by Erin Dye
A couple of weeks ago, we posted about three ways to build an effective professional learning community (PLC). Today, I’d like to focus on some best practices for integrating technology professional development into your PLC.
In a perfect world, technology would be seamlessly incorporated into every PLC topic. For example:
- A discussion on improving test scores might flow directly from a collaborative data collection spreadsheet or a reporting platform with easy-to-digest graphics.
- A group focused on improving in-class reading time might consider the pros and cons of using a digital service to track students’ reading time, Lexile levels, and interests.
- A PLC about stabilizing the classroom environment might talk about using an iPad app to organize notes about students’ behavior and communicate directly with parents.
However, before that day of organic tech integration can arrive, your teaching team has to learn how to use the technology that’s available. It’s worth your time to establish a PLC course that focuses on using technology in small ways during instructional time. Here are some tips for starting that PLC.
Place teachers in PLCs based on subject area.
While this might not be the best structure for every PLC, as teachers learn about new digital resources and tools, it makes sense to share reading resources with other reading teachers, math resources with other math teachers, and so on. This also helps the PLC facilitator develop ideas and techniques that will be immediately useful to the teachers in his or her group—a hallmark of effective PD.
Identify a “super user” teacher in each PLC.
In addition to the teacher/team leaders, PLC facilitators should capitalize on the creativity and enthusiasm of a teacher who already has a real interest in or flair for incorporating technology. During modeling and observation time throughout the month, suggest that other teachers visit the super user’s classroom to get ideas for integrating technology into their own lessons
Provide plenty of workshop time.
Enter the PLC with the understanding that some of your teachers may genuinely need help turning on their computers and logging into their iPads. But recognize that if you spend time discussing these basic steps with the entire group, you’ll alienate much of your audience.
We’ve found that the key is to allow as much workshop time as possible and use this time to have 1-on-1 discussions with teachers to address their specific needs. When you can, break the PLC up into small groups, just as you would when you differentiate among your students.
Workshop time in itself is very important because teachers likely don’t have any additional time during their busy week to research tools and resources. Give them structured time during your PLC to work and collaborate.
Start out with sessions on the basics, but be flexible.
It’s fine to develop your sessions around the basics—for instance, how to set up lessons in which students collaborate in a Google Doc. But make sure you build in differentiated workshop outcomes for both novice and advanced users, such as simply navigating Google Drive or publishing that Google doc to a class blog or website. The bottom line is to meet the teachers where they are.
If you plan ahead to support different levels of learners, there will be fewer on-the-fly fixes.
We’ll come back to this topic and post more tips later. Until then, we’d love to hear what you’ve learned through your tech PLC experiences. Leave us a comment and let us know!
Erin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.