WSSD Virtual EdTech
Professional development for teachers and staff is an important part of the school year, and in 2020 even more so. Having taken on a completely new and unexpected way of teaching starting in March, WSSD teachers and staff faced a steep learning curve. Although many of them had used some of the online tools previously, there was still a lot of intense learning and adapting to these new classroom settings while delivering the high standard of instruction that is the norm at WSSD.
For their November professional development training, Dr. Nora Wheeler, Director of Instructional Technology, and her colleagues, put together a two-day program focused on a wide variety of instructional technology tools and resources to strengthen instructional practice.
“Teachers are similar to the students they teach in that they enter into learning opportunities with a range of interests, needs, and skills”, Dr. Wheeler explained. “When the Instructional Technology Department was asked to provide professional learning sessions in the afternoon of both in-service days, we decided the best approach was to offer choice on a variety of topics ranging from specific tech skills, to sharing of strategies with colleagues, to sessions that challenge our thinking.”
The catalog of offerings included synchronous sessions hosted by WSSD teachers and staff that enhanced knowledge of familiar areas such as the iPad, Google Forms, and Seesaw. There were also sessions introducing newer tools (for some) such as Parlay, Nearpod, and SplashLearn.
In their sessions, teachers used the same tools that they ask their students to use as they brainstormed and shared ideas together. For example, in the Student Engagement sessions (there were separate sections for both elementary and secondary teachers), participants used Padlet to share their strategies and tips on what is working for them in their classrooms – as well as to ask for help in certain areas.
In the “Demonstrate Learning with Adobe Spark Page”, Ms. Plows, SHHS photography and visual communications teacher, showed her colleagues how to use Spark to create webpages to showcase their work. She went through the process step-by-step and showed a variety of student examples. Participants were encouraged to start experimenting during the session, and Mr. Rodgers, SHHS art teacher, quickly created a page for his ceramics classes.
The asynchronous sessions took advantage of the many free resources available to educators to grow their skills and thinking. These sessions covered: SeeSaw, EdPuzzle, FlipGrid, Common Sense Media, EdWeb, Wakelet, HyperDocs, Podcast, ScreenCastify, ShareMyLesson, Google Applied Digital Skills, CASEL Cares, Wide Open School, and Teaching Tolerance.
Additionally, department chairs organized subject-specific sessions for music, world language, and secondary math and science.
Teachers and staff had the flexibility to choose the sessions that best suited their needs, while connecting with their colleagues around the district and getting a boost of creativity and support. As Mrs. Tabatha Duffy, SHHS English teacher said, “Working with other teachers and helping support one another has been one of the silver linings of this really difficult time.” And sixth grade science teacher, Mr. Brian Ward noted, “These trainings are really helpful as they allow us to expand our online teaching expertise.”
“This approach provides teachers and professional staff members the opportunity to meet personal needs and grow while also having some flexibility on when to complete sessions over these two days” observed Dr. Wheeler. “We hope to continue to evolve the idea of personalized professional learning moving forward.” With the success of the first Virtual TechEd training, they are off to a great start!
Thank you to our WSSD presenters!
Katie Pulos (NPE)
Meryl Chafetz (WES)
Amelia Sisko (OA)
Kelly Kane (SRS)
Heather Burns (SHMS)
Tabatha Duffy (SHHS)
Lysa Rieger (SHHS)
Kate Plows (SHHS)
Dave Mendell (NPE)
Beth Cohen (SHHS)
Maria Thomas (SHHS)
Gino Miraglia (SHHS)
Henry Pearlberg (SHMS)
Sarah Elsheakh (SHMS)
James McLaughlin (SHMS)