Written By Barbara Greenstone
As I travel across the state of Maine, talking to teachers and administrators about the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) professional development, I often hear, “We don’t have time for technology training; we’re too busy with our other initiatives.” I understand feeling. In the last decade, the number of initiatives and programs schools have adopted in the name of reform has been astounding and all these new ideas require professional development. At this time of year, some districts make their professional development plans for the whole school year, and these plans are driven by whichever initiatives have risen to the top of the list. Often MLTI does not even appear on the list because, frankly, it’s been in our middle schools for eight years now and the sense of urgency we all felt in the first year or two has passed. Most schools are now focusing on NCLB, literacy, numeracy, RTI, and any number of other pressing issues that demand immediate attention.
In some ways, this is a good thing. Technology training in isolation has never been our goal. We know that simply teaching teachers how to use their MLTI MacBooks will not have a significant impact on their teaching practice and will not lead to improved learning opportunities for students. Instead, the MLTI team always tries to focus on how the technology supports, enhances, and transforms how we teach our content, how we communicate and collaborate, and how we assess student progress.
And this brings us back to those other initiatives. We are fortunate in Maine middle schools that we have achieved a level of technology access that is unheard of in other states. Every seventh and eighth-grade teacher and student has a personal device provided by MLTI and in many middle schools this has allowed the allocation of more local technology resources to other grade levels in the building. This level of access can change how you approach the other initiatives and programs your school is instituting, and it only takes a slight shift in your thinking to accomplish this. Instead