Our PD Talk: Date the Tool, Marry the Ability

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 1.13.05 PMYesterday, I was fortunate to sit down with the amazing Dennis Grice and the equally spectacular Jacob Standish as we discussed professional development and differentiation.

I’ve been in a bit of a struggle with traditional models of PD…you know, the ones where the trainer walks through tools and never ties it to learning. It is this model that drives teachers to leave the training at the location…never integrating into their instruction because they didn’t learn how to make it happen.

The first point of our discussion was that PD should ALWAYS be connected to curriculum because it is the curriculum that drives the tools that students use. Think..Content 1st, Shiny 2nd…Always!

This idea drove the second point, that we want teachers to help students become critical thinkers…to learn how to learn. We need to model this concept in professional development. I’ve led sessions that were centered around a tool, like SMART Notebook. I created an activity and walked teachers through the process of creating it. When teachers were asked to create their own activity to share, every single one was a duplication of my original activity. This was my mistake.

What I should’ve done is modeled the ” very basic how” and then drive discussion on applications…building a toolbox of ideas. The key is leaving that toolbox open so that more ideas can grow. As more ideas grow, creativity increases as well.

In a recent session, I taught groups of teachers about thinglink, smore and padlet. What I did differently, was give the gist of the applications and allow teachers to explore. I also shared where to find more examples (pinterest) as well as research techniques to learn more. Then we brainstormed how to use each in various subject areas…not tied to a single idea. At the end of the session, teachers were asked to create an “about me”…something that they should all know about. I did not define the tool. They made that decision and came up with some brilliant displays. At the end, we talked about the process. We talked about the content that they each shared and how this could be translated into their classroom.

We want kids to show what they’ve learned in the best possible way for them….not tied to a “tech tool” day.

As an edtech trainer, one of your goals should be to empower teachers to NOT need you. The information should not stay with you but should transfer teacher to teacher, teacher to student, student to teacher and student to student. Professional development is about growth. We have the power to not only teach about “tools” but to change the perception of how students learn. That starts with empowering our teachers.

The lesson here is this…as stated by the amazing Dennis Grice

“Date the tool. Marry the ability.”

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