Feedback Needed: Creating the Right Professional Development Plan

@MrBrettClark 10 Comments


I repeat, this is just a plan that I'm looking at and seeking feedback on.

The 2014-2015 school year is approaching quickly. As I enter my second full year as a technology director I have been thinking a lot about vision, branding, and professional development. My boss challenged me to put together a strong professional development plan for this school year. I recently shared my proposed plan with her and my team. 

I hope that you will take some time to: 

  • look at the highlights of the plan.
  • provide feedback.
  • make suggestions.
I am not looking for a pat on the back or affirmation. I need to be challenged and pushed in my thinking. I just finished my third year out of the classroom and I want to make sure my thoughts are still relevant to the teachers and students I serve. 

Data Driven Decision Making

First of all, you need to know that last year we sent out a massive survey called "GCCS Needs Assessment". It was a huge list of "I can" statements revolving around using the different technology tools available to our teachers. Our amazing principals also did walkthroughs all year long and every time they did a walkthrough they submitted a google form about what they saw. A big portion of my thought process was based on these two pieces of data, conversations I've had with teachers/admins/students, and other personal observations. 

eLearning Coaches

I am very fortunate to work with 3 amazing eLearning Coaches. They all 3 work with 6/7 schools a piece. Yes, I know we need more...we're working on it. Here is how I see them being utilized going into year 2 of their position. 

  • eLearning Coaches will base weekly PD on Needs Assessment, Goal Clarity Windows (Curriculum Maps), and the district weekly PD focus (pedagogy, literacy, balanced math, and College & Career Readiness).
  • eLearning Coaches will work with Director of Technology and building principals to develop a plan and times when coaches will work with staff through Period Zeros, team planning period, personal planning periods, and co-teaching opportunities

TEaCHing Tuesdays

Throughout my first full year we had great conversation about how technology should be invisible. It is not the focus of the work we do. What we do is about teaching and learning. I just believe in the power in leveraging technology in the pursuit of learning.

I am working with a couple of friends to come up with a graphic for "Teaching Tuesdays" where the letters for "tech" stand out in the work "teaching" to indicate that tech is integrated into teaching. They are not two separate things.

  • Teaching Tuesdays will occur most Tuesdays after normal school hours. (Actual time/location TBD)
  • Teaching Tuesdays will offer breakout sessions, both virtual and face to face.
  • Breakout sessions will center around integrating GAFE, MBC, web-based tools, ActivInspire and PowerSchool into teaching. Pedagogy will be a huge focus at these PD sessions. 
  • One session will always be an open session where teachers can come and work on lesson plans with a coach. 
  • Sessions will primarily be led by Director of Technology and eLearning coaches but could also be led by Teacher-Librarians, STCs (School Technology Contact), other certified staff members, and/or vendor-partners.

eLearning Website/Blog

    • eLearning Team will finish developing help websites with contact information and tutorials on the different tools we use in our district.
    • eLearning Team will provide a weekly blog post by a team member.
    • eLearning Team will promote and participate in Connected Educator month in October, Digital Learning Day/Month in February, and conduct a 15 Day eLearning Challenge.
        20% Time

        • 20% Time is the philosophy that gives employees the opportunity to work on a project of their choosing.
        • Each eLearning Coach would develop, document, and implement a 20% time project.
        • The project can be with a class, a school, or district wide.
        • Projects must be approved by Director of Technology and Executive Director for Educational Services.
        • eLearning Coaches will document his/her experience through a blog.
        • eLearning Coaches will be given a budget to work on their 20% time project.
        • eLearning Coaches will pick one day a week to work on their 20% time project.

        One of the exciting I've got be a part of is the opportunity to work with passionate people and reimagine with them the work they do. After working with our media-center specialist, we decided their roles needed redefining. Two are biggest initiatives in our district are literacy and technology integration. Our media-centers should be the center of these initiatives. With some help from our current media-center specialist and the amazing Shannon Miller, we rewrote the job description and have started the process of transitioning to this rebranded position called Teacher-Librarian. This is the outline of my plan to work with them.

          • Throughout the school year the teacher-librarians will transition to the new job description.
          • The Director of Technology will meet monthly with Teacher-Librarians to assist in the transition to these new roles/responsibilities.
          • The Director of Technology and eLearning Coaches will provide PD opportunities and connect teacher-librarians to other teacher-librarians from around the country.
          We're also interested in rebranding the media-centers themselves. I'm thinking about the name "learning-centers". What do y'all think?

          Technology Strategic Plan

          Now my district already has a strategic plan. I just want to beef up the technology piece of it and help create a better vision and brand.

