Writing blogs like this one and interacting with teachers on Twitter and the like can make edtech teacher types, like me, forget that it is still the case that the majority of teachers are not confident or regular users of modern technologies (social, mobile & student-centred) and need effective introduction and explanation of their benefits. I would estimate this majority of the non-confident to still be around 80%.
In the first year of my current job as Head of Department, a number of my teachers highlighted how far they’d come in just one year. I thought I’d share my approach to providing PD and why it might be that it seems to work (well, some of it)
- Why does so much Professional Development NOT work?
- Why do schools make such slow progress with modern workflows compared with business?
- Why do some teachers refuse to budge from their tried and trusted methods?
- “PD’s never to do with how I teach”
- “I always forget PD because I don’t use it immediately”
- “PD’s a waste of my time”
- “It’s always too much to take in”
- “I’m not confident with using technology in my teaching”
COMPLAINTS CAN BECOME SOLUTIONS
Choose an Tech-coach Teacher to work one-to-one with others and give them time to do it
Make PD to do with an individual’s current teaching – Don’t introduce an unrelated “new-way”
Give them a reason to use it immediately
Provide the PD at a time that suits the individual
Provide PD in small but frequent sessions
Confidence grows slowly, so only take small steps from current practice
Every student is an individual and so is every teacher.
Providing standardised Professional Development to groups larger than 10 is just as effective as trying to teach a standardised curriculum to classes larger than 10, that is to say, not effective at all. The biggest missing piece in so many PD jigsaws is a reason for each individual to ‘develop’ in that way. As well as a professional reason, each individual will be looking for a personal benefit too. Some non-edtech teachers will need small conveniences added to their current practice.
HOOK THEM IN FIRST
My trick is to always emphasise the personal benefits or conveniences such as time-saving, less admin or increased popularity with students to the teacher before explaining any professional or pedagogical benefit. In addition to this, by mostly working with individuals, I can also add an immediate use for the ‘development’ by looking at the specific teacher’s current teaching programme. This gets them using it for a number of days after the session. If they feel there’s a personal benefit, they’re more likely to give it a proper go. The professional and educational benefits will be truly realised in time and the teacher will be proudly trumpeting those, whilst possibly keeping the personal liking for it more quiet.
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KEEP IT SIMPLE – SMALL BUT FREQUENT. STEPS MAKE BETTER PROGRESS
When I’m working with a teacher, I only work with something they are currently doing and try to reduce the development to 3 points or even 3 clicks if I can. I also ensure I only ever cover one task that they are currently doing but show how it can be developed to be easier, quicker or more popular with the kids.
LINK THE STEPS
I try not to jump around topics and tools between sessions. Try to link all the small steps together. For example, moving to Google Drive is good for this as steps are taken within one account and the format is similar throughout the Google eco-system. Google Drive is also enough like an old PC but introduces the use of Cloud storage and can then link to increased iPad use through the Drive app and thus mobile workflows.
If you jump from one topic to another, teachers can’t picture how all the ideas and tools link in different ways to their current practice. This is particularly evident with training that focuses on app after app. Most apps are isolated tools that might be great but when piled upon each other with all their various features, can overwhelm and produce little progress. This happens even if an app is covered each week or so. In the first 3 years, build a plan for how a limited number of apps will work together in the long term.
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HAVE A BACKBONE
Any school or edtech team should have a planned set of apps or eco-system that together get all the basics done. This plan can be ignored or added to by the more confident teachers but acts as a core safety net for the less tech-minded. These basics are:
- Project organisation
- (I’m sure you might have others)
Many teachers I work with have often wished they’d just been told one way of doing things whilst other colleagues have enjoyed playing with a variety of apps. So providing a core eco-system is important to get everyone onboard.
Building basic confidence in tech use is the first hurdle for many teachers.
My Step 1: “Don’t worry, the new way is like the old way”
Create a department Google Account to log all the non-technical people into on both iPads and laptops. Demonstrate the easy dragging of Word and Powerpoint files into the Drive and how it acts like an “old” computer.
Then show how the docs appear immediately on the iPad App. This worked well for our Apple TVs as I needed a wireless way to present all their normal files. The apps and browsers log in permanently, so no password remembering and They only had to remember that dragging worked.
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Step 2. “I have a great reason to start using this”
“I’ve canceled the next meeting!” When I said this, they loved that I had freed up their time but you can trade that off against having to comment inside a Google document where all the questions, topics and discussion takes place over a week, when they each find time. Their browsers and iPads will already be logged in so emailing the doc link gets them all straight in.
Step 3: “We need to reduce the workload for all”
Indicate that sharing the same Google file structure means they can all use the same files and replication and movement of copies between teachers comes to and end. Groups of teachers can then add to the same files. This also works well for school or department policy or admin files that can be completed by the whole team, reducing workload further.
Step 4: “Explain Everything but just with photos and a laser”
The only standalone app I introduced was Explain Everything. Non-technical, traditional teachers could see it’s worth as again it only recorded what they’d always done. The trick was reducing the app to just 2 features:
- This is how you add a photo/screenshot to a slide,
- This laser lets you point at stuff.
The videos will go to the same google/YouTube Account so no further passwords.
Don’t mention Flipped teaching yet as it scares/annoys many teachers. In fact stay away for edtech vocabulary all together.
Step 5: “Stop! That will do for year 1”
Let teachers master 3 things each year and the school will have far more overall success. If all teachers in any school were using Google services and Explain Everything, it would be a real leap forward for most schools.
- Professional development often fails by forcing too much too quickly, not giving personal/human reasons for shifting and not personalising it to individuals’ current needs.
- Schools move slower than business because they lack the financial / survival incentives to change. Schools should work with personal incentives to encourage change. Educational incentives are a worthier cause but in reality, teachers are human before they are idealists.
- Some teachers have habits developed over decades, so don’t try to change them but show how what they do can be done more efficiently and save them time. This will start the long road to change.