Want to keep your technology
support fresh and current? Keep
learning! There is no better
way to ensure tech is being
used efficiently than through
an approach of continuous
professional development. Below is a sampling of
ways you can do this collaboratively and continuously
without spending a fortune.
YouTube and other video-sharing sites provide
many crowd-sourced tutorials for supporting Google
Apps for Education (GAFE) implementation,
configuring active directories by department, student
information system customizations, and much
more. Reviewing teacher-specific uses of innovative
technologies on these sites may provide more concrete
examples of implications for teaching and learning.
If you are focusing on a specific product, reviewing
content from the manufacturer will continue to
increase user expertise. Online subscription services
such as Lynda.com or enterprisetraining.com provide
As you find new online content to these offerings,
begin to curate these resources so that new staff
members have access to relevant and effective
learning opportunities. Consider creating a Web site
or a wiki where staff can document and share the
variety of online learning opportunities.
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES
In addition to working in small groups and
teams, the Professional Learning Community (PLC)
approach provides the needed access to follow-up
discussions, collegial activities, greater interaction with like-minded learners, and a natural setting
for idea generation.
One surefire approach to a PLC format can
be found in TechTalks. Weekly or bi-weekly
online TechTalks, which are gatherings of IT staff
district-wide or even regionally, are designed to
allow staff to share best practices in management
systems, instructional technology, hardware, and
more. Sessions can be tailored to meet the needs
of staff, dependent on new initiatives, challenges
encountered, or the timing in the school year. For
example, as districts head toward benchmarks
or state testing, an emphasis on modifications
for special needs students, hardware access, and
connectivity issues might be most pressing.
Topics of interest can be submitted for
consideration or shared in an open agenda
format. Likewise, individuals with a special
expertise should be recognized and their learning
highlighted, to be used as a resource for others.
IT staff can observe teachers and even work
with teachers in the development of IT-infused
lessons to provide a concrete experience and
first-person portrayal of how the tools that are
supported by IT are utilized for instructional
purposes. This approach helps IT staff see firsthand
what happens in the classroom, and how
things like filtered sites, automatic updates, lack
of device administrator privileges, slow Internet,
and other obstacles can affect a lesson.
Newer IT staff can shadow their veteran
counterparts to observe, record data through
note-taking and images, and provide reflection
time. Resource-sharing across a team, site,
district, region, or state can provide valuable
on-demand support and answers. Creating and
engaging in an online community of practice to
grow and continue to develop a PLC will provide
relevant resources and on-demand learning.
Are there individuals or small groups who
focus on specific aspects of systems or pedagogy
in their roles? If so, personalized coaching may
be the way to go to address the highly customized
needs of staff to expand skill sets, deepen
learning, and minimize irrelevant training that
might not apply to all staff.
What do your vendors provide? When
establishing new contracts, build in as many
free or discounted trainings and support
opportunities as possible so that, over the
duration of the contract, updates are provided to
current staff and new staff can be brought up to
speed on products.
Certification programs, such as the Microsoft
IT Academy or CISCO Academies, are highly
regarded, consistent approaches to trainings that
can standardize practices and provide staff with
the necessary skills for deeper learning.
These continuous learning opportunities
will ensure that everyone in the district is on the
same pedagogical page.
Dr. Lisa Gonzales is superintendent in the
Portola Valley School District and a member of
the California TICAL cadre. Jason Borgen is
program director of the TICAL Project at the
Santa Cruz County Office of Education.
❉ Support for training and use starts at the top
❉ Dedicate adequate resources and continuous
funding for ongoing technical needs and
❉ Create virtual communities of practice for
❉ Research online groups and resources
❉ Train the IT staff as leaders to empower those
❉ Learn about and use the support and training
provided by your vendors as part of your
TIPS FOR STRUCTURING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
■ Provide ongoing support. Coaching and PLC ’s should be highly customized for
■ Promote understanding of technology pedagogical practices. IT staff need
to have a working understanding of how the tech they support can improve
instruction and effectiveness.
■ Provide coaching and mentoring. If research shows that 85% of teachers who
receive coaching implement new methods (compared to 15% without coaching),
imagine the success with IT staff.
■ Provide access to online information repositories. Hosting resources online
allows staff to access and search as needed.
■ Create a school environment that supports professional development. Policies,
practices, culture, and funding must facilitate the effective use and integration
of educational technology supported at the district level.