Reflection from Tech PD Day

We had a successful technology integration professional development day the other day at Ames High.  To read more about the setup for the day, check out my blog post about PD on the Inside.

One very interesting observation that I made today as I was walking through the hallway was the increase in the use, and effective use at that, of technology during what is the first day of a new semester.  Many teachers have new students and classes and were apparently ready to use the technology day 1 with them to get started on the learning adventure.  This is a stark contrast to the first day of school for this year and shows a great trend.

After the day was over there was a Google Form that teachers got to fill out to provide feedback on the day.  Overall we had a very high number of responses from the staff, it is almost always impossible to get 100% but I felt the number that we did get was enough to draw some conclusions from the data.  Overall our numbers showed high satisfaction with the effectiveness of the professional development day and there were few, if any, negative comments.  Many comments were about how they enjoyed the format of the day and how we should have more of these.  It was a great time for the High School teachers to share what they are doing with other High School teachers and our Middle School teachers who will hopefully be 1:1 in the fall.  This was not designed to be a one time fix but it is a great continuation on our technology PD path.  There are things that we know we need to do, which were also reflected in some comments, such as having teachers share more often with each other on what is working and what isn’t working.  While I had tried to create something to facilitate this earlier this year, we are still looking for an effective way to do this.

The numbers are great to look at, teachers were able to use a 1-5 ranking system to provide some feedback, but it was the comments that I always find most interesting.  I even created a word cloud to help analyze all of the comments.  Of course one word that popped up the most when looking at needs was “time”.  That is something that we always hear and probably always will but it is also the hardest thing for anyone but the top administrators to give.  The easiest way that teachers can get more time is, of course, by having fewer classes to teach or at least fewer students.  This becomes a difficult thing to do these days as our class sizes approach 30 and our teachers teach 6 different sections a day in an 8 period school day.  We can get some extra time by using technology to make things more efficient, but in the end that is not something that I can directly help.

I will be looking over the other comments and analyzing them in order to help me develop an action plan for the rest of the school year.  There are still things that we can change and implement to improve things at our school but we also have to make sure that we stick to our main goal of improving instruction and the learning environment for students.  Luckily my position allows me to meet with teachers when they have needs so that we can quickly address them.

Even after most people had left for the day, my work on professional development was not over.  I finished the day by taking part in a Google Hangout with some teachers from Byron, MN as well as other teachers/tech integrationists from Minnesota.  (Jen Hegna was in charge for the day and wrote up a great reflection on her blog.)  The topic was the “EdCamp” style PD that was done at Byron the other day.  I have written before about my love for the EdCamp experience, an unconference that allows for greater collaboration and ownership of the learning.  This is an idea that I would love to help implement at my district but it is one that may not be well received by all.  There are a number of districts who are implementing this as the model for their full or half day PD days and are seeing very positive results.  The key to this style of PD is that the teachers are the experts and they share with other teachers, there are no handouts, no lectures but instead we get a collaborative learning environment.  Teachers get the choice of creating their own sessions and choosing the topics that directly influence them or interest them.  This is something that I feel we should implement at our district in the future.

The key is to use what we learned from yesterday in order to influence what we do next.  For teachers I hope this means they have discovered new ways to help their students learn in the classroom and beyond.  The key to knowing if your PD was truly successful is by seeing changes in instruction that is continued well past the initial PD day.  I am very happy to see some teachers already trying new things and hope they continue.  For me, this means using the comments and observations from yesterday to influence what I do to assist teachers for the rest of the year and for next year.  There are things I can change to better meet the needs of our teachers but there are also things that I, alone, can not impact but maybe I can help change.  The goal is to always be better than we were without forgetting those steps we had to take to get there.

Overall, for my first time helping to implement a full day of professional development for teachers I would say it was a success.  I learned a lot about being on the other side of PD and can’t wait for our next time to do this.  I love learning and will always jump at the instance to help others learn.  That is why I got into teaching in the first place and why I will be in teaching for a long, long time.

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