For educators, summertime is synonymous with teacher professional development and training in anticipation of the approaching school year. Oftentimes, there are new materials, textbooks, resources, and equipment to learn how to use. Districts try to plan dynamic professional learning experiences for their teachers knowing that it can be overwhelming to digest so much information squeezed into a few days. One forward-thinking district – Port Arthur Independent School District - planned a weeklong technology conference in collaboration with Visual Techniques Inc. and EOS Education by Boxlight to help their teachers learn to use new and existing educational technology including interactive displays, classroom software, and STEM solutions.
Many of you have tiptoed into the new school year, testing the waters of teaching knowing that things may change as quickly as last spring. You’re building up your confidence with teaching using different tech applications and tools, either because you are facilitating learning using a blended model or are fully engaged in remote learning. You are doing this while getting to know your students, planning and presenting curriculum, and making sure your materials are organized. In the back of your mind, you may be wondering (as most teachers do) — Am I doing all that I can for my students? Are the tools that I have available being used to the extent that they should?
Not to state the obvious, but education is in a time of dynamic change. This change will affect not just this school year, but long into the future of what education may be for our children and grandchildren. It is important, then, to rethink how administrators, teachers, and parents/guardians prepare for each school year so that students can still meet, or exceed, learning goals and objectives. Beyond what can be seen on paper, education also supports a child’s need to experience, explore, and apply learning to real-life now and in the future. To do this successfully, teachers who are now dealing with a virtual classroom environment must adjust their teaching practices. Why? Because remote learning requires specific skills such as conducting classes using video conferencing, sharing content in different ways, and providing feedback on student assignments and projects.
Raise your hand if professional development days before the new school year are your absolute favorite? Hands still wrapped around that cup of coffee? I thought so. Even as one who used to plan and facilitate PD days, motivation for setting up the classroom outweighed the desire to review the previous year’s assessment results and goals for this year. Yes, that should be evaluated and discussed, but the anticipation of having a class full of new learners and personalities is much more exciting! This school year, many teachers are still waiting to find out how teaching and learning will happen – physical classroom, virtual classroom, blend of both? As we wait with bated breath, what teacher PD options are available for online learning?
Once upon a time, in a land not too far away (Los Angeles, CA), I once engaged in, planned and facilitated, and tried to stay awake through quite a few professional development sessions. Most were mandated and scheduled right before school started in the hopes that something would transform our practice so much that 100% of our students mastered all learning objectives in 180 instructional days. After a few weeks of school, many of us were overwhelmed and discouraged that all of those awesome strategies and techniques didn’t work with every situation, every subject, or every student. I do not envy district and school administrators tasked with the responsibility of selecting and organizing PD each year.