Differentiating Professional Development

Today I came across the following tweet by Kate;

I was initially torn. On one hand, I’ve been in the audience for this, and it’s frustrating. On the other, for the last couple of years I’ve been the one in front, and that’s not easy either. I’ve given some lip service to trying to differentiate this type of required professional development but haven’t followed through. Additionally, the team I work with and I have a general goal of wanting to get away from a model where teachers depend on us for technology training and instead focus on improving  pedagogical approaches, so I want to help teachers to be able to learn the specific tech skills they need, when they need it, without a need for sit-n-git PD.

So I posed a question;

There were two ideas that came out of the discussion that I am going to particularly focus on because I think they could work for me.

I like this idea because the list could even be split into ‘need to know,’ intermediate, and advanced sections so that folks who already have the basic competencies can expand their skills with that particular tool, and it could set a baseline for what we expect all teachers to know and be able to do (kinda like we do for students…) with that tool. I like that it very granularly differentiates for teachers. That said, I really like the possible collaborative nature of the second idea;

I like that here teachers could work together to learn whatever competency is expected. I think this is what I would try first, as I’m pretty big into collaborative learning and want to model that with teachers as well.

In either situation, I would like if this were the norm;

As the PD leader, I should be doing two things; provide learning experiences for my participants, and providing opportunities for them to share what they have learned with each other. (Side note: this is no different that what good teaching in a classroom looks like). One reason I particularly like these methods of differentiating PD is that it makes it more difficult for students teachers to get sidetracked, as they can move on to learn things they don’t already know. (I’m the worst student; I try to multitask with twitter, mail, and more twitter, and I end up missing a lot. For that reason as well as this study I have been trying more often to close my laptop and take notes by hand. I’m confident that being allowed to move ahead and explore, with accountability, would keep me more focused.)

Do you have other ideas for differentiating PD? Thoughts about these methods? Let me know in the comments!

One response to “Differentiating Professional Development

  1. About 10 years ago, I attended a school-based workshop on creating a class website led by a co-worker. The URL would be something like yourname.fcweb.schooldistrict36.ca. My colleague even made a joke about typing one’s own name, not “yourname.” Two minutes later, a bunch of hands went up; “Mine’s not working.” Wanna guess their problem? So, yeah, there’s a need to differentiate in terms of tech skills.

    But, like you, I want the focus to be on improving pedagogy. As a participant, I’ve seen many a presenter kick off a session with the edtech disclaimer “It’s not about the technology!” only to spend the next 6 hours talkin’ apps. Yet I’m (somewhat) sympathetic. I’ve led teachers through activities designed to focus on learning THROUGH problem solving/multiple strategies/pictorial representations/5 Practices/etc. get quickly derailed with “What app did you use?” And so that becomes the takeaway: students can share their strategies for solving a problem with an open middle becomes “I can have students create tutorials using ShowMe.” (Note: This is on me, I know. Still, frustrating b/c I think how to share a screenshot on the AppleTV, for example, is always the least interesting/challenging aspect of the activity.)

    I like checklist/station ideas. I need to think more about what these might look like.

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