Using Technology Challenges to Encourage Tech Integration

As a technology coach, I’m always looking for a way to share the latest tech tools and fun integration ideas with my staff while at the same time, providing the required “how to” sessions on taking attendance, printing bubble sheets, entering electronic referrals…the tasks that are a necessary part of our day to day life. Time was (and is) never on my side when it comes to offering fun, engaging ways to get our students excited about learning.   After lots of research on blogs, Twitter, and other online resources, I stumbled upon The APPmazing Race and had a quintessential Aha! moment.  The collection of activities provided teachers and other participants to discover a wide range of technology tools that appeal to all sorts of learning styles in a very short amount of time. I immediately reached out via Twitter to Mr. Carl Hooker (@mrhooker), founder of iPadpalooza and the brains behind The Amazing App Race to ask if it would be ok to attempt such a task with my teachers.  He granted me his blessings and off I went.

With the week of preplanning quickly approaching, I decided to stretch the virtual race out over the school year and came up with a monthly Tech Challenge.  Each month, I select either a district software program, a fun new tech tool, or online resource and issue a challenge to our teachers to complete it.  At the end of the month, the names of those completing the challenge are displayed on our Faculty Site and those teachers become eligible to be nominated as our school’s Outstanding Technology Teacher of the Year.  These teachers are honored with a banquet and showered with prizes by our school district and corporate sponsors.  Examples of challenges include:

  • Adding a profile picture to their Office 365 account
  • Completing the orientation for our district’s online PD platform
  • Earning badges through pariticipation in online webinars sponsored by programs like SimpleK12
  • Creating a Twitter account and collaborating with other educators worldwide.

Each challenge has a verification process attached to it so that I can tell who has completed them.  These are totally voluntary, but the teachers have really begun to buy into the idea.  I’m really excited about the excitement that this will generate, and hope it helps teachers see tech integration as a way to engage students instead of “one more thing” they have to do.  Below is an example of a recent challenge.

Have you found ways to spice up your PD sessions?  I’d love to hear about them.

Happy Teching!

Experimenting with Flipped PD

The PD process has been a thorn in my side for many years. I am always thinking about ways to make the learning experience more interactive and meaningful for my teachers. I’ve read books and participated in webinars on how to energize PD. I’m currently going through a coaching program to gain even more insight on working with teachers. I’ve scoured the internet over the past few years on ways to take the “boring” out of PD. And like so many of the teachers I work with, I’ve become much smarter about what works and what doesn’t in PD – but my “students” remain disengaged and frustrated.

It’s not that I don’t want to change. But the process of training is a challenge, especially in a school building. I hear what others are saying about best practices and ways to improve, but my reality is a lot different. My sessions often get “bumped” for more pressing needs like state testing, schoolwide intitiatives, mixups with the PD calendar for the month…and while I recognize that things happen, it creates an atmosphere of only training on “need to know” info like posting grades, gathering test data, and the latest district software instead of doing and sharing the fun things I want to do like technology coaching, collaborating on projects, and co-teaching classes.

After lots of experimentation and a few epic fails, I think I’ve stumbled upon a possible win for next year. I plan to “flip” our technology staff development by providing our staff with an online platformtrampoline-trick-jumping-boy-salto-bounce-flip

I have built a Digital Learning PD website using Weebly. (I’ll talk more about why I chose that in a later post). It’s still a work in progress, but I think it will allow for the flexibility we need to get the “meat” of our topics ahead of time so that we can use PD time for “dessert”.

After creating the frame for my site, I began with our first lesson called OneNote 101. I created a simple lesson online – an intro, an online tutorial, and 3 tasks – and required the teachers to respond in our OneNote Staff Notebook (read more about that in this post). Here’s what I’ve learned so far –

  • Provide clear instructions. The first time I sent out the info in a generalized email, I was so excited to see their progress. I checked that staff notebook every hour, eager to see the waves of genius and inspiration that my PD had inspired. Day One – nothing. Day Two – nothing. I realized later that since the OneNote link was first, most teachers stopped reading there and once they opened it, were confused about what to do next. My instructions made perfect sense to me, but they were written from the instructor’s point of view – not the participants.
  • Teachers need a “why”. The most common feedback I received went something like this: “I know a little about OneNote. I’ve always thought of it as something you use to plan vacations, or do stuff at home. I’m trying to understand how this fits with my classes.” To help with this, I added a Why? Section to each tutorial along with estimated times and the general overview. I’m hoping that this will help with the big picture so that they can move forward with actually completing the assignment.
  • Spell out the expectations.   If there’s no reason to do it, it won’t get done. This is true for kids, and as I found out, for teachers as well. I had to explain they wouldn’t get credit for attending that week’s PD session until they finished the task. I’m hoping this will encourage them to get it done.

I’m sure I’ll have more lessons as we complete this experiment. Have you tried “flipping” your professional development? How’s it working for ya?