Saturday, November 30, 2013

What makes a good PD session?

We recently had a district professional development day at New Lexington that focused on incorporating technology in the classroom.  The day gave many district employees the opportunity to learn how to use a variety of tools & resources.  One of the best parts about the conference was that all of the presenters were employees of the school district.  When peers can share their insights, experiences, and knowledge inside of a school district, it makes the district stronger as a whole.

If you are planning on having a professional development day in your district and would like to have district employees present, there are key aspects you will need:

1. Technology-savy employees
  • Our Technology Director, Tim Householder, organized the conference for our district.  He asked district employees to sign up to present different topics.  Many teachers and administrators agreed to share their knowledge with the district and demonstrate how to operate different type of software, apps, and websites.  Employees who enjoy using technology effectively in the classroom to help students can make a professional development day truly beneficial for the district.
2. Technology resources available in the district
  • Our district has different technology resources in each building.  The high school is a 1:1 school with iPads, the elementary buildings use Smart Software with Brightlinks, the middle school has a mixture of iPads and laptops, and all teachers in the district have iPads.  Having a variety of resources means you will have a larger number of employees who are skilled using different types of technology in the classroom.  It really was incredible to see some of the things that were being offered during the number of sessions.  At one point during the day, there were sessions offered on BrightLinks, Remind 101, Google Docs, Educreations, Brain Pop, and Pebble Go all at the same time.  
3. District staff who are open-minded
  • Using technology to help students is great.  Changing the way instruction is delivered is sometimes scary process for teachers.   Develop a culture in your district and building of using new tools & resources to help students.  Creating that environment will enable teachers to maintain a positive attitude about learning new tools to help their students.
4. Give staff time to practice with app/websites/applications
  • Encourage staff members to take baby-steps with the new resources.  Have staff members try to use one resource a week to start out with (ex. if they are just learning Twitter, have them try to tweet once a week or join a chat once a week).  Allowing staff members time to work with the resources will keep them open minded to using more resources in the future.
5. Create sessions for all grade levels
  • Having sessions available for all grade levels gives everyone the opportunity to learn something they can use in their classroom when they return.  Don't create professional development sessions just to say you had them.  If staff members don't use a resource and have no intentions of using the resource, then don't offer it.  It is important to have the staff complete a survey prior to the conference setup to inform you what they want to learn about.  Use the data from the survey to create your sessions.
District PD that focuses on technology can help your district grow.  Saving money and sharing resources will enable your district staff to grow together and help all of the students and parents of the district.

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