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Designing in-school professional learning and development around digital technologies for learning

With the rapid rate of change that new technologies have brought us, it is important to invest wisely and thoroughly in upskilling staff to support them to engage learners and raise achievement through the effective use of digital technologies for learning.

There are many means by which schools can access and design professional learning and development for all staff. Here we suggest ways to utilise in-house expertise to plan, implement, and evaluate professional learning and development initiatives.

This information is intended for senior and/or middle leaders with responsibility for teacher professional learning and development in the area of digital technologies for learning/e-learning.

Planning

Twenty‐first century teacher professional development needs to combine and integrate individual and organisational development: it needs to build individual learning, but it also needs to focus on individuals working together — to build their current “community of practice” as teachers, but also to move forward together in “learning communities”.

Swimming out of our depth? Leading learning in 21st century schools

Strategic, cohesive, and collaborative

Professional learning and development should be responsive and respectful to individual needs whilst also meeting the vision for whole school development. There should be a strategic plan that allows for growth, development and, crucially, cohesion and alignment across the various initiatives schools may focus on at one time. Professional learning and development should be collaborative and take place within the culture of a whole-school learning community.

Sustainable and cost-effective

Develop and nurture in-school expertise to ensure that professional learning and development is sustainable as well as cost-effective. Ensure that where in-school expertise is used to provide professional learning and development, adequate time, support and resourcing is given to those involved. These staff should have their individual learning needs met as well, for example through coaching and mentoring. Using external support could be one way to meet the various professional learning needs of all staff. Centrally-funded professional learning and development is available through the Ministry of Education. See the relevant section in this guide for some more information.

Personalised and evidence-based

You will need to plan professional learning and development with staff based on their needs, current strengths, and inquiries. To do this effectively, it is useful to check in with staff to ascertain their levels of confidence and competency, as well as strengths and needs around the use of digital technologies to help inform your strategic planning. There are various ways in which you might do this, such as a survey, or whole staff or small group discussions. The e-learning planning framework  may be a useful tool for this purpose, as might a design thinking approach .

Questions to help you plan

The following questions may be worth considering as you start to plan to provide professional learning and development around digital technologies for learning:

  • What is the vision for teaching and learning at your school?
  • What are the goals for the professional learning and development programme?
    • How are these connected to the vision?
    • How are these connected to improving student outcomes?
  • What are the staff needs?
    • How do you know?

Implementation 

Key principles of effective professional learning and development

Based on research, the components that contribute to effective professional learning and development for teachers include:

  • connecting the professional learning and development to identified student needs and learning outcomes
  • integrating content knowledge with pedagogical and assessment knowledge
  • operating within a learning community and culture of trust
  • offering sustained opportunities to learn over a period of time
  • being collaborative, building knowledge with colleagues, and sharing learning and new knowledge with the wider staff
  • leaders taking an active participating role in the professional learning and development
  • using an inquiry framework, such as the Teaching as inquiry model from the New Zealand Curriculum , or the Spiral of inquiry by Timperley, Kaser and Halbert .
Effective professional learning

Image: Effective professional learning from Department of Education and Training (2005). Professional learning in effective schools: The seven principles of highly effective professional learning.

It may also be useful to keep in mind Malcolm Knowles’ 6 principles of adult learners :

  • adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • adults are goal oriented
  • adults are relevancy oriented
  • adults are practical
  • adult learners like to be respected.

Models of professional learning and development

Whole staff professional learning and development can be counterproductive. Just as with students, teachers are learners and not all ready at the same time for the same information. As we know from the principles of Universal Design for Learning , staff rooms, like classrooms, are places of “predictable variability”. They will include the full range of competence and confidence around integrating digital technology, and this is entirely normal.

Additionally, designing professional learning and development initiatives is a golden opportunity to model modern learning practices. These are practices that are future-focused, agentic, personalised, accessible, and inclusive. As such, it is important that professional learning and development is not "one-size fits all".

Recommendations
  • Offer choice. Make use of the expertise of your staff to offer more than one learning opportunity at a time. Staff can then exercise agency by choosing what to attend or do.
  • Adopt "rewindable" learning. Make use of screencasting tools and/or record workshops or other sessions so that teachers can access learning anywhere, anytime.
  • Create a central repository for resources. Staff should know how, and from where, to access all professional learning and development materials. This ensures sustainability through staff transitions, as well as staff who are absent from workshops. Consider how resources, reflections or ideas created by staff as part of PLD can be digitally shared so that others can access and benefit from them.
  • Be clear on how to access help and support. Staff should feel safe to ask questions and know where, how, and with whom they can continue their learning journey.
  • Design professional learning sessions with staff. Use a framework such as design thinking  to ensure a common understanding of what the PLD learning intentions are, how it connects to the school’s strategic goals, and to create sessions that meet staff needs and interests.

