When starting to integrate technology as a school, what is the best approach regarding professional development?

This question was posted recently to me on Google+. The question asker, Jennifer Derricks, was prompted while reading my new book for ASCD Arias (yeah, a reader!). Here is my response:

Jennifer, this is a great question, and I will post it right here in Google+ so others can read my response. My answer is multi-faceted because there are several considerations when first starting to implement technology within instruction.

First, look at your building goals, your school’s past successes and areas for professional growth as a school. Where are you at, where do you want to be, and how might you get there? If you haven’t identified these yet, look at your student learning results. Pay special attention to the interim/benchmark assessments instead of standardized tests and their ilk. These common formative assessments can show you trends and patterns that will guide your work.

Once you have a focus for professional learning that has a good chance of impacting student learning, the second step is to consider one possibility for technology-enhanced instruction. When I say one, I mean ONE!! (sorry for shouting). For our school, there was a recognized need to augment our assessments to provide access and accommodation for our students, especially our most marginalized. Using digital tools such as blogs and portfolios have given students a greater voice in how they can be assessed with regard to what they know and are able to do.

Third, it is okay to pilot technology integration with only a handful of teachers in the first year. We selected the willing and the interested. Once they became accomplished in using the digital tools with fluency, they became our building leaders in terms of explaining the benefits of the initiative to the rest of the staff. Some of these teacher leaders have led staff development for us at later times. Our staff development offerings are voluntary, paid, and led by the participants’ questions which they post via Google Form prior to the sessions. It cannot be just the principal leading this change process.

Finally, make this initiative a multi-year focus that is embedded within a current academic goal. One year is not enough. Plan for at least three years for these enhancements to truly take hold in your school and make an impact on student learning. Also, expect an implementation dip during the process, probably the second year. In my experience, this happens when you think things are running along smoothly. This is a sign that teachers are starting to move beyond the basics of the technology and ready for more training with regard to more complex uses of the tools.

Image Source: Renwick, M. Digital Student Portfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment (2014)

Also, if the technology is not up to the pedagogical challenge (and you’d be surprised at how many are not), it might be time to shift gears and consider different digital tools that better meet the needs of the students and teachers.
Good luck with your schoolwide approach to digitally-enhanced learning!



How do I share a video with others without uploading it to YouTube?

If you want to share video of student learning or your own recorded instruction, but you don’t want to have it available online for the world to see via YouTube, I suggest uploading the video to your Google Drive. Check out this brief screencast I made that describes this process.


I realize you can also upload the video to YouTube and list it as “private”. Still, it’s out there. Uploading recorded student presentations and other worthy educational creations in Google Drive seems like a safer alternative when your audience is limited. There are lots of possibilities for curating digital portfolios and sharing student work with families with Drive.