Edtech in Action: Teacher-Led Professional Development

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Edtech in Action is a new series of articles from attendees and speakers of Tech & Learning's events. Click here to learn more about these events and to apply to attend.

Initiative: An online teacher-to-teacher learning program

Location: Hillsborough Township Public Schools, New Jersey

In an effort to provide staff with timely and targeted teacher professional development, Hillsborough Township Public Schools has developed a flexible, incentive-based teacher-to-teacher learning program that's online.  

At the beginning of the school year, any staff member can submit proposals to teach 1-hour professional development courses outside of normal working hours (typically right before or after school). All courses are reviewed and discussed with content area supervisors and the Technology Integration team to brainstorm ideas, agendas and learning activities to ensure that courses are cohesive, consistent, and aligned to technology and/or curricular standards and goals. 

Once approved, the Technology Integration team develops a comprehensive schedule to run each course multiple times spaced throughout the entire school year. Teacher trainers receive compensation for 2 hours of preparation for each new course they offer and are paid each time the course runs. This library of courses (over 400!) is then published to the district’s online system and is available to staff at any time. Staff interested in taking courses can sign up at any time up until the course begins. If any teacher attends six or more hours of these training courses, they are then exempt from attending an in-service day scheduled at the end of the school year. 

The program has been a huge success. Approximately 85% of district teachers take advantage of this opportunity. The flexibility, choice, and incentivization make it appealing to all. Teachers have commented how they like the small class size and focused topics that they can immediately take back to the classroom. Pacing the learning throughout the year has also helped staff adopt more innovative ideas.

Each year new teachers apply to teach in this program and it continues to grow and evolve.  This past year, Hillsborough began offering some online virtual courses staff take over a two-week period from the comfort of their home. This year’s most popular face-to-face courses were “Kinesthetic Classroom: Incorporating Purposeful Movement Into your Classroom,” “Unit Menus: Empowering Students Through Choice,” and “Digital Escape Room.” This year’s most popular online courses were “Mindfulness in Schools,” "Creating Virtual Field Trips,” and "Transform your Teaching with HyperDocs!”

Joel Handler is the Director of Technology at Hillsborough Township Public Schools. Todd MacDonald is Technology Integration Coordinator.

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