For teachers in Centerville, La., the morning routine of putting on slippers and making a fresh pot of coffee has a new twist. The slippers and the cup of coffee are still there, but so are a computer and the desire to improve IT skills. It’s time to wake up and smell the spreadsheets!

In a remarkable case study released by the local school board, teachers and administrators by the hundreds are raising their IT proficiency scores simply by logging on and doing homework during their free time.

“[This professional development program] really marketed itself once I told everybody they could use the software anytime, anywhere,” said Susan Dupre, technology facilitator for the St. Mary Parish School Board. “We don’t know if we’re the first ones to use [the term], but ‘Professional Development in Your Pajamas,’ or ‘PDNPJ,’ sounded good, and it stuck!”

With 27 schools, 10,000 students, and 725 teachers, Dupre said, the district covers a wide area. “It can take 45 minutes to drive from end-to-end. That’s a long way to drive for IT training.”

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires all students to be technology-literate before entering secondary schools, but NCLB also requires that teachers be responsible for integrating technology into the classroom.

“It’s really very simple,” said Dupre. “Technology integration won’t happen until teachers feel comfortable using their classroom equipment.”

Dupre said her district lists three steps to successful technology integration:

  • Get teachers to see how learning technology benefits their teaching,
  • Let them see how they can use technology in their teaching, and
  • Share those skills and computers with students.

At first, Dupre and her district tried a standard approach to professional development. They created a set of classes called “No Grown-Up Left Behind,” or NGULB, which featured face-to-face courses on Microsoft applications. Offered after school hours and on Sundays, the courses also were made available to the community so parents could learn IT skills.

There was one problem: The program was too popular.