Your IT department just got the go-ahead to roll out thousands of Chromebooks to all of the K–12 schools in your district. You have the equipment all set up. Everyone has been informed. The students have returned their signed user agreements. You’re ready, right?
One last question: Have the teachers been properly trained?
When rolling out new technology, the type of professional development that teachers receive makes an enormous difference in how that technology is integrated into classroom practice. In general, many teachers have a negative perception toward technology professional development and believe it typically is not designed to meet their individual needs.
Here are some best practices for technology professional development that will help IT professionals sync with teachers before a big Chromebook implementation.
Research has shown time and time again that large, one-size-fits-all, presentation-based PD experiences just don’t work. Teachers typically find them to be ineffective or — worse — a waste of their time. Just like we ask our teachers to differentiate instruction to individual student needs, professional development needs to be designed with this same mentality.
Prior to delivering a PD session, technology leaders should consider conducting a survey or performing classroom observations to better understand individual teachers’ needs. For a Chromebook rollout, this might entail grouping teachers based on comfort level — for example, those who have no experience with the devices or operating system, those who have minimal experience and those who feel relatively comfortable with the technology — to create an experience that is aligned with each teacher’s abilities.
Technology PD of any kind is most effective when it’s ongoing. The typical one-and-done workshops are not effective, and they rarely impact technology integration practices. Teachers need additional support outside of a professional development experience, and there are many ways to provide this, depending on what works best for your school or district.
For example, technology leaders can offer an online repository of training videos, they can provide “just in time” support when teachers are implementing a new practice in their classroom, and they can help establish a community of practice where peers and expert teachers help coach those who are having difficulty.
With Chromebooks, in particular, there is a lot to cover. No single professional development session will ever be enough to get teachers ready to use, implement and support an entirely new device in their classrooms.
Effective professional development, aside from being continuous, should also be delivered in an active, hands-on and engaging format that is personalized, applicable and relevant to teachers’ individual needs. In other words, teachers should be able to take what they learn from a professional development experience and apply it immediately in their classroom.
For Chromebooks, professional development should also include a specific focus on the operating system (because it may be new for many teachers), device support (what to do if a student forgets his or her charger or loses logon information, or if the Wi-Fi is down) and classroom management strategies. Particularly in terms of classroom management with Chromebooks, if this is the first time students will have access to individual devices in the classroom, a significant amount of time needs to spent helping teachers become comfortable and confident in this area.
One technology PD strategy that has been shown to be particularly effective is one-on-one coaching and mentoring. Coaching can be an excellent strategy for meeting all of the design considerations mentioned above and providing personalized and just-in-time support to individual teachers.
That said, depending on school and district resources, coaching may not always be a feasible option. Effective coaching requires a great deal of time on the part of both the coach and the teacher, and this time investment is not something that every school or district can offer. However, coaching should be considered whenever possible, as it can make a significant difference in teachers’ technology integration success.
Professional development work is not done just because the PD experience has ended. Evaluation of new technologies that are being integrated is essential. Follow-up surveys with teachers are a great way to start, but highly effective evaluation involves moving beyond surveys toward classroom observation and the collection of student achievement and reflection data. Much like coaching, evaluation of technology PD requires a significant amount of time, which may not be possible within a school or district. However, technology leaders should aim to spend time on professional development evaluation to ensure that the experience has been successful and to determine what changes are needed in the future.
Professional development can make or break the rollout of new technology. In order for a new technology to be successful within a school or district, it is imperative for technology leaders to move away from one-time, uniform workshops, and move toward designing professional development that addresses individual teacher needs in a hands-on and engaging format. Whenever possible, coaching and mentoring should be provided to support technology integration, and the evaluation of professional development should always occur to determine what can be improved upon in the future.