Thursday, May 12, 2016

PD by the Numbers

Much of my job as an ITRT revolves around professional development. Our role in the school is to provide "on-demand professional development support for students, teachers, and administrators." No small task indeed!

Traditionally, PD has been a laborious duty of "sit and get." Three-hour sessions. Don't fall asleep. (I'm reminded of the theme from Gilligan's Island - "A three-hour tour.") Teachers vocally share their frustration about mandatory PD, begging for choice and flexibility. Why is there such a divide between what teachers want to learn and what they have to learn? And why must the sessions always be so long?

I have struggled with this disconnect for quite some time and decided that THIS would be the year I changed how I provided PD to my teachers. If they could pick any topic to learn about, what would they choose? What tech tools were new to them? Did they have any grand ideas of projects or themes where I could provide support?

I didn't know the answers because I hadn't asked the questions.

Sure, I had participated in grade level meetings and offered suggestions or support. I asked what they needed and was met with cordial smiles with a few teachers on the side approaching me for additional help. But this was different. I wanted to know their personal thoughts about technology PD. Not with their team. Not with me. I wanted the barriers of peer pressure and assumed expectation stripped away for raw, honest responses.

I wanted answers that required reflection.

It was expected that we would support two PD initiatives focusing on Google Implementation (our first year as a GAFE district) and Interactive Achievement. I could have easily offered sessions on these two topics alone and filled my calendar for the year.

But I wanted to know more and I was convinced my teachers did, too.

I started the school year with an in-depth teacher survey where they could share their thoughts on what they wanted to learn about and how interested they were in various topics. The survey was subdivided into three sections: Google products, Tech Integration, and Digital Tools. There was also a free response section where teachers could type additional information they wanted to share. I provided the teachers two weeks to complete the survey and the results were fascinating!

A Sample of Google results

A Sample of Tech Integration results

A Sample of  Digital Tool results

After analyzing my data, I discovered a strong interest in "Good, Better, Best for iPad Use in the Classroom." I created an MES App Challenge where various apps would be spotlighted for a quick, 30 minute max PD session various times a month. (More on that in my next post!) I also discovered through the free response section of my survey that an entire grade level was interested in learning more about how I used instructional videos with EdPuzzle for center rotations. Even though that question didn't score very high in the school-wide survey results, I made EdPuzzle training and support a priority for this specific grade level.

I created a Remind account and asked teachers to join. Several times a month I sent reminders of upcoming PD sessions or shout-outs teachers who reached learning milestones. My goal was to make learning easy and fun while strengthening relationships in the process.

I also realized I needed to learn more about Personalized PD and the nuances of managing such an overwhelming style of PD. I connected with other like-minded educators on Twitter and followed the hashtag #personalizedPD. I joined a #personalizedPD Voxer group and sought out Personalized PD sessions at local and virtual conferences.

The one thing I discovered that ALL Personalized PD has in common?

A growth mindset.

Yes, I know that's a trending topic and I also know the buzzword has been used so often it's starting to lose a bit of its luster. But the sentiment holds true: in order to grow, you have to be willing to learn new things.

In April, I asked several teachers to reflect on their progress, with whatever topic or tool they chose to learn about this year. The results were astounding!

A progress chart based on ski slope symbols

Results of teacher growth through ongoing PD

This is worthy of CELEBRATION! We now have experts in our building, many of whom feel confident enough to teach others what they have learned. WOW! So empowering!

I sent out this infographic to our staff, to showcase a few of the milestones met this year through our revamped PD structure:

The best part is that our district is changing, too. For the first time ever we are offering teachers choice and flexibility in their required PD trainings. They now have the option to earn their PD points in sessions offered throughout the summer instead of the typical all day "sit and get" structure of years past. They can take an eLearning course, or choose sessions on various days. 

Choice. Flexibility. Interest.

There are some exciting things happening in Hanover County Public Schools and I consider myself blessed to be part of the process! It has been a phenomenal year!