Keeping this in mind, the professional learning and development you design with teachers may well include a range of approaches. These could include:

  • One to one tutorials: staff access "just in time" support from a known and identified expert colleague.
  • Small focus groups: small groups form around a common interest, need, target student cohort, or teacher inquiry to provide support and advice to one another.
  • Buddy support: adopt a tuakana teina approach whereby staff find, or are matched with, another colleague to support one another with their teacher inquiries.
  • “Techie brekkies”: offer optional technology tool-focused workshops to staff before school starts. Provide coffee and breakfast snacks to attendees.
  • Topic-specific seminars or workshops: consider how you could offer choice via a menu or topic board about the topic itself or within the workshop.
  • Professional learning groups or communitiesPLGs or PLCs  provide opportunities for staff to connect with others, share ideas and resources, reflect critically on their practice, and create new knowledge about teaching and learning with digital technologies.
  • Quick-fire sharing: provide opportunities in staff or team meetings for people to share what they have tried or learnt recently related to learning with digital technologies. Teachers can then find out more if they are interested.
  • 20/20/20s: offer a 20 minute seminar focusing on the “why”/big picture scene setting; 20 minutes for a workshop (ideally offering a range for people to choose from); 20 minutes of reflection time (connecting the professional learning to the teacher’s inquiry and/or to the Teachers’ Code and Standards).
  • Jigsaw activity: split your staff into teams of 4–6. Within each team, each teacher researches a different aspect of a bigger picture idea or topic. They can do this independently or in collaboration with others from the other teams. After a set period of time, the teams come back together then each teacher presents their piece of the overall jigsaw.
  • Speed dating: each teacher gets three minutes to share an idea about a classroom practice that they’ve tried (or other idea, depending on the focus) with a partner then everyone rotates.
  • Classroom observations: by watching their own colleagues teach during classroom visits, teachers can learn things they can immediately apply in their own work.
  • Lab classrooms: a host teacher demonstrates a strategy in his or her own classroom with students, while visiting teachers observe.
  • Student-led sessions: students can have a lot to offer their teachers if they are given the opportunity to do so.
  • Unconferences and educamps: these informal events have almost no plan and allow people to say what they’re interested in exploring, and to spend time together with others to explore those things. There is some preparation upfront required for people to offer suggestions on a spreadsheet or slidedeck about what they can offer or are interested in, and this can help provide more structure. Learn more about the educamp experience .
  • Have fun doing something together as a staff that you’ve never done before: this may not immediately result in specific outcomes but connections are made to build trust and familiarity leading to greater support for each other in future. Conversations that are had off site can often offer fresh, different perspectives.
Further readings »

Centrally-funded professional learning and development

To support a focus on professional learning and development around using digital technologies for learning, it may be possible to apply for centrally-funded professional learning and development from the Ministry of Education. An external facilitator can act as a "critical friend" who supports the school to develop a holistic view of the professional learning development so that it is integrated and meaningful. Information for principals and school leaders about this is available from the Ministry’s Professional learning and development website .

Sustaining professional learning and development

Once your professional learning and development initiatives have started, it is important to focus on ways to sustain a positive learning culture. You could consider:

  • Consistently keeping the focus on the "why" of the professional learning and development. Tell student stories and involve student voice to foster a sense of moral imperative for upskilling in digital technologies for learning. It is important to keep the overarching strategic goals for the professional learning and development front and centre: raising student achievement.
  • Celebrating all wins: provide opportunities for teachers to showcase their learning and evolving teacher practice. This supports a culture of innovation and risk-taking and can lead to sustaining positive change in the school.
  • Acknowledge the “learning pit ”: that learning is a messy process at times. Look for ways to nurture a growth mindset in staff: praise persistence, resilience, and effort.
  • Treating the staff room as a learning environment: what materials are on display? How is the staff room structured and organised? Is it a conducive learning environment for all staff?
  • Encouraging the establishment and maintenance of individual Professional Learning Networks  through being connected educators.
  • Subscribing to relevant publications about teaching with digital technologies, such as Interface magazine , as a way to introduce new ideas and to promote professional reading.
  • Remembering to provide professional learning opportunities for support and administration staff who will also have development needs to help them make more effective use of digital technologies. They need support and to be in the loop. Identify key people who could be the "e-champions" to support others.

