Escaping the Trap: Moving Forward with Professional Development

So I was channeling a little Elvis Presley today when I hijacked his “Suspicious Minds” song lyrics “…I’m caught in a trap” to explain my feelings about professional development.

The feelings arose during the Kentucky Society for Technology in Education (KySTE) Spring Conference which I attended last week in Louisville. While I was there mainly as a presenter, I had high hopes of finding lots of sessions that would provide me with great ideas and inspiration. However, I came away disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some valuable sessions for me — I sat in on one about Non-Traditional Instruction days and another where a music teacher demonstrated using YouTube to live stream his orchestra concerts. Very useful stuff.

The vast majority, though, were topics I’d seen, heard, done … nothing new, in other words, and I understood that I’d felt that way before at KySTE. It was a sense that sessions were surface-level, introductory, and no longer what I’m searching for when it comes to professional development. That’s not the fault of the conference, however. There are many people, especially classroom teachers, who have never seen Google Classroom in action or explored Makerspaces. For them, KySTE is a big playground of exploration.

What I realize and take responsibility for is the fact that I — and others like me — are often failing to dig deeper into advanced topics that can and should be shared with others. An introduction to Google Forms is greatly useful. There are advanced features, though, that could be presented for those people who haven’t delved past that getting-started phase. Are Flubaroo and SuperQuiz the only useful add-ons? Why, no. What are the others, though, that can be used to make everyone’s lives simpler or provide more feedback to students?

Well, that’s where the digging starts, and that’s where instructional technology teachers and specialists need to step up their game. It’s up to me, and others like me, to provide those advanced sessions for those needing that extra digging and information, not just for KySTE, but also here in Fayette County. Yes, shocking as it may be, I know I’ve also been guilty of the same bad habit when it comes to presenting professional development for our own teachers. It’s not surprising, of course, since many of our teachers are in the beginning stages of instructional technology integration. Most of our PD will need to be, and stay, introductory so that we can continue bringing teachers on board when it comes to using technology with students.

For those other teachers, the self-motivated, however, I need to remain aware that they exist, and like me, they want to escape the beginner trap. They no longer need, “This is how you make a 30 Hands video.” Instead, they need other alternatives for video creation, practical applications in the classroom, and ideas for smashing tools together to create incredible projects and presentations. We don’t need our classroom personnel channeling their own inner Elvis with, “Why can’t you see what you’re doing to me?” as they consider the professional development available in their own district.

As for me, I’ve made myself a promise to do more, do better — here in the district and at KySTE and other conferences. It’s time to leave the trap behind.

About Paula Setser Kissick

District Technology Resource Teacher for Fayette County Public Schools.

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