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

Dr. Stephanie Hatten

District Digital Learning Coordinator, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 Digital Natives
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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?

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.
Scaffolding ideas for staff development actions (click to enlarge).

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?

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Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

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!


Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Digital Learning Coordinator, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 Digital Natives

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.

jbormann3's picture
Technology Integration Specialist @KeystoneAEA. Former English teacher in 1:1 iPad school. SMART Certified Trainer. #flipclass enthusiast.

As an Instructional Technology Specialist, I have helped a school district move towards Personalized PD. The framework we developed for the school utilizes instructional coaches that are within the building. Here's the website that I created to house everything the district needs to work through the framework (http://tinyurl.com/oelweinpd). It has a mountain climbing theme. I have other surrounding districts looking to move towards similar models.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

Jared, this is great stuff! Love what you've done here. Any chance you can open the Google links on that site, or, make copies you can share here? I'm getting 'request permission' popups when I try to access them.

What have you learned when implementing this model? What are the 'gotchas' you didn't anticipate? What can be done to convince admins of the merits of this approach?

Thank you!

jbormann3's picture
Technology Integration Specialist @KeystoneAEA. Former English teacher in 1:1 iPad school. SMART Certified Trainer. #flipclass enthusiast.


The site was created specifically for the school district - sort of a home base to house everything staff needs. Hence why it's shared only within the school domain. I've made copies of the shared docs and put them in a folder that can be shared with anyone.


So far, we have been in the preliminary stages. Hard to tell. But the tech team at the school that helped put this together has worked hard to forsee as many road blocks as possible. In order to build that sharing and communication piece, every stakeholder has a folder within the school domain. That way everything they do, no matter what camp they are at, can be searched and shared. This builds communication across staff at different buildings even. I plan to do some screencasts that explain various pieces of this and do a multi-part blog post. I 'm hoping to even submit a post to Edutopia :)

As far as convincing admins, I would say this approach requires very little managment by a specific admin. I've districts gamify their PD where points are rewarded and prizes given. That requires much more management though. Not only that, this approach is based on the promotion of intrinsic motivation and encourages direct implementation of new ideas. Which ultimately affects instructional outcomes for positive learner outcomes.

Let's keep in touch and see if we can learn from each other. My twitter is @jbormann3

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

Superb. Thanks for sharing! Keep us posted on your progress!

Lauren148's picture

Thank you for the information about your differentiated plan and Individualized Technology Goals. I think this is a great plan to help not only the teachers who struggle to implement technology but also teachers who may be comfortable with technology but need pointers to help smoothly integrate it into classrooms. Being on the receiving end of "one-size-fits-all" group trainings, it can be very frustrating. In this model, teachers will get the help they need, and everyone can grow!

W. Herrington's picture

Dr. Hatten,

I am quite impressed with the manner in which you have empowered the teachers within your district to have a say in their own education, and that you tailor that education to their specific needs. Many times we as educators strive to provide more student-centered learning opportunities for our students and forget about the fact that the same need applies to our teachers in their own professional development classes.

I work in a non-traditional school setting, one belonging to the U.S. Army, and find it difficult to adapt instructor training based on specific instructor needs. This provides a great model for integrating some more personalized learning opportunities for the teachers I work with. Thank you.

Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Digital Learning Coordinator, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 Digital Natives

Thank you for your comments. We are in our third year of implementation and all I can say is we try to improve every year. I feel what we need to work on for next year is the teacher ownership. Where at first teachers were so excited to have choice, I sense a level of complacency in which they give the impression it is just the coach's job to help them improve and not their own. We are debating how to help with teacher ownership of their learning right now to prepare for next year. Also, we have found teachers prefer a friend or colleague they know to choose the same goal so it is interesting that groups of teachers choose goals together to hare collaboration which we know is best practice but we did not want to force on them. Also, the instructional coaching models are growing tremendously with all content areas. It seems the coaching in the classroom models we have been doing for three years is now becoming standard practice with content area specialists who are changing their titles to coaches in many districts. It is an interesting trend! I think these models work for all kinds of innovations, not just technology so I think it is exciting.

Dr. Stephanie Hatten's picture
Dr. Stephanie Hatten
District Digital Learning Coordinator, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 Digital Natives

Thank you, I was a classroom teacher who believed so much in the differentiation movement but did not see it in staff development! I read a sign that said we need to keep our staff development between anxiety and boredom. It is a fine line and everyone is so different but I think it is worth the effort from what we have seen.

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