Monitoring and evaluating

Effective professional learning involves ongoing cycles of evidence-informed inquiry. It begins with leaders and teachers collecting and analysing a range of evidence that will help them answer the question, ‘What is going on for students in relation to the outcomes that we value?’ The perspectives of students, parents and whānau will be included in this evidence along with that of professionals.

School evaluation indicators: Effective practice for improvement and learner success

Are you meeting your success criteria?

It is important to monitor and evaluate your professional learning and development initiatives in order to evolve them based on feedback and identified need, and to ensure that the initiatives are having the desired impact on raising staff capacity and student achievement. You will need to consider ways in which to reflect on, and assess, the outcomes of the professional learning and development. Therefore it is crucial to have clearly articulated goals and success criteria before starting any initiative. Using frameworks such as the e-Learning Planning FrameworkTechnological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) , or Puentedura’s SAMR model  are useful to determine progress and identify possible next steps.

Gathering voice

Another important consideration to monitor and evaluate your initiatives, is to ask both staff and students for their input and voice. Ideally, professional learning and development is co-designed with teachers, and student voice should play a key role in identifying learning priorities. Additionally, effective professional learning and development is not only linked to the school’s strategic goals, but also to its appraisal  system, ideally through an inquiry process. Staff should reflect on their professional learning journey and keep a record of this towards gaining or maintaining their practicing teacher certificate.

Useful links and resources

Julia Atkin

Leading e-learning

Educational consultant, Julia Atkin, discusses the process of leading e-learning in a school. She explains the importance of creating a shared vision that reflects the competencies students need to develop, and identifying teacher needs to ensure the vision can be put into practice.

Support for teachers

Support for teachers

Principal Melissa Bell and the e-learning leaders at St Hilda's Collegiate describe the professional development they have in place to support teachers with teaching and learning.

Implementing iPads in school - professional development

Implementing iPads in school – professional development

Grant's Braes School principal, Chris McKinlay describes how iPads were introduced first to staff then into the classroom.

Creating a vision to lead e-learning in your school

Creating a vision to lead e-learning in your school

Dr Cheryl Doig, director of Think Beyond Limited, talks about the importance of having a shared language and understanding of what e-learning is before integrating it into the school vision.

Professional learning using teacher inquiry

Professional learning using teacher inquiry

Chris Allen and Mike Wilson Sacred Heart Girls' College share why they chose to use a teacher inquiry model as a focus for professional learning and why that approach has been so successful.

Teaching as inquiry through an e-learning lens

Teaching as inquiry through an e-learning lens

LwDT facilitator, Anna Harrison discusses the value of the teaching and inquiry model as a basis for PLD for e-learning. 

Tailoring professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs: A blended model

Tailoring professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs: A blended model

Teachers discuss tailored professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs using a blended model. 

Wairakei School BYOD pilot: Next steps

Wairakei School BYOD pilot: Next steps

Wairakei school principal, Shane Buckner explains how positive feedback from teachers and parents helped the school decide to make their Year 5 and 6 classes one-to-one BYOD (iPads) and Year 3 and 4 classes optional.

Building teacher capability

Building teacher capability

Teacher Kate Friedwald explains how whole school PD at Wairakei School, based on the Teaching as Inquiry model, is being applied to ICT.

Pedagogy underpins practice in an innovative learning environment

Pedagogy underpins practice in an innovative learning environment

Gavin Burn and Cathie Zelas explain their process of moving from a traditional learning environment to an innovative learning environment at Halswell School.

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/142187310" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Developing the pedagogy and practice for an innovative learning environment

Woodend School Deputy Principal, Adrienne Simpson explains using the spiral of inquiry as a framework identify how to move forward with innovative learning practices and learning with digital technologies.

Supporting successful BYOD implementation

Supporting successful BYOD implementation

e-Learning co-ordinator, Allistair Williamson explains key steps for implementing BYOD at Pakuranga College. 

Using the SAMR model to evaluate technology use

Using the SAMR model to evaluate technology use

Ben Britton, lead teacher ICT at Wellington High School, discusses how they use the SAMR model to evaluate plan for effective use of technologies in the classroom.

