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Turn tech PD into a casual trip to the CAFE with this new model

Casual, ongoing professional development on technology makes a difference at one district

cafe-pdEvery Wednesday from 2:45-6:45, the fresh aroma of “personalized” coffee choices from the Keurig fills the air and our teachers settle in to work individually or with their colleagues at the Technology CAFÉ. At the Carson City School District’s Professional Development Center, CAFÉ means more than just providing coffee and snacks: It refers to the ongoing, personalized professional development teachers need to transform their teaching and their students’ learning with technology.

The name evokes a place of conversation and relaxation, but it also defines our special house blend of PD: C-Create, Collaborate, and Connect, A-Advocate, model, and teach digital citizenship, F-Facilitate blended learning experiences, E-Engage in professional learning opportunities.

Starting in the spring of 2014, in conjunction with our rollout of one-to-one laptops for all 1,800 middle school students (grades 6-8), the district’s technology integration specialists identified the need to provide weekly professional development for teachers, beyond the four in-service days already scheduled. Out of this need, the Technology CAFÉ became a reality, and has continued to increase this year with the rollout of 1,800 more laptops for grades 3-5 at all six of our elementary schools.

Next page: How teachers use the CAFÉ


As with most one-to-one program goals across the country, our program is designed to meet the following three goals. (1) Increase academic achievement and student engagement. (2) Minimize the digital divide by increasing equity of access for our high poverty high-need student population, where over 50 percent of our 7500+ students qualify for free and reduced lunch. (3) Transform the quality of teaching and learning with technology to increase 21st century skills for economic competitiveness, and college and career readiness.

However, those goals cannot be met without “ongoing job-embedded, student-centered, collegial” technology professional development of which includes just-in-time practice, mentoring, and peer coaching. The Technology CAFÉ provides the systemic component of personalized professional development for our teachers just as the “Learner-Centered Organizational Model” from our District Race to the Top Grant provides the personalized learning structure for our students.

What is the CAFÉ?

At the CAFÉ, teachers may come for as little as 15 minutes to get a question answered or stay for 3 hours to create a new lesson infusing digital resources to enhance their students’ learning. Teachers come to the Technology CAFÉ with questions about how to use a particular internet resource; seek assistance with technology integration strategies by working collaboratively with grade level or department colleagues and curriculum materials; to refine classroom management tools in a technology-rich environment; and to create assessments.

As an additional incentive, teachers may earn professional growth credit that can be applied toward advancement on the salary schedule or recertification credit issued from the Nevada Department of Education to apply towards teaching license renewal. The Technology CAFÉ is offered 34 of the 38 weeks of our school year calendar, with an average of 24 teachers attending each week, staying an average of 1.5 hours.

Along with the individual assistance, our three TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment), technology integration specialists, and district teacher leaders provide direct instruction on the “Pillar Applications” that everyone uses: MasteryConnect, Edmodo, and Google Drive. In addition, other technology-enhanced curriculum resources and digital tools are demonstrated utilizing the TPACK—Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge—framework and the ISTE Standards for Students as the basis for instructional design.

Carson City School District is one of many school districts across the country that is helping to prepare their 21 st century learners with mobile technology in a one-to-one learning classroom. However, it is one of the few districts to make it a priority of our community driven District Strategic Plan, “Empower Carson City 2017.” In the plan under Goal 4, “Curriculum that Matters: Provide multiple pathways that empower lifelong learners, active citizens, and career and college ready students.” Strategy 4.2: “Provide every student with access to current one-to-one mobile technology and access to the Internet as an authentic educational tool.”

Our goal is to promote district-wide collaboration and assist teachers making a difficult transition. As one teacher recently summed up so nicely: “As a high school teacher, I have never had the opportunity to work with primary grade teachers before, and they are the best trainers because they know how to simplify directions into very understandable tasks in order to learn a new skill.”

For more on our approach, visit this video on our district’s YouTube channel.

LeAnn Morris is lead technology integration specialist at Carson City School District in Nevada.

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