Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Individualized Technology Goals (ITGs) for Teachers: A Fable of the Staff Development with No Clothes

Dr. Stephanie Hatten

District Technology Specialist, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 teenagers,

In a public school kingdom, the school year started typically for the instructional technology department, with a daylong meeting about school year requirements. This included a list of trainings the campus technology instructional specialists (TIS) were obligated to offer. As one lowly TIS looked over the list, she saw that many of the trainings did not apply to her campus. Her teachers needed her help with integration, not the technology itself. Basically, she felt that the list -- created by a district over-reliant on the group training model for a certain software or technology tool without including integration ideas -- did not reflect the needs of the teachers on her campus. After all, wasn't she an integration specialist? She also pondered what would happen if teachers were allowed to choose their own staff development goals and how they would be coached to reach these goals. She wanted to shout, "This Staff Development Plan has no clothes!"

That TIS did not shout. She proposed that instead of just documenting technology group trainings, she should be allowed to document other types of staff development, including modeling, co-teaching, conferencing, finding resources, and mentoring her teachers. She focused her time on individual teachers and their needs using Vygotsky's theory of the Zone of Proximal Development and scaffolding. After a year, she proposed that the whole district try her Differentiated Technology Staff Development Plan.

Several changes have been made to keep the plan continuously improving, but now in its third year of implementation, the following basics are currently being implemented in this district.

The ITG Plan

At the beginning of the year, the campus TIS meet with the teachers and have them complete an online survey to determine their Individual Technology Goal (ITG) that generally asks:

  • What instructional objective their students struggle with learning
  • What technology device or software the teacher wants to implement (can be edited at TIS beginning-of-year conference)
  • What is the teacher's skill level with integrating this technology tool
  • What is the teacher's preferred method of learning in staff development (group training, modeling, co-teaching, conferring, planning, etc)
  • Any other information the teacher wants to share with the TIS

Although these surveys are online, we have the TIS meet face-to-face with teachers to talk about their classroom needs, and have them collaborate with other teachers if they want to choose the same goal as a grade level or department. It is also best practice for the TIS to use this time to showcase a choice of the available district and campus technology devices and integration initiatives.

Then the TIS meet with the district Technology Instructional Specialists to create a Flexible Differentiated Plan for their campus. What are the most popular goals? What technology trainings should be offered and when? The TIS create a tentative timeline of group trainings and groups of teachers they will focus on each month. As a benchmark, the first staff development action for each teacher should be completed by the first semester. Then, at the start of the new semester, the district and campus TIS meet again to reevaluate the plan. Now they plan the next steps for these teachers in the scaffolding process: how can we make them more independent with their integration goal?

Model for differentiated staff development.

Plan Notes

With this plan, the staff development is ever changing and cannot be mapped out in its entirety for the whole school year. It also requires much collaboration, discussion, and time, because each plan is tailored to that campus and to individual teachers' needs. However, this differentiated staff development plan seems to be working better for our teachers, and we've had much positive feedback. I am proud to say that since my days as that campus TIS who wanted to shout, our technology staff development plans have changed for the better. They now meet individual teacher needs in real-world situations, focus on integration instead of the technology itself, and build relationships. This makes our plan, in my opinion, "fully clothed."

Scaffolding ideas for staff development actions.
Reflection

At the end of the year, we asked TIS and teachers their opinions of our ITG plan. Their suggestions have proved valuable in revising the beginning-of-year surveys and choices of technology goals. The responses for the most part have been favorable from both groups. The teachers loved the staff development help that was tailored to their needs, and the TIS were content that their time was being spent on worthwhile endeveavors. The TIS do feel sometimes that teachers do not rate their own integration level correctly, but we have included the option for TIS-teacher conferencing if teachers feel there is any discrepancy in understanding the definition of quality technology integration.

For the most part, the biggest change for TIS and teachers is the fact that every teacher can improve. We spent so many years focused on the struggling teachers that the ones with a partial grasp of edtech devices missed out on staff development opportunities. Now, in our third year of implementation, we are focused on shifting more responsibility for completing goals back to the teachers. Some teachers thought they could choose a goal and then be "fed" the information by the TIS through lecture-based trainings. They are realizing now that improvement in instruction takes work, practice, and a determination to not just recognize systematic problems, but to fix them. It isn't enough to acknowledge that the emperor has no clothes. We have to sew clothes for him as well.

