Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Faculty Learning: Scoring a Basket!

What are the barriers that impede teachers growth as learners?

The most common answer is usually a lack of time, unfortunately in some cases I believe that there is also a lack of motivation.

On Monday, we had a Staff Development day and the administration required faculty to attend at least one technology session.

I was thrilled with the opportunity but I realized that some of my colleagues would not have attended otherwise; that left me with several things to consider about professional development.

Among other things I wondered:
1. How do we make the sessions meaningful?
2. What is the best way to present a new digital tool?
3. How do we engage and keep faculty motivated to integrate the tool?
    Here is my take at possible answers to the questions:
    1. In order to make a session meaningful to teachers it has to be a hands-on session. Teachers should have the opportunity to create during the session. The topic has to be relevant to their subject area and applicable to a lesson.
    2. One good way to present a digital tool is to show an application of that tool. I've seen lots of great presentations at SlideShare that show a particular tool with bullet points about possible applications but rarely linked to an actual example. If I am able to show how I integrated a tool into my own curriculum and demonstrate it's usefulness for student learning I am sure that it would be easier to convince teachers to give it a try.
    3. Once a teacher is engaged it is very important to follow-up their progress. Sometimes a teacher is willing to try a new tool but when they are alone in their classroom and stumble upon some difficulties they might be tempted to drop it. If the mountain doesn't come to you, you have to go to the mountain!
      I like to document ideas that people have shared with me about a particular project and then after a few days  e-mail them or stop by their classroom to ask them about their idea. With this method I've been successful in reigniting the fire.

      How did our Staff Development day go?
      I think it went really well! We had 8 presenters for a total of 11 sessions. The requirement was to attend one session but 50 out of the 108 teachers attended two and some of them three sessions! All of the sessions were hands-on and the faculty had an opportunity to select which session to attend.
      For the past two days we've had requests for installing Google Earth, help with advanced features in Google Sites, troubleshooting Prezis and the best of all: two of our administrators have started their own blogs!

      So what is the secret to score a basket with faculty and their own learning?
      I don't believe that there is a definitive answer to this question but I will certainly keep trying different strategies!