Preparing for BYOD – Professional development

Preparing for BYOD – Professional development

Dominic Killalea, Deputy Principal at Wellington High School, discusses the importance of making time for professional learning.

Professional learning – Teacher inquiry

Professional learning – Teacher inquiry

Pakuranga College principal, Michael Williams describes their intensive PLD programme.

Professional learning – e-Learning coordinator role

Professional learning – e-Learning coordinator role

Allister Williamson explains his role as e-Learning coordinator at Pakuranga College, which involves overseeing their professional learning programme.

Resourcing

Resourcing

Pakuranga College principal, Michael Williams explains their school systems and roles for building staff capacity to use digital technologies to support learning and teaching. 

Planning for success – Taking your staff with you

Planning for success – Taking your staff with you

Pakuranga College DP, Billy Merchant explains taking staff with you on the e-learning journey is number one. Not all staff will move at the same pace and in the same way so they provide lots of different channels and different avenues for support.

Professional learning – Planning strategically

Professional learning – Planning strategically

Pakuranga College principal, Michael Williams explains their system for PLD. Using their rubrics teachers can identify their strengths and next steps. e-Mentors support teachers with their inquiries into using digital technologies effectively.

SMS – Facilitating teacher inquiry

SMS – Facilitating teacher inquiry

Principal, Michael Malins shares how they use their SMS to document teacher inquiries. 

Pedagogy underpinning BYOD

Pedagogy underpinning BYOD

Wellington High School Principal, Dominic Killalea explains the pedagogy behind their BYOD approach which supports lifelong learning.

Planning for building staff capacity

Planning for building staff capacity

Hampden Street School principal, Don McLean describes their approach to professional development.

Professional development at Hampden Street School

Professional development at Hampden Street School

e-Learning lead teacher, John O'Regan explains their professional development focus on using e-learning tools to support learning.

Developing culturally responsive practice – The benefits of whole staff PLD, online

Developing culturally responsive practice – The benefits of whole staff PLD, online

Pegasus Bay School Principal, Roger Hornblow, talks about the ways that whole-staff PLD benefited them when taking the Te Reo Puāwai course.

Building culturally responsive practice schoolwide

Building culturally responsive practice schoolwide

Pegasus Bay School principal, Roger Hornblow explains how Huakina Mai and Te Reo Puāwai helped them build culturally responsive practice schoolwide. 

Connecting to share professional learning

TeachMeetNZ

Sonya van Schaijik, Newmarket School, explains how TeachMeet works and the benefits it provides for teachers to connect and share their practice.

Teacher opening book

Developing an action plan and strategic framework

Rotorua Central Kāhui Ako leader, Nancy Macfarlane explains how their community of learning developed their action plan and strategic framework.

Teacher speaking

How evaluative practice and theory of improvement inform Rotorua Central Kāhui Ako direction

Kāhui Ako leader, Nancy Macfarlane and Hinemoa Anaru, Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru Education Trust, explain how they have used evaluative thinking  and developed theories of improvement to provide direction for their community of learning.

Classroom

Sharing teacher practice

Principals, Tracey Simeon and Lee Whitelaw, talk about how they share teacher practice between the schools in their cluster and what their learning focuses on.

The entrance to a school. A girl stands at the fence of the school reading a book.

Setting up and establishing the flipped approach at Ashhurst School

Ashhurst School Principal, Heath Chittenden, explains how they got teachers and parents prepared before rolling out flipped learning in their school. “Flipped learning is really important to be a school-wide focus because it actually is a pedagogical change to how you approach teaching.”

Teachers work together on laptops

Sustaining the flipped learning pedagogy within your school

Ashhurst School Principal, Heath Chittenden, shares how important it is that all staff are trained to use the flipped learning model and the resource bank that is available to them.

Teachers working together at a table

Collaborative practice – Kaiako planning and learning together

e-Learning coordinator, Sandy Bornholdt, explains how their planning and PLD supports their design learning model and collaborative practices.

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e-Learning community discussions

Join these groups to participate in discussions with other teachers/educators about the content here, or that is relevant for you.

Enabling e-Learning
e-Learning: Leadership
e-Learning: Teaching
e-Learning: Technologies
e-Learning: Professional Learning
e-Learning: Beyond the classroom
Using the e-Learning Planning Frameworks

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