Flipping EdTech Professional Development
Getting education technology right has always been difficult, and even more so today—with technology changing so rapidly. There seem to be more possibilities—desktops, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, and other handhelds vying for education technology dollars. You don’t have to think back too far to find good ideas that just didn’t pan out as perfectly as we thought they might. What ever happened to school projects that involved Palm Pilots… and even more recently, those involving netbooks? Today, it’s a bit scary to know that in many districts the technology prospects are being narrowed down to a choice between tablets or Chromebooks, with very little to go on other than, “We like them.” or “That other district is using them, so we should, too.” How can education technology mistakes be avoided?
There are a few problems that need to be addressed, and possibly a flipping of common practices is necessary, too. First of all, many school-based technology decisions are being made by groups of educators and parents, who bring with them their own preferences for tech tools—usually from the home consumer, or work-side usage. Add to that educators who have limited knowledge of what they really can do technologically. Furthermore, it’s a time when technology budgets compete with everything, from larger class sizes to hiring teachers, to added school security efforts. It’s easy to choose the wrong school technology, and get that wrong tech for a great price. In many instances, choosing just one type of solution, or technology is a mistake, too. That hasn’t stopped more districts from investing a lot of money and time in what they believe to be complete programs using one device or solution. That’s when most begin to talk about professional development, and maybe that’s what needs to change. Flipping when professional development begins won’t provide a crystal ball, but could help prevent a technological error in education judgment.
Technology education professional development that takes place after purchasing a solution, or in the worst case, in order to save a program—afterwards—is too late. The traditional timeline of buying the education technology and then doing the professional development works, but a preliminary professional development model for planning and choosing the best solutions makes additional sense. It’s just a little flip, but necessary for success. What if a district bought into professional development before any major technology purchases? Invite the stakeholders for those preliminary professional development sessions—include administrators, teachers, parents, and especially students. Learning what a device or solution can do by seeing it in action and sharing what can actually happen in classrooms—from professionals who know how to use technology with students—is important.
These sessions are not sales pitches, but instead, true professional development events with activities, where even if the solution isn’t chosen, the audience walks away with more education technology knowledge. While these flipped professional development workshops could be free, it would be very appropriate to charge a fee for them. In the long run, these preliminary gatherings could save a district a small fortune, and a trip down the wrong technology path. These sorts of experiences are memorable, too, so when a district is looking for more professional development, solutions, or devices, they’ll most likely revisit where they received their initial, trusted advice.