THEY SAID IT: From the SchoolCIO Advisor Blog

5/30/2012 By: Matt Townsley, CIO Advisor

Differentiated technology professional development

In August 2010, my school district started using Google Apps for Education. Our primary purpose was to provide a place for our collaborative learning teams to work together. We’ve since expanded our use through feedback loops as well as collaboration between teachers and students.

Problem: Initially, teacher accounts were setup and shown how to login with no other direction instruction. How does a staff of more than 80 teachers learn a new tool? One option was to provide whole-group instruction. This option appeared to be contrary to the idea that adults learn at different rates and in different ways. Another was no guidance at all and assume that staff would learn from each other. This option assumes enough expertise lies within each team to bring the masses up to speed.

Solution: Some staff members already had a working knowledge of Google Docs. Still others felt they could catch on with some additional guidance. Other staff members indicated they would feel more comfortable learning in small groups in a face-to-face setting. Enter the Google Apps Diploma. All teachers were asked to demonstrate they could...

• Create & share a document
• Create & share a collection
• Create a comment

The learning medium would be differentiated in this outcomes-based experiment. Those with the knowledge could “certify” themselves immediately. I created tutorial videos for those staff members who wanted to learn in their pajamas on the weekend. I also setup voluntary small-group learning opportunities before and after school at each building throughout the year for those who preferred to learn faceto- face.

We are closing in on 100% of our principals, secretaries and administrators self-certifying themselves with the “2011- 12 Google Apps Diploma.” Finally, I wanted to capture the effectiveness of each learning medium. Here are the results:

I am interested in learning from you.

In what ways are you using differentiated learning environments to provide professional development to your staff?

Matt Townsley is director of instruction and technology at the Solon Community School District in eastern Iowa.

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