In the school and district system, technology based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City (and most other places in the U.S. of A.), the dedicated educators who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known (amongst other things) as Technology Integration Specialists. These are their stories.

Remember when it used to be “a must” to include, “Proficient with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint” right at the top of your resume? Everyone did it and if you decided not to, you were running the risk of your prospective employer thinking something to the effect of, “who is this talentless doofus? We certainly can’t hire someone who doesn’t have hella skills in the Microsoft Office department!” I remember those days, and I always made sure to include my own word processing skills in semi-bold helvetica right there in my neat little bulleted list of qualifications.

Nowadays, I have had many an opportunity to participate on the receiving/hiring end of the resume submission and review process. Every time I come across the, “Proficient with Microsoft Office” section (which I still see a lot of by the way), I can’t help but chuckle to myself since we have all advanced so far beyond such a basic and common skill. It might serve an applicant better to say, “proficient in all aspects of personal hygiene and cleanliness”. My point is, technology in the classroom is something almost everyone has to some degree. It’s no longer a niche luxury reserved for the lucky grant recipients or those fancy rich schools. It’s essentially an expectation that an educator in today’s day and age have a certain level of tech-savviness in order to be relevant and successful in his/her teaching career.

If you’ve set foot inside a school recently (and I am guessing that if you’re reading this, you probably have), you know that you can’t get very far without noticing technology’s growing influence on nearly every aspect of education. Technology in the classroom is commonplace and the increasing availability of all this tech has the power to benefit kids of any age. Classroom tech is producing creative, butt-kicking doers with a global influence thanks to the World Wide Web! The caveat here is that while the tech can be an enormous catalyst for creativity and all around good, it’s up to us educators to harness its white-hot power and use it to produce thoughtful, productive, digital citizens. Ok. Cool. Ummm… How?

If our focus as educators is on the kids (as it should be), the questions we are likely asking ourselves on the daily probably have to do with, “what do students need to know?” and, “how can I get that information across effectively?”. It should come as no surprise that the answer to both of those questions should probably include, “technology”.

There’s a lot of buzz out there about kids being “digital natives” and it can be easy to buy into the hype that they instinctively “get it” and don’t need to be taught much about tech. While it’s true that they might grasp basic technology fundamentals a little easier than the first person you meet at your local retirement community, students often only embrace technology from a consumer perspective. Most can show you their favorite apps, videos, or games and granted, many of them may even be educational in nature. But, in order to make technology the transformative tool it should be, there are other ingredients that we teachers need to add to the recipe. Things like digital citizenship which go way beyond just safety and cyber bullying and help kids see that being a productive contributor to our ever-growing digital society is just as important as being a good neighbor.

Now that we’ve established that classroom tech is a thing and will only become more of a thing going forward, how do we get educators to hop on board the ed-tech choo choo train with the same enthusiasm they have for summer break? I think that good professional development centered around technology has a lot to do with it.

For some, the words, “professional” and, “development” when placed next to one another in the right order can cause palms to sweat, heads to ache, and pangs of soul-crushing pre-boredom to surge through the body. The thought of a stereotypical in-service day often includes hard cafeteria benches, a handful of designated lecturers, and a gaggle of educators who each possess a different level of skill and general enthusiasm for using technology. The goal is obviously to have everyone walk away with something they can use in their classroom but when the session begins, teacher X can’t figure out how to turn their iPad on, Teacher Y keeps bringing up 3D printing, and someone in the back keeps getting funny looks every time she asks to borrow someone’s dongle? The point being that it’s really hard to cater to every individual need without some sort of differentiation.

Online training is an increasingly viable option to bolster traditional professional development. Thanks to bite-sized, pre-recorded content, complex topics can be broken down into digestible pieces of information that can be viewed from anywhere at anytime. A teacher who struggles with the basics of using a school or district’s core softwares can watch informative videos as many times as needed in order to feel competent and comfortable using it. Conversely, a teacher to whom technology comes naturally, can spend their time finding new tools or learning new ways to implement a technology they’ve long been familiar with. It’s a win-win!

While I’d love to write a lot more about the countless other benefits of online training like badging, gamification, up-to-date content, and micro-credentialing, I am going to end this post and save those for later. Suffice it to say that there are enormous benefits to be reaped through the use of an online professional development platform. I’m certainly not preaching that in-person and F2F trainings can’t be effective and helpful but, when it comes to teaching hundreds or thousands of teachers with different tech skills, the online model works great!

As always, Kyte stands at the ready to help. We’d love to hear from you!

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