Personalized professional learning opportunities can help teachers implement digital learning and ensure continued student learning throughout the school year.
Personalized, ongoing professional development is essential for teachers to effectively teach in a digital learning program. While some teaching strategies are relevant for both traditional and digital learning, teachers will need professional learning opportunities to support the use of unique strategies and tools in digital learning.
When designing a comprehensive professional development plan, a few key topics should be addressed:
When planning your school or district professional learning, consider:
Ongoing professional development should be provided through various options; we describe a number of them below.
One way to help teachers build capacity amid overloaded schedules is to provide them with opportunities to collaborate and share strategies with each other in professional learning communities (PLCs). PLCs can be formed around grade level, content, or experience using technology in the classroom, and meet on a regular basis either in person or online. Teachers who have participated in some of Digital Promise’s PLCs, such as the HP Teaching Fellows, have reported the benefits of hearing how other educators are facing the same challenges and knowing they are not alone.
To help reduce teachers’ cognitive load in terms of prioritizing and tackling the challenges of digital learning, PLC facilitators can distill shared problems of practice to help galvanize teachers to collaborate on solutions.
Micro-credentials are formal, competency-based recognition for specific skills that teachers use in the classroom. They are earned online, allowing teachers to receive on-demand and personalized professional learning based on their needs.
These powerful tools are easy to use, adaptable, focused on ongoing professional learning, and tied to teachers showing competency rather than having seat time. This means that micro-credentials give teachers the opportunity to learn new skills and hone existing ones in a format that is flexible. Micro-credentials can be completed by teachers individually or with peer support working in a PLC or school- or district-level cluster teams.
To integrate micro-credentials into a school or district professional learning plan, you should:
Coaching is an effective way to promote educational equity and enhance student learning to help teachers leverage technology meaningfully within their classrooms. Coaching provides the support teachers need to overcome the learning curve around digital learning and close the gap in technology usage through individualized support. By working with teachers one-on-one or in small groups, coaches are able to look at data and respond to their unique needs.
When technology coaches were hired in schools through the Dynamic Learning Project, over 90 percent of teachers agreed coaching allowed them to address professional challenges and improve student learning and engagement. Teachers who received coaching used technology more than those that did not receive coaching. They were able to use digital learning more powerfully in their classroom to promote student collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, and agency.
In order to develop strong coaching within your school or district:
It is essential to identify teacher leaders within your school or district and to develop their role in supporting other teachers. These teachers should include those who are part of the leadership team as well as others who can help to set appropriate learning goals and expectations, identify resources and tools to support digital learning, and support other teachers to plan and orchestrate effective digital learning opportunities for students. Teacher leaders often act as mentors and provide support to their peers.
One option is to give teacher leaders the agency to propose a project they want to work on for the year—for example, determining ways to use digital technology to improve student public speaking skills. Once the lead teachers have determined ways to do this in their classroom, have them share their learning and educate their peers. When considering teacher leaders, ensure leadership is identified not only within each grade band (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12), but also around other areas of student (e.g., special education, bilingual educators, assistive technology specialists).
Edcamp is a participatory professional development event organized by teacher volunteers in which educators lead their own learning experiences. It adopts the “unconference” model, where sessions are organized, structured, and led by the people attending the event. Edcamps give teachers “voice and choice” in their professional learning, which leads to personalization of the professional development experience with sessions based on the teachers who attend the Edcamp.
Edcamps are driven by four key tenets: free and open to all attendees; participant-driven; focused on experience rather than expertise; and driven by “the law of two feet,” allowing teachers to find the sessions that best meet their needs. Teachers who have attended Edcamps have reported feeling less isolated and re-energized as professionals, and have pursued new professional learning topics and ongoing professional development opportunities. Edcamps also act as PLCs, providing opportunities for teachers to connect and build supportive relationships, even after the Edcamp experience. For many teachers, these professional connections led to collaboration on projects and shared tools and resources.
Schools and districts who want to take advantage of the value of the Edcamp model can:
Professional Learning Communities