Does your district have individualized technology goals? How does it help your teachers complete them?

(2)

Comments (10)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

cbennet5's picture

I can definitely see how this approach is much more effective than the traditional sit-n-get lecture type professional development. Love that it puts a good deal of responsibility for goal completion on the teacher and doesn't just focus on bringing the struggling teachers up to basic levels of technology integration. Really enjoyed reading your post.

(1)
Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Technology Specialist, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 teenagers,

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I like to focus on all teachers not just the beginners. Everyone can improve their technology integration. Continuous improvement is the goal. With the beginning teachers please do not expect that they will need to know all about a device to be able to integrate. (at the sit-n-get of old) This is where we overwhelm by showing too many flashy options before they gain actual experience with use. They can start to implement with about 5-10% knowledge of a tech tool to start. Then they learn as they go.

JD Rea's picture

Fascinating. It sounds similar to what we expect in a classroom. Why has this not been done before? Giving the teachers instructions based on what they need is wonderful.

(1)
Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Technology Specialist, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 teenagers,

Thanks, We are seeing positive results with this instructional coaching for technology staff development IN the classrooms instead of asking teachers to attend after school trainings.

Lee Varty's picture
Lee Varty
Junior high teacher in a rural Alberta school

Thank you for this. I can see this model being very useful to me and the teachers in our school.

Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Technology Specialist, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 teenagers,

You are welcome. I hope you adapt this model to fit your specific needs!

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey

Dr. Hatten, thank you for this roadmap. You and your district's hard work is evident, and it seems clear you are getting the results you want. Congratulations! My question for you is how did this evolve over time and what forces/influences came into play to get your district to embrace the new model? What advice do you have for those striving to achieve something similar? Thank you!

-kj-

Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Technology Specialist, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 teenagers,

Good questions! I started the coaching model with first and second grade teachers at my campus. Then I added more campuses so I worked on this with three campuses as a kind of pilot. Then when we decided to adapt to the whole district we made this more of an option for teachers. Now it is a requirement instead of the many other one time trainings that used to be required for the teachers. Now this is required of the teachers and every year we get better at monitoring improvement and effort of the teachers for our own records.
Now we have added more documentation and requirements for TIS to make sure they are using this model. However I must point out that we are taking other staff development requirements off their jobs such as large district staff development days that used to be full of lecture options on different software. Now the TIS work what we call Make-and-take workshops where teachers can sign up to work on technology such as their websites with an expert there to ask questions but with no formal training to prep for and we still consider this staff development hours. (our own kind of unconference)
So the work is not MORE for our staff, just different. I would have to say that we have not had much pushback from the elementary teachers because most of them love choosing their own staff development goals and having a coach to help them in their classrooms. Also they did not have to stay after school for more trainings and meetings. We embed this in their instructional time with students for the most part. The secondary teachers are a little more cautious because they worry the observations of the TIS will be on their evaluations but we insist that we are in the classroom to help, not to judge, so this relationship takes time. The first year some TIS felt overwhelmed because we were changing their whole mindset too, but when the teachers reported how much they liked it, the TIS got excited to improve for the next year as well. Now we are working on training the TIS with instructional coaching strategies to improve our practice.
My advice: Don't give up after one year. I believe the structure is sound. Every year we improve the logistics and our staff development and coaching get better and better, therefore so does our instruction. I hope this helped.

JD Rea's picture

Fascinating. It sounds similar to what we expect in a classroom. Why has this not been done before? Giving the teachers instructions based on what they need is wonderful.

(1)
cbennet5's picture

I can definitely see how this approach is much more effective than the traditional sit-n-get lecture type professional development. Love that it puts a good deal of responsibility for goal completion on the teacher and doesn't just focus on bringing the struggling teachers up to basic levels of technology integration. Really enjoyed reading your post.

(1)

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.