Last week we started to explore the key components behind a successful digital transformation. In Pt. 1, we learned some ideas about the first key component – Lead it. In this week’s post we’ll focus on the second component – Support it.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~Alvin Toffler
Simply providing a digital device for students and staff does not a transformation make. To reach the goal of transforming teaching and learning through digital tools, teachers (and students) will need to learn, unlearn, and relearn. They’ll need to be supported to turn vision into reality. Without regular professional development for teachers and leaders, and rethinking human and financial resources, it is impossible to yield an effective transformation.
Professional Development for Teachers
Be prepared to provide a variety of learning opportunities that align with the goals of your initiative. Just like our students, teachers are at different places in the journey and should be supported wherever they happen to be.
Here’s what we’ve done and are currently doing for our teachers:
- Build a common language around technology and pedagogy – In the early days of our transformation, professional development took the form of a cohort model over three years, with approximately a third of the teaching staff each year receiving professional development to build common language around both technology and pedagogy.
- Provide differentiated PD opportunities through choice – Our current goals focus on developing transformational learning opportunities with technology as defined by the SAMR framework and Webb’s Depths of Knowledge. To reach this goal, we are supporting our teachers’ learning by providing a variety of differentiated opportunities through weekly team/grade level meetings, department meetings, Summer Academy and attendance at conferences such as PETE&C, ISTE, the Bucks-Lehigh EduSummit and various Edcamps.
- Don’t forget the innovative teacher leaders – We are also providing opportunities for our most innovative educators, the Innovate Salisbury Team, to produce their own instructional innovations in areas such as genius hour/20% time, makerspaces and project-based learning.
Professional Development for Leaders
In the first post in this series, we focused on the importance of leadership in the digital transformation process. Your leaders need to be supported, too!
In Salisbury, the leadership team participates in their own professional learning. The team meets monthly in a lunch and learn format. Past topics have included
- The SAMR framework – As we have implemented our walkthrough protocol focused on SAMR and Webb’s Depths of Knowledge, we have had to “norm the group,” making sure that we have a common understanding of levels of technology use and rigor.
- Webb’s Depths of Knowledge – Administrators were led through a series of activities to develop a rich understanding of rigor and the Webb’s hierarchy in preparation for leading professional development for teachers. On last year’s opening day, every administrator was responsible for leading a session to introduce the full staff to Webb’s Depths of Knowledge.
- Transitioning to PA Core – The administrative team participated in various book studies including ASCD’s series on Common Core. This new learning was valuable for administrators to engage teachers in conversations as curriculum was rewritten or updated, depending on content area.
- Numerous technology tools – Through the years the leadership team has received professional development on the various software tools used by our students and teachers. One of the most memorable, though, was an impromptu professional learning session on Twitter which occurred in the middle of winter. As a leadership team we took good advantage of a 2-hr cold weather delay!
We want our teachers and students to be creative and innovative, designing new products and processes that have value. How can we use your human and financial resources in ways that will more effectively support your digital transformation? How can we model creativity and innovation?
As a result of asking these questions several years ago, we discovered some innovative ways of using our computer technicians and librarians to support our professional development and digital transformation.
- Computer technicians were hired with expertise in software applications in addition to computer repair.
- The changing role of the librarian was documented in an updated job description.
- A new administrative position was created, Supervisor of Instructional Practice, to coordinate the support mechanisms of the digital transformation.
These varied job roles came together in the formation of a support group (we call it TLC, representing technicians, librarians and coaches) to best identify and support the professional learning needs within each school.
For me, there are two important takeaways on the component of support in a digital transformation:
- Frequent opportunities for professional learning keep your digital transformation goals at the forefront with everyone in the organization focused on transformational learning, professionally and for our students.
- While everyone needs a common language around technology and pedagogy, effective supports meet teachers and leaders where they are and challenge them to embrace a growth mindset for continuous improvement. Building and district leaders must work collaboratively to ensure the individual and collective needs of teachers and leaders are being met.
In what ways have supports been critical in your school’s digital transformation? How have you approached supporting your teachers and leaders in innovative ways? What additional components of support would you add to this list, such as instructional or technology coaches?
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