            • Purpose: To build upon the current district strategic plan and create ownership across all stakeholders.
            • A Technology Strategic Plan Committee will be formed with a representative from each building, at least 5 parents, at least 5 students, eLearning Coaches, tech service members, at least 1 school board member, and administrators.
            • Committee will meet regularly throughout the year and develop a plan around these 5 pillars.
              • Academics
              • Infrastructure
              • Digital Citizenship
              • Professional Development
              • Financial/Budget

            Feedback Needed

                Ok, this is where you come in. What do you think? What do you like? What would you change? What would you add? What would you take away? Does this help all of my stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, admins, school board members and community)?

                Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and for leaving comments!


                              1. I understand your need to focus district wide and you have done a great job. How about focusing on a teacher. Why not allow that teacher to write out what he/she needs to learn from their perspective based on what they plan to teach. It would require time to analyze each individual learning plan, but you may find common themes to address in small groups. this might require collaboration between buildings and grade levels. That gives ownership of the learning to each teacher. It also allows you to meet their needs and gain some insight into other areas you might lead them to in order to expand their plans for personal learning.

                                1. Great comment Tom. This is on point with what I think the eLearning coaches will do in the different buildings they work with. We were discussing the other day about creating a document that teachers could fill out that would help guide this conversation. Any suggestions?

                              2. I love the constant focus on learning and making tech invisible. Can you integrate your work with the existing professional development process for teachers? In other words, if teachers are already making annual plans for improvement, can you offer them support in integrating technology into their learning goals? Come to think of it, you're probably already doing this.

                                I think that your PD goals are great, and I'd like to suggest a system for making one-off TEaCHing Tuesdays into more long-term learning experiences. Perhaps developing cohorts that take training together and then support one another through an online community throughout the year would generate the kind of long-term change that you need.

                                I'm simultaneously proud to call you a friend, and jealous of your teachers for the environment that you're creating. Nice work!

                                1. Paul - Thanks for the comment. One thing I probably should have explained more is how PD is set up currently in our district. We have a period 0 every day before students arrive. Principals are allowed to use 3 of these a week for PD. Each week we will have a PD focus, pedagogy, college and career readiness, math, and literacy. We purposefully left off technology because technology should be imbedded in all of those things. Certainly our weekly PD and blog post will support what is being delivered in our schools that week.

                                  I like your idea of building cohorts. I wonder if we should create some groups inside Google+ or our LMS, My Big Campus. Certainly something to think about.

                                  I'm proud to call you a friend as well. Vox you soon. #wearetheus

                              3. The following is an email I received from Erin Klein about this post. I share it and my reply with permission from Erin.

                                The following will be my general ideas, thoughts, and suggestions regarding each section you've outlined on your site.

                                Data Driven Decision Making
                                I think it was wise to start with a needs assessment. I'm wondering if the feedback you received helped to shape the items that composed the Google Form. Was there a standard template used for assessing walk throughs? Did the teachers receive the feedback from the Google Forms or was this for record keeping purposes?

                                eLearning Coaches
                                I think this plan is spot on for what is needed. Granted, I'm sure they're stretched pretty thin; however, it seems like you've established a solid and actionable plan to maximize their potential.

                                TEaCHing Tuesdays
                                Nice play on the word teaching! Is this mandatory or optional? Will other teachers be empowered to share and lead sessions or is it just available if they truly seek it out?
                                Will there be an accountability piece for teachers to take back and put into practice what they're learning? Will faculty have a platform to document and share their professional growth - or even an online forum/support/Twitter chat - some place to continue the conversation?

                                eLearning Website/Blog
                                Have you seen the work Brad and Dan are doing in Jackson, MI?

                                20% Time
                                Wondering why the projects have to be approved...
                                Wondering why they have to be documented through a blog... why would another platform not be sufficient? Is the learning outcome to get them to know how to blog, establish a routine of blogging, or share openly? -- or is the goal to have them document their learning and process?
                                Does the team have to all pick the same day to work on the project? Can this be flexible?

                                I love the direction you're going. Shannon is a perfect resource. I couldn't agree more with a rename of the space. I also would consider sprucing up the design of the space. Small changes can make a big design difference. I'm not sure I'm sold on "learning centers." I think it would be neat to go with a name you could hear kids saying, "Hey, let's meet in the xxx." or "I'll meet you at xxx after lunch to..." This could even be a "grass-roots" driven name that has a personal feel to your school. For example, at Michigan State people would meet at "The Tundra." This wasn't a learning center space but rather a grassy area... anyhow... I think it would be need to tie it to your school somehow in a catchy way that was appealing to your student body. A hip place to collaborate. "Launch Pad" or "The Surge" or something fun...

