What should you do with limited resources when faced with a need? This is when your creativity needs to step in. As an administrator, I was faced with the challenge of providing high quality professional development and supporting our teachers with opportunities to grow professionally, all within the regular school day hours and with no change to our budget.
In our school district we are fortunate to have teacher leader positions; in the case of technology, they are called technology liaisons. While they are also regular classroom teachers, they, as the name suggests, are liaisons between their school buildings and district office administration. They are the spokespeople for their colleagues and also their “go-to” person for anything related to educational technology. From fixing mirroring displays to providing one-on-one Edtech support; technology liaisons are the engines that drive educational technology at each of their buildings.
As most districts did, we enacted the 1:1 model with technology. We wanted to provide students in grades 5-12 with regular, equitable access to digital learning tools in school and at home. Last year, we decided all of our middle school and high school students would have a chromebook to take back and forth to school.
The 1:1 chromebook model focuses on continuously improving student learning outcomes by providing necessary tools to the hands of each student, making their education more engaging. This in turn can positively transform the way teaching and learning takes place by also empowering the students with new technology skills needed to succeed in the future.
With added devices and added software the need for professional development was evident. We know that teaching instruction and delivery are bound to change when the technology is so readily available to the students; and we know that our teachers need every inch of support to learn how to better their instruction with the insertion of new devices and software. The question was, how?
How could we support teachers when faced with this need? As I mentioned, resources were limited and time was a commodity. I started looking at ways in which time was used at each building. How much time was there available for after school (within their work hours) for professional development? The answer was, NONE.
As I pondered ways to find time for professional development I also thought of ways in which we could build and expand the capacity of these learning opportunities to meet the needs of each school building.
Technology liaisons meet monthly with me and other building admins. Meeting monthly for half a day meant a half day sub for each of their buildings. A light bulb went on: What if we used that time to keep the technology liaisons at their buildings rather than coming to the district office for a meeting? After all, we could use other methods for meeting virtually. This change would free up time for the liaisons to be at their buildings and meet with their teachers. This provided a huge opportunity for them because they could now, visit classrooms, meet teachers at the teacher’s times of need and schedule 1:1 sessions at a teachers’ convenient time.
We made the change and we started meeting only every other month. The month in between, technology liaisons would be at their school buildings working hand in hand with teachers. The positive feedback was immediate and an unplanned change had started to brew. As teachers and technology liaisons had more time to meet with each other, discuss ideas and learn from each other, they organically started to come together in groups. Whether it was trying a new tech tool or letting other teachers come and observe their tech integrations, teachers managed to collaborate with each other in a way that was non threatening and that allowed for each of their strengths to be a learning scaffold for each other.
This change brought about positive learning attitudes that translated into teachers modifying their instruction to incorporate engaging activities that focused on collaboration, creation and inquiry all supported by EdTech tools. As teachers expanded their digital skills, so did the students. This is when teachers realized that they had tech help right at their side: students! Kids were eager to help teachers in anything technology related. They know how to format a document, how to change their display, etc. why not tap into this unexpected resource? A student-led tech support was born.
When I look back and think of the time I spent figuring out ways to create opportunities for teacher collaboration, I feel like I learned a lesson as an admin. I can’t structure collaboration; it grows organically if I step out of the way and provide opportunities for unstructured collegial inquiry.
Natalia LeMoyne is the Coordinator for Instructional Technology at the Guilderland Central School District. She’s a Google Education Certified Trainer and Innovator, EdTech enthusiast and bilingual in Spanish and English. Natalia started her teaching journey in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a ELL educator and ultimately found her passion for Edtech while working for the North Carolina Public School system. She holds a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology and specializes in bridging curriculum with technology through a myriad of methodologies focusing on Task Based Learning. She oversees the Chromebook 1:1 program, Google Apps management and the iPads at her district.