What is innovation?
George Couros (2015) defines innovation as “a way of thinking that creates something new and better” (p.19). As I have progressed through my Digital Learning and Leading (DLL) program at Lamar University, I was asked to develop and implement an innovation project. I didn't want to choose any random topic that didn't make any sense to me, I wanted whatever I chose to be useful to a Technology Integration Specialist since I would be spending so many months on the project. Why not make it applicable to my job?
My plan initially began as Micro-Badging for Professional Learning as a way to track technology proficiency for my teachers. I figured this would fit within our current technology badging system so I started researching professional development. In my first literature review, Ways to Effectively Train Educators to Use Technology, I investigated many different ways technology training was being delivered/facilitated and micro-badging seemed like the best way to allow my teachers' choice in their professional learning. I continued investigating some Global Lessons on Technology Training and included those in my second literature review. As I continued my DLL journey, I discovered Gulamhussein’s (2013) five key principles for professional learning, I realized that active participation and modeling were not at the heart of the micro-badging system. Yes, micro-badging is personalized learning however it lacks the important components of active participation and modeling. Teachers needed to be motivated, self-starters for micro-badging to work and this is not likely to happen when they have enough on their plates already.
After much thought, I revamped my innovation project to what it is today; Personalized Professional Learning for Technology use in the Classroom. As I revamped my innovation project, I learned the importance of surveying my teachers to see their skills using specific campus designated applications to determine which level each teacher can function at. I think of myself as a driving instructor with technology being the car. Some of my teachers have a learning permit; they are in their first year and still unsure of how to use the technology. These teachers start by learning the basics and gradually build their skills. Next comes my new drivers; these teachers have used technology before and can do the basic skills but we're working on building their skill set to prepare them for stunt driving school. My stunt driving teachers are true innovators, they take an application and think of new ways they can use it within their classroom to amplify students' choice and voice in their assignments. Once I know the base level at which each of my teachers can perform, we work together to gradually move them up to the next step.
My personalized sessions include two to three teachers, sometimes they are organized by grade level and sometimes by subject or application. From my observations, my teachers seem to like this approach better than trying to “train them” over one application in a large group setting after school hours. I feel like a hostage-taker when I am required to deliver professional learning after school, thus my innovation project. Now I meet with my teachers for 10 to 15 minutes once a week to discuss current projects and brainstorm ideas for our next session. My innovation project will continue each year as I work as a Technology Integration Specialist. I will continue to add applications to my list and begin including other teachers as my experts to assist in modeling, especially since I know I am not as knowledgeable in their usage within the classroom environment as my teachers are who use them regularly. I am great at coming up with ideas of what to do with the technology and I can help them to find an application to match their goals but in the end, my teachers are the true experts, I am just there as their guide on the side.
A spin-off from this innovation project was the implementation of copier PD, once a month I develop a newsletter that showcases an application, ideas for the classroom, and a blog post or a podcast of the month. This newsletter is tacked on the wall behind the copier and I include QR codes that link to videos for my teachers to watch while waiting for their copies to come out of the copier. After asking my teachers for feedback on my copier PD, their main comment was they didn't always have their phones with them, therefore, this school year I will email my teachers a copy of the newsletter and include the linked document in my email signature.
Looking back over the past semester, I've noticed a few areas that could use improvement. One is keeping up with the presentations and updating my spreadsheet once they have been made. Another is consistency, towards the end of the school year, I noticed that I would allow my teachers to reschedule or cancel our session which is okay for one time, however not for multiple weeks in a row. Maybe since this year I'm starting at the beginning of the school year with the project, cancellations will be less of an issue once the expectations are established. When I start my next Innovation project I need to keep in mind that planning is key and breaking the process into small, manageable steps as I prepare for my next project will make it easier to implement.
I know my educators appreciate the personalized approach for their professional learning, therefore, I will continue to facilitate professional learning in this manner. Allowing my teachers to choose the direction in which our sessions will progress creates ownership of their professional learning by giving them a voice within authentic activities we develop together. I am yet to have a teacher tell me that my session was a waste of their time, even my stunt drivers learn something new! This encourages me to continue innovating professional learning. I will post updates on this adventure to my podcast Carter's Edventures in Technology, so stay tuned to see what I will do next!
Couros, G. (2015). The innovator's mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.
Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teachers Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/system/files/2013-176_ProfessionalDevelopment.pdf