The best edtech PD isn’t about technology

3 ways to provide professional development that can bridge the divide between investments, implementation, and outcomes

Schools and districts spend billions on edtech, even while questions continue to swirl around whether such investments yield solid returns. Few companies can reliably ensure the educational outcomes that teachers and administrators expect, and according to one estimate, only 35 percent of edtech tools purchased are actually being implemented.

Barriers to successful implementation often have little to do with the technology itself or teachers’ comfort with technology overall. Instead, success is impeded by a lack of strategy on how to integrate the technology into the classroom. Even as they spend up to $18,000 per teacher per year on professional development (PD), schools and districts have underinvested in quality PD that focuses on the skills and know-how educators need to make edtech effective in the classroom. It’s not from a lack of demand, though—research nearly always suggests that educators are asking for more and better training.

District leaders must meet this demand and provide the very best edtech PD by focusing less on the technology itself and more on fundamental pedagogical strategies that can bridge the divide between investments, implementation, and outcomes.

Focused instructional decisions

The promise of edtech stems, in part, from its ability to generate data that can inform instructional strategies. Data can inform small-group instruction, help teachers pair students, identify gaps early, and even challenge conventional wisdom about how and why learners construct knowledge.

Whether that means using AnswerGarden to collaboratively build a word cloud to assess how a class is absorbing material or using Perusall to review a group of students’ “confusion report,” there are plenty of tools teachers can leverage to make data-informed decisions about their instruction.

Effective PD should share best practices and tools that will support teachers in maximizing their instructional time by using the information they get from those tools to become laser focused on students’ specific needs.

The collaboration conundrum

Education can be an isolating profession. Teacher-innovators often feel like they are working in a vacuum that offers few opportunities to engage with and learn from the experiences of their peers. That’s not surprising when so much of their PD seems to ignore the value of collaboration. Just 9 percent of professional-learning opportunities offered to teachers have collaborative formats.

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