                                Technology Strategic Plan
                                looks like you have a good start and plan

                                Hope some of my questions help guide you in your reflection as you build your framework with your district. Thank you for sharing this.

                                Please keep me updated on your progress. Let me know if I can help in any way.


                                Erin Klein
                                Mother. Teacher. Keynote. Author

                                1. Erin,

                                  Thank you for the feedback.

                                  Data Driven Decision Making.
                                  The feedback is helping to shape our TEaCHing Tuesdays. Yes, there was a standard form all principals used when doing walkthroughs. Principals were suppose to email a copy of the completed form to the teacher after filling it out.

                                  eLearning Coaches
                                  Yes, they are spread thin. I also found out this week that my super is having one of them fill in as assistant principal first quarter of this year. I will not be given a replacement during that time. I'm going to make a pass at my super on Monday to try to get a replacement for the first quarter. I really worry about how much it will hurt us if I'm down a coach for 9 weeks.

                                  TEaCHing Tuesdays
                                  It will be optional. My goal is to spend at least an hour a day in classes this year. During that time I really want to work with teachers and encourage them to share through our teaching tuesdays. An idea I had for accountability was that I would share attendance records with principals. Principals are suppose to visit each teacher every week. During that time they could have an opportunity to just follow up with them on what they learned how implementation is going. Also, the teachers who come could be the teachers I visit the following week. As far as documenting and sharing professional growth, you comment and one on my blog has me thinking about starting up a google+ community for this very thing.

                                  eLearning Blog/Website
                                  I have not seen Dan and Brad's site. Please tell me more!

                                  20% Time
                                  It's more of their budget getting approved and not so much their project. I didn't want to share openly about how much budget they'll have because I haven't been approved to do it yet.
                                  The goal of the blog was to help establish a routine of blogging, but more importantly, to share openly. I'm open to other suggestions. They are welcome to start a website about the project or a wiki. I also thought the blog could help drive traffic to our website, which will have other great resources.

                                  I love your idea of having them renaming them based on the building and how it doesn't have to be uniform. I also like the idea of student involvement in this process. I am looking into a grants that will allow us to help redesign the space. Maybe when you are here you can look at one of our spaces and give me some ideas.

                                  I really appreciate the feedback!!

                              4. Okay, so I just spent 30 minutes writing a comment and Blogger lost it. Grr.

                                Here's the "Cliff Notes" in the form of a question: Have you considered embedding more Edcamp-style PD into your offerings?

                                The plan looks great. I believe it's important that classroom teachers are teaching and sharing with other classroom teachers.

                              5. Phillip,

                                Great suggestion! We need more edcamp-style PD. Several of our period zeros last year were edcamp-style and we need to continue to develop that type of PD in our district.

                                Also, I was thinking about having an edcamp at the end of our 15 day elearning challenge. I need to think this through more.

                                I appreciate the feedback! #wearetheus

                              6. This and something else I read makes me think about having students do personalized learning plans. Why stop at the teacher or admin level? If this is good for us it is just as good for them :)

                              7. Very thought out plan. I like what Tom said about focusing on teachers in addition to building level needs. I was in the same boat as you when I was a Director. 81 schools, 7 Instructional Technologists so they had, on average, 11 schools. It's a tough balance. I like the goal setting. That was something I challenged my folks to do in their schools but I would encourage you to take a 2 tiered approach. With goals, have teachers and schools create short term and long term. Look at your needs-assessment and see what types of actions can you take in the short term where you can see the results pretty quickly. That helps build confidence in teachers and building leaders that what they want to learn is possible. But those short term goals should be wrapped around 1 or 2 long term goals that could be met at the end of the school year or they may continue on past that. My folks constantly evaluated their progress towards helping their teachers and schools realize their goals and I used it as a basis for our conversations in our bi-weekly meetings. Which is another thing I encourage you to do with your team. Meet with them individually 2 times per month as you can or at least once per month. That made all the difference for me because we could take action on things that were happening more quickly because we talked more often.

                                My only other comment would be on the Technology Plan. You have a good group assembled. I would suggest pulling back on the number of coaches and include some other instructional resources persons like subject specific coaches, anyone involved with assessment (for technology and testing related issues), and anyone from Student Services like guidance (for cyberbullying and other student related issues). Its helpful to get input from these areas as well to make things more well rounded when it comes to technology planning.

                                Great work!