools offer tech-based PD as an added option, which may or may not set it up for failure. If administrators expect teachers to use the latest and greatest technology and teaching methods then there needs to be an overall Professional Development vision for the school. Not a one-line statement simply stated in the tech plan, but a true vision that incorporates time in the school calendar to foster skills and pedagogy that is deemed important by teachers and administrators.

(Next page: An enlightening solution and action plan)


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