#IMMOOC: Standardized to Personalized Staff Learning

Some of you know I started participating in George Couros’ IMMOOC on The Innovator’s Mindset last fall. I stopped before it was finished because things just got too crazy and I couldn’t keep up. I am determined to finish the book now though and so I’ve been working my way through part 3. I just finished Chapter 9, and one of the discussion questions jumped out at me:

How do you move from “standardized” to “personalized” learning for your students and staff?

I knew that I had to answer this question because it is one that has been bothering me since around December of this past year. I kept trying to figure out ways to do professional development differently because our model wasn’t working. I began learning that no one had the correct answer, but that different groups were making progress and trying to do what was best for their staff.

As I learned more, I began developing FlucoTECH. It’s still ever evolving and I’m still working on the details, but I have the basics of the current version down now. I think that it’s off to a pretty good start, so I’m willing to share the proposal I’ve written up for the program here:

FlucoTECH is a professional development system that features 3 levels of differentiated learning for teachers. Just like students, teachers need to have their professional learning differentiated to meet their own needs. One size fits all no longer works for these teachers, and it is one of the least successful methods. Traditional PD hasn’t really changed, even though we expect our educators to change with the times.

In a traditional professional development session, teachers are typically mandated to attend. Session sizes can bloom to very large numbers. All teachers receive the same information at the same time, regardless of what they already know. Sessions are presented in a “sit and get fashion”. During the training, teachers may find themselves doing other things instead of listening to the presentation. The information is thrown at them in large amounts, and there is little to no follow up on the learning after the session. Many teachers will toss their notes and handouts aside, deciding to do things the way they’ve always done them. For them, the professional development was just another warm body to fill the seats, and (if the training was paid for) a way for the administration to get their money’s worth.

This system is set to fail us time and time again. No matter how many times we get knocked down, it is still the method we turn back to using. This is archaic and WRONG. Something has to give, and that something begins with changing the way professional development is viewed and given.

Professional development should not be sessions here and there on a topic. It should not be a one size fits all, fill all the seats with warm bodies, ordeal. It should not be an information on full blast session, never to be followed up on again. The mindset should not be “If I go to this session I’ll get X amount of points.”

With all of these “nots” what should a professional development session be? A professional development session should be differentiated to meet the needs of its learners. The session should be about giving information in small chunks. If small chunks are not possible, consistent follow up after the session should occur to help guide teachers along the way. The mindset should be “I want to grow and learn in X area, and can’t wait to see what will be taught.”

FlucoTECH (Teachers Exploring, Creating, Hacking) works to bring a new style of professional development to Fluvanna County. It is designed as a tiered system of levels to meet the needs of multiple types of learners. Teachers are able to choose the level that best suits their needs and ability and move forward from there. There are 3 different levels in FlucoTECH that range from bite size sessions with multiple chances for follow-up to self-study sessions that last for a semester.

Level I – Tech Bytes: Level I sessions are offered during the school day for 30 minutes at a time. A topic is selected for the month and sessions are offered on a weekly basis throughout the day to meet teachers’ planning needs. 1 or 2 big objectives are taught during each class. Teachers have time to digest and play around with the new learning before coming to another session. Teachers pick and choose the sessions they attend based on what they already know and want to learn.
Recertification Points: ½ point for every Tech Bytes session

Level II – Solo Tech Bytes: Teacher chooses to complete a self-study on a topic. They meet with the ITRT to determine what they already know, what resources they should look into, and the topics they need to cover. Teacher studies on own, and sets up 1:1 sessions with ITRT as needed. Once teacher has researched and time to practice, they must demonstrate their knowledge to the ITRT. If the topic is determined to be a large and/or more intense one, recertification points may be added to the initial ones.
Recertification Points: 5 points for each Solo Tech Bytes

Level III – Semester Tech Study: ITRT assists teacher in reviewing ISTE-T standards. Teacher selects a standard, develops a SMART goal, and then researches on their own to find ways to implement the goal. They use the ITRT as needed, to help gather resources, to bounce ideas, and to create any kind of implementation plan. Teacher begins working to implement changes based on SMART goal. Teachers ends Semester Tech Study by evaluating the results of their smart goal, and their own growth.
Recertification Points: 20 points for each Semester Tech Study

Each level listed above progressively changes to give the teacher more freedom and choice in their decision-making when it comes to technology. Each level is also designed to meet teachers’ needs in both time and skill level. Teachers are free to move from level to level as they wish. They are not “locked in” to just one level for the entire school year.

With the implementation of FlucoTECH, there would no longer be a need for after school professional development. Staff would be able to complete all professional development during their planning periods or on their on time as they chose to fit it in.

The role of the ITRT varies depending on the level of FlucoTECH. At Level I, the ITRT is designing and implementing the professional development, relying on feedback from those who attend to improve future sessions. At Level II, the ITRT is coaching the teacher to help determine prior knowledge and objectives, as well as evaluating the teacher’s final product. At Level III, the ITRT is reviewing ISTE-T standards with the teacher, helping develop a SMART goal, and assists teacher as needed throughout the research process.

FlucoTECH is a tiered system that differentiates professional development instruction for staff members. Staff members are able to choose the level of instruction that best suits their needs, and can opt to move to other levels at any time during the school year. The ITRT’s role changes depending on the level, and they adapt all learning to the needs of the teachers. Teachers can and will earn recertification points for completing levels, but the points are not the main focus of the program. FlucoTECH aims to help teachers to learn, grow, and change the way professional development is completed in Fluvanna County.

It’s definitely not finalized yet, and I know that even the proposal will change as time moves on and I tweak and redefine things. FlucoTECH does move away from the one size fits all traditional professional development though, and that’s what I love about it most. It has taken a lot of research and learning from others to get this far, and I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.

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