Current practices in professional development for technology integration do not allow teachers significant time to use and learn the tools that are being presented. Workshops tend to focus too much on “How do I use this tool?” and often do not focus on the all important “How do I apply this tool in my instruction and planning?” at all.

I remember going to an Excel PD about 5 years ago. It was awesome; I could see the applications for my grade 7 math classes and was very excited to try it out. But once I got back to my classroom, I found that I couldn’t follow the handout without assistance, and I didn’t have the time or desire to figure Excel out all over again on my own. Eventually my husband showed me a couple of neat features and so I finally (three years later) integrated Excel into my teaching. The key was the fact that I had a resource for support (since he used it daily in his job) and so as I was planning I could bounce ideas off of him and he could provide “expert” advice on how to change or adapt my thinking to make the lesson work better.

I’m sure that all of you have had similar experiences. PD that just doesn’t sink in because of lack of time to continue the learning, lack of follow up by PD providers, or just a general lack of confidence because the “expert” isn’t around when you're trying to plan the lesson that integrates the “new” tool you’ve just learned. Those of us that are brave may venture forward and try it out anyway, but most of us will scrap the idea in lieu of the easier already prepared tried and true.

In the blog post Business as ‘Un’usual, Will Richardson discusses the fact that he knows that workshops can be ineffective:

“In the best case, they are a full day of one or two particular tools. In the worst case, they are one or two hours on a lot of tools. Either way, the experience usually serves to overwhelm, and at the end of the day (or hour) the participants head back to the craziness of their teaching lives where I’m guessing much of what they have “learned” fails to take root. Now that may be my fault to some extent, but it’s also a direct result of the “drive by” nature of much of what we call professional development. There’s little if anything to support the experience after it’s over. It’s a little better at conferences where people by and large choose to be there, but the larger point is that motivated at the moment or not, there is rarely time for contextualizing the skills and connecting and sharing those experiences after the fact.” From retrieved on March 17, 2009.

Scott McLeod who writes the blog Dangerously Irrelevant says this about current PD practices: “Rarely is there follow-up. Rarely is there sustained, focused conversation about a specific learning issue over time.” From retrieved March 17, 2009. I highly recommend reading this short blog post.

In his blog post reflecting on the December 12, 2008
Western RCAC Symposium, Rodd Lucier states “My personal suspicions are that most attendees will fail to make effective use of any of the many tools introduced today. Even with everyone recognizing that we have a long way to go: A significant knowing-doing gap will remain! He then goes on to list 9 snippets of conversations he heard on the way out.

David Warlick then reflects on those 9 comments Lucier heard, in this blog post titled “So Now What Do We Do?” About lack of time he says:
“ . . . lack of time is the barrier to retooling classrooms that I zero’ed in on. The teacher-day is virtually unchanged from the classrooms I attended in the ’50s and ’60s. Think of lawyers, surgeons, or even farmers. Do they spend all of their time in front of juries, in operating rooms, or in the fields. No! An important part of their job is research, collaboration, reflection, resource development, and professional development.” From retrieved on March 17, 2009.

David Warlick is actually a huge proponent of giving teachers more time to plan and learn. In his blog post titled TechForum Beyond the Hype Panel: Question 3 he says:
“Providing teachers with three or four hours of planning time every day will certainly be more difficult to achieve. It runs more counter to schooling-as-usual than tossing textbooks for laptops. Yet, when considering the possible benefits to our students learning experience, boost to the profession, and relief to the families of classroom teachers, it behooves us not to easily set this suggestion aside. If we are not willing to at lease consider changes as radical as restructuring the school day/week to give teachers more professional time, then we’re simply not going to make it . . . With more planning time scheduled into the day, we would likely have more talent coming into the profession. The establishment of a trained and capable paraprofessional league of educators and/or an apprenticeship program would free up master teachers for planning,
collaboration, research, materials development, liaising with families and the community, professional development, assessment, and more.”

Imagine that! 3 hours of planning time everyday to reflect on Professional Development, plan for integration and just simply learn the tools. What a Utopia that would be.

The National Staff Development Council Standards for Staff Development says “staff development that improves the learning of all students:

Requires skillful school and district leaders who guide continuous instructional improvement.

Requires resources to support adult learning and collaboration

Uses disaggregated student data to determine adult learning priorities, monitor progress, and help sustain continuous improvement.”

The idea of continuous improvement seems to be a recurring theme in these standards, implying that follow up and time for practice should be a part of all teacher professional development.

Unfortunately, we all know that’s not the case.