Leading Edtech PD: How to Knock It Out of the Park!

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Ultimately, the goal of any professional development is to equip your participants with some new knowledge that they can implement in their classroom. When it comes to edtech training, however, there seem to be a number of barriers the can halt the process, or leave participants with a sour taste in their mouth.

When I was a teacher, there was nothing I loathed more than sitting through another bland edtech training on the hot new thing that was going to revolutionize our classrooms. Later, as an administrator, there was nothing that I dreaded more than leading an edtech training for my staff and watching it jump off the rails due to any number of barriers. [On a related note: Here's how to avoid bad edtech relationships.]

Prior to joining TeachBoost I led a team of new educators in executing high-dosage tutorials. In order to adequately prepare my team, every day I led an hour of professional development that covered a wide range of topics including curriculum, behavior management, and, of course, technology.

And yet, even with my daily practice of leading professional development sessions, when back-to-school season rolled around I still developed a pit in my stomach. There was definitely some excitement, knowing that we were going to get some new toys, but there was also nervousness around all the things that might go wrong.

Identify the Barriers

What are the most common roadblocks to leading effective edtech PD? Here are a few that I've experienced first-hand:

  1. Hardware: More than once, I have seen a tech training nosedive when computers or other hardware isn’t setup to correctly handle what is being asked of it.
  2. The “watch-me-click-it" show: Nobody wants to sit there and watch you click buttons while you talk at them. Participants retain very little of what you are saying and won’t ultimately be able to transfer that knowledge over to practice.
  3. Whack-a-mole: Just like how well-meaning questions in a classroom can derail lesson, the same can happen in a tech training. As hands gradually raise with specific questions about logins, where to find certain buttons and “why-can’t-I-see-that?,” it’s easy for a presenter to go down the rabbit hole of individual questions and lose the attention of the whole group.

Overcome the Barriers

These barriers aren’t titanium, though, and there are some clear steps you can take to avoid and push through them.

  1. Set up a playground: I’m putting this one first because if you decide to stop reading here, you’ve already hit the most important thing. Create a sandbox account for your participants to play around in. Letting people learn through discovering and making mistakes allows for your training to both be highly interactive and sticky. Before the training, set up fake users, fake students, and fake data. Create multiple scenarios for participants to try and navigate their way through. You can even scaffold the scenarios so anyone who doesn’t feel particularly comfortable with technology can take things a little slower and those who want to race ahead can take on some bigger challenges.
  2. Test it: Take some time out a day or two before your training to test the tech on multiple pieces of hardware and with some different participants. It will give you some insight into whether different tools (like Chromebooks, tablets, Macs, and PCs) run your technology differently and you can game-plan accordingly for your training.
  3. Utilize a “parking lot”: Designate a place in the room, or at the tables where participants are working, where attendees can jot down any questions that they may have, along with their name so you can follow up directly if need be. This can help give you as the presenter a pulse on how the room is doing and won’t bog you down during your presentation. Make sure to give yourself regular, timed intervals to check in on the parking lot to make sure nobody falls behind.

Keep These Tips Handy

Great planning often leads to great execution, but it never hurts to have some in-the-moment strategies ready. Here are a few little things you can do throughout the presentation to keep up the engagement and energy levels in the room.

  1. Establish group norms at the beginning.
  2. Keep tabs on the “joy factor” in the room.
  3. Monitor your talk-to-action ratio. Do you find yourself speaking for more than five minutes at a stretch? Take a breather! Limit your talk time to five minutes or less before giving participants a prompt to respond to or an activity to complete.

Have at it, and let us know how it goes!

Topics: edtech, PD

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