This summer, the DigitalJLearning Network had the pleasure of taking 15 Jewish Day School educators to the 2015 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, PA. We asked the participants to share what they learned and how the conference inspired them to take action in their schools. Tiffany Zonneveld, Dean of Educational Technology and Media at The Weber School, shares her thoughts in the eighth installment in this new blog series.
Being brand new to the Educational Technology arena, I went to ISTE with the hopes of picking up a few good tools to take back to share with my school and help our teachers do what they do best. Little did I know that ISTE would introduce me to a wealth of new resources, tools, and ideas, so many that it even got a bit overwhelming. As a media specialist and now an educational technologist, my main focus was to figure out how I can get this information back to the teachers. What would be the best way to ensure that every teacher in my school can benefit from the technology I learned about at ISTE? How can I reach teachers with varying levels of comfort with, and knowledge of, educational technology? Thankfully, ISTE provided me not only with a great array of EdTech tools, but also connected me with teachers who are doing exactly what I do and who were able to share what works best for their professional development programs.
I attended numerous presentations, interactive sessions, and table talks, all of which were beneficial in some way. However, it was the poster sessions that I got the most out of. With their informal setup, I was able to spend as little or as much time as I wanted with a poster presenter, asking questions and engaging in meaningful discourse. Through these interactive presentations, I was introduced to the concept of personalized technology plans. Presented by Tracey Waid (@traceywaid) and April Davala (@aprildavala) from Mooresville High School, this poster session focused on providing differentiated technology professional development to all teachers in their school. These educators developed a PD plan that assessed each staff member to measure his or her current level of technology understanding and use, then broke up the staff into groups based on skill level and developed training sessions tailored specifically to what each group needed. Technology coaches helped teachers identify skills that they wanted to develop or were interested in learning more about, thus increasing teacher buy-in for the training. After the initial rollout year, Waid and Davala were more than happy with the outcome: participation in the program was double what they expected, and teachers who participated reported embracing the skills they learned and implementing them in creative ways in their classrooms. At ISTE, Waid and Davala were kind enough to share their website which contains the resources they used with their staff, an outline of the process, and reflections on how the program is going so far.
This year, my goal will be to implement a program similar to the one that Waid and Davala shared at ISTE. I am working with our Dean of Professional Development to compile a list of tech skills that we believe teachers should have as effective educators in the 21st century. Training will be implemented throughout the year in a series of opt-in courses based on teachers’ prior knowledge, and progress will be recorded in a personalized professional development portfolio for each teacher. As a school that utilizes Google Apps for Education, Google products are high on the list for training, as well as ways to use iPads more effectively in the classroom and helping teachers get more comfortable with our learning management system. I look forward to using Waid and Davala’s structure of differentiated coaching as a model for promoting professional development at my own school in order to help teachers better utilize technology in meaningful ways.