In a recent discussion on the LinkedIn International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) group, a question was posed…”why do many schools fail to provide adequate technology professional development?”

A fascinating and candid discussion took place, which has forced me to think deeper about the professional growth of teachers through the standard professional development model and what the expectation should be for our future. I find myself both offering and needing technology (PD) and believe there are some cold hard facts we must face…

  1. Your district professional development model isn’t perfect
  2. You can do something about it

Without question, districts providing in-house and external PD opportunities is a starting point. Most do. There are limitations, notably time in between PD, depth the material is covered and cost.

Another limitation with existing PD models is that in most cases, differentiated instruction isn’t accounted for. Students need to be met where they are and so should teachers. Too often technophobes or tech savvy teachers take over a session and people get lost or frustrated.

With those limitations noted, lets face it, PD is more of an invitation to tackle the concepts and material on your own time. The presenter introduces you to key points, shares resources, asks macro-level questions and you are on to the next session. You must allow yourself time to research and think how best the information should be digested and tested out in the classroom. This is where the growth takes place. This whole cycle does not and will not take place organically in a 75-minute session, while you ponder the lunch offerings.

The expectation that you will leave a technology infused PD session with “all you need to know” is a farce. It just isn’t possible. We do understand this, though likely will not admit to it. We want to be able to check a box. We know that the presenter has spent massive amounts of time, testing out materials to become competent, so why then is the expectation that you leave a presentation with a few notes and have a full understanding of the material, without any reflection and growth outside the session?

There is good news and maybe bad news for some. The teacher growth model is shifting and the responsibility for teacher’s growing professionally is on you. We must not be deflect or blame others. For example, no longer does a teacher need a half-day, PD development session on a random Thursday in March to “wait and learn” about blogging or how to use an Apple iPad. There are literally millions of educators sharing, collaborating and learning together, 24×7 on Twitter or in other community learning areas of the web. Let that set in. Instead of waiting for the district to provide a brief tease on how to blog in your classroom in eight weeks, you, yes you, can go learn about it…NOW!

Teachers can engage on blogging topics, literally, any time, at their own speed. There are hundreds of specific technology education chats on Twitter (one of the best is #edtechchat) that include great minds in their area of expertise, sharing information that will knock your socks off. Of course the chats are at night, not during school hours. I have committed to growing professionally all the time and modeling this behavior to staff and students, have you?

Using a tool like twitter, after creating a professional learning network (PLN), allows the teacher to control the scope of their own professional growth and grab the bull by the horns. We can’t wait to be fed any longer, you must visit the “all you can eat” buffet on your own and come back often!

In my opinion, bland professional development offered (I’m guilty!) by most districts typically doesn’t compare to a technology/education un-conference or twitter chat. Once the power rests with the teacher, to get their own differentiated PD, often for free, the game is changed. No longer are we waiting to be taught, but actively seeking on our own terms.

PD is shifting, of course districts need to offer it, but is should be a supplement to an already existing schedule of personal, various growth opportunities. To point the finger at anyone else would be just howling at the moon or better yet, waiting to be served at an all you can eat buffet.