Support Professional Development and Communities of Practice
We have high expectations of our staff. We don't want you to work here unless you are comfortable with and able to use technology.
— Dr. Chip Kimball, Superintendent, Lake Washington School District, Redmond, WA
- Understand and develop content knowledge and 21st century skills
- Practice new pedagogical strategies in a supportive environment
- Learn to use and model new technologies
- Develop a culture of collaboration and professional learning
To be an effective technology leader, it is critical for you to understand that all educators, including administrators, need sustained, job-embedded opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills, collaborate with their peers and build collective wisdom.
Even your best educators need professional development to learn about, practice and reflect on your district's current priorities including 21st century skills, different pedagogical strategies and effective integration of technology into every aspect of education.
Professional learning communities and communities of practice also offer teachers and administrators opportunities to develop and sustain a culture of learning and support. Teams of educators with similar responsibilities or expertise, such as content-area or grade-level teachers, can collaborate on learning activities, examinations of student work and assessment results, joint lesson planning and problem solving in a spirit of continuous improvement and experimentation. Over time, these groups can build a shared vision and capacity for instructional excellence and improved student achievement.
Technology should be infused into professional development and communities of practices, both as a way to develop technology proficiency and other knowledge and skills and as a powerful delivery mechanism.
Use their web sites to post content such as standards- and research-based resources, multimedia learning objects, video clips of effective teaching practices and podcasts from experts.
- Join forces with other districts, with their states or with area colleges and universities, or with commercial educational providers to create or take advantage of online professional development tools ranging from short webinars on specific topics to full-credit courses.
- Use modern technologies – such as videoconferencing, web conferencing, chat programs, instant messaging, voice threads, online document sharing and collaboration tools – that enable people to work together without necessarily getting together in the same room.
Many educators, like any other adults, do not become comfortable or proficient with technology without some direct instruction, supported by adult learning modalities, and practice. For districts to expect educators to use new technologies effectively, they need to provide them with models and support early adopters who can then work with others in their schools. Technology-savvy educators or technology coordinators can serve as expert leaders in their buildings.
Action Steps for Superintendents and District Leadership Teams
- Collaborate as a leadership team to determine current and new professional development needs and investigate ways in which technology can support these needs.
- Determine what your district needs to do to implement technology-based professional development and communities of practice.
- Provide technology that enables every educator to participate in an online or technology-based community of practice with peers across and outside of your district.
- Review how other school systems are accessing online or technology-based professional development content.
- Provide peer coaches who understand and practice effective pedagogy in compelling learning environments to lead professional development sessions. Focus on skill development, not content.
- Identify pockets of excellence and use these environments as standards for school improvement.
- Use technology to meet the diverse needs of students.
Getting Up to Speed
Henke, K. G. “Educators and the Long Tail: Implications for Teaching and Professional Development.”
(Executive Summary) CoSN Compendium, 2009.
ICT Competency Standards for Teachers: Policy Framework. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2008.
Miller, M. Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction. Alliance for Excellent Education Policy Brief, 2009.
Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership
The National Staff Development Council
November Learning Building Learning Communities Conference
Silva, E. Teachers at Work: Improving Teacher Quality Through School Design. Education Sector, 2009.