How do we reach teachers who would probably never volunteer to attend an educational technology professional development workshop, let alone a full-year grant project? During the 2013-14 school year, our IT-Educational Services department wanted to use some internal grant funding to try to reach out to some of these teachers in a meaningful way; to start them on the road toward innovative and transformative learning for their students. We decided on piloting a peer-mentoring program, where we would select some of our innovative/early adopting teachers from 8 different schools to mentor 2-3 “technology-reluctant” teachers in their schools. Here are the goals we drafted:
Designing the Professional Development Plan
We use Understanding by Design to plan out our professional development workshops and programs, to help us assure that we identify meaningful learning goals for our teachers, activities were aligned with these goals, and that measures of success were in place. For this project, our overall transfer goal was this:
Before meeting with the whole group of mentors & mentees, we had one workshop just for the mentors, to give them tips and information on strategies for instructional coaching, using many of the wonderful resources from ISTE’s Coaches PLN, including the ISTE Standards for Coaches. Both mentors & mentees participated in an online learning community to do a book study of Tony Wagner’s wonderful book, Creating Innovators – from which we came up with the title of our grant project. Throughout the year, we offered four face-to-face workshops to the whole group. At each workshop, we modeled active, hands-on learning, sharing strategies and tools that they could use in their classrooms. We used the University of South Florida’s Technology Integration Matrix for teachers to self-assess where they were in using technology and the videos to help them capture a vision of where they’d like to be. We set up “think tanks” for them to benefit from small group brainstorming on how to improve a lesson or unit through the use of technology tools and innovative learning strategies. We introduced them to the Stanford dSchool Design Thinking process. Additionally, we provided subs so they could visit each other’s classrooms, and we visited two innovative schools in the Denver Metro area – Adams 12’s STEM program at Northglenn High School and the STEM Launch K-8 school, also in Adams 12. In addition to all of this, the mentors worked 1:1 with their mentees throughout the year, offering just-in-time teaching of tools and strategies, advice, and encouragement. All of these activities were designed with the end in mind: building the mentee teachers’ understanding, skills and confidence so that they would be willing to try some of these innovative practices for teaching and learning with their own students.
I am happy to report that we were very successful in accomplishing our goal. It was interesting that each team of teachers seemed to connect with one particular strategy from our professional development plan, and all seemed to branch out in different directions, to best meet the needs of the learners in their schools. Our mentor teachers presented as a panel at ISTE to an audience of over 200 people, sharing their challenges and successes in the Creating Innovators Project.
I’d like to share with you the impact on one of our elementary teachers. The video below was produced by Justin Crosby and mentor teacher, Autumn Crosby, and features Autumn’s mentee, Cheryl Hammarquist, kindergarten Teacher, Michelle Sylvestri, kindergarten paraprofessional, and Dr. Kathy Pickering, assistant principal.
In my next blot post, I will share the story of our high school mentor/mentee team, who are taking innovation to a whole new level!