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A PD approach that educators love (and learn from!)

By Cynthia Vavasseur, Sara Dempster and Cammie Claytor 6/23/2015 ISTE Conference & Expo

How many times have you decided to sit in the back row during inservice training to grade papers or plan your next lesson? You’re not alone. We suspect most educators have suffered through numerous tech PD sessions that were a less than productive use of their time. 

We’ve all heard — and most of us have uttered — clichés about how professional development should be “relevant,” “just in time” and “meaningful” and how educators need “follow-up,” not “one-time lectures.”
But how do you get there? One way is with a program we developed called ITPD3 — PD that has three leaders, three levels and three steps.

Ensure PD is flexible and accessible
Just as the teaching profession is organic in nature, professional development should be a living model, based on the needs and wants of teachers. ITPD3 is structured to keep PD flexible and accessible. In a nutshell, it works like this:
Three leaders oversee three levels of tech adopters: early, intermediate and advanced. Teachers choose a group based on their level of efficacy, or comfort, with using technology in their classroom. 
After teachers select the group they want to be in, the leaders of each group find out what PD their group wants. Then the leaders provide training in three steps: They create a screencast tutorial, conduct a face-to-face session and follow up with an interactive ebook, which is a reference to all the products created during the session.

1. Tutorials. Just as you would flip your classroom by having students watch a video at home to prepare for hands-on learning in the classroom, you can flip your PD. Each teacher leader develops a five-minute screencast about the tool they will be teaching and sends it out before the face-to-face session.

To encourage educators to watch the tutorials before the face-to-face sessions, we offer incentives that we know teachers would enjoy, such as an hour leave, lunch off campus, a dress-down day or a prime parking spot. If you have money in the budget or if you can garner donations from local businesses, you can offer iTunes cards or a gift card to a popular restaurant or shop.

2. Face-to-face sessions. In the ITPD3 model, face-to-face sessions look very different from traditional professional development. Because there are three presenters, the groups are smaller, which allows for more flexibility, interaction and one-on-one communication.  

The leader usually begins by asking, “So what are you teaching next week?” Participants share their lesson plans and spend the session creating products with the new technology that they can use in their classrooms next week.  

3. Follow-up. Perhaps the most innovative part of ITPD3 is what comes after the face-to-face sessions. That’s when the leaders compile all of the resources and artifacts that participants and the leader developed during the session into an interactive ebook chapter. The chapter is combined with those created by the other two groups and published in an interactive iBook that anyone can download for free. Best of all, the leaders can add to the published ebooks and update them with more resources as the process is repeated.  

Here’s what it looks like

Say your teachers want to learn about Weebly to make a class website. You start out with a tutorial that covers signing up for a free Weebly account and what a Weebly site looks like. Teachers watch the tutorial before the PD and come to the face-to-face session with their account already created. During the face-to-face session, leaders ask teachers how they want to use their Weebly site, such as for homework help, class announcements or sharing student work. Then leaders help teachers build their websites. Finally, leaders create an interactive website using the teachers’ work to serve as a resource for educators on Weebly website creation. 
Or, if your teachers want to learn how to use augmented reality, start out by sending a screencast that covers basic information about augmented reality (AR) and some of the programs they will learn to use. Before the face-to-face session, come up with examples of ways they can use augmented reality tools for different subject areas. During the PD session, show teachers specific examples of how to use augmented reality in their classrooms and provide them with specific apps or programs so they can implement the ideas immediately. Later, add AR lesson plans to the ebook for each subject area and include instructions on how to start using the technology in the classroom.

How to get started

The ITPD3 model isn’t complicated. You just need three things:

  1. Three hard-working leaders who have the time, inclination and tech skills to lead small-group sessions.
  2. A principal or leader who is willing to think outside the box regarding technology PD and offer incentives.
  3. At least one Mac computer with the iBooks Author app.  

If you want to be a tech leader but aren’t familiar with screencasting and ebook tools, Cynthia Vavasseur’s site,Dr. V’s Ed Tech Help Page, has tutorials on using the iBooks Author app and on making screencasts.

Once you feel comfortable with the technique, you can use this same teaching and learning process with your students. Give students a topic, have them make a short video tutorial and then combine all the student-created videos into a "great big book of knowledge" for the students to use as a resource prior to their final exam.

Where did this idea come from?

ITPD3 began at Nicholls State University in Southern Louisiana with undergraduate education majors. Many preservice teaching candidates felt that the technology course was taught too early in the program. By the time they began student teaching, they had trouble remembering the technology tools, tips and tricks they had learned in their ed tech course. That’s when we decided to have students create and publish an interactive ebook called C.U.T.E. (Compilation of Undergraduate Teacher Education Technology) Tech Tips. The book is revised and republished each semester so graduates and area teachers can use it for professional development.

Don't miss the Ignite session on ITPD3 program at ISTE 2015 at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, June 30. 

Cynthia B. Vavasseur is an associate professor of education at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. She has a Ph.D. in educational technology and has been published in Learning & Leading with Technology, the Journal of Research on Technology in Education and many other publications. Sara Dempster and Cammie Claytor are finishing the educational technology master's degree program at Nicholls State and applying to doctoral programs in the fall of 2015.

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