Digital professional development and the case to invest more

This year, he says, the full-time teachers were selected to be communication coordinators and technical coaches.

“These teachers are on site. They have the relationships. There is definitely that trust there,” says Jorge Lopez, a teacher on a special assignment as a technical coach in the Alisal District.

The liaisons host regular “tech clubs” that offer professional development. During the coronavirus pandemic, training has been online, and officials have seen attendance triple. Harris says tech clubs will continue after the pandemic.

“Teachers want to learn,” he says. “They want to learn from peer experts, the people who put what they teach you into practice.”

Beta testing of the released technology is critical

DeSantis says one effective strategy his district has used is to tap VIPs to run small beta tests before a larger rollout.

“Every building has people who are tech-savvy,” he says. “You can give them anything, and in a few days they will know everything that is inside and deep. They will be experts.”

DeSantis says he solicits their feedback on new products and education technology, then ensures teachers have enough time to modify and learn the new technology before implementing it.

“You say it out loud, and it makes sense, but a lot of times a cannon is fired at people’s classes, and they just have to deal with it,” DeSantis says.

More about EDTECH: These tools support teachers’ return to the classroom.

The pandemic has had lasting effects

In the DeSantis neighborhood of about 6,000 students, there are two technology integration companies and six building technologies to cover the technology needs of nine buildings. This has meant, during the pandemic, that his team has to be smart about how they serve their employees.

To help, they’ve created a teacher resource site with a library of how-to videos and other resources. The site has been instrumental in helping teachers overcome the new challenges of virtual education.

DeSantis describes the site as a “buffet-style” professional development that allows educators to “choose their own adventure” at any time. He says the length of videos — no more than five minutes — matters, because in the age of YouTube, no one wants a six-hour training video.

While the area is now open for in-person learning, students still have the option of distance learning. The resource library continues to grow, and DeSantis says they will maintain it even after the pandemic is over.

During the pandemic, Grothem says, leaders have witnessed the success of virtual training.

“This opens the door for many teachers who would not have been able to drive into or out of professional learning at a specific time, but would be able to meet virtually,” he says. “We’ve also seen the benefit of shorter, more frequent professional learning.”

In years past, he says, professional learning usually included a full day of training. Now, however, they are seeing success from PD of as short as 30 minutes or an hour.

“I think professional development is an art,” says DeSantis. “A lot of times, it’s everything that’s packaged, how it’s delivered and how much it’s delivered.”

Related: How can schools close the professional development gap for K-12 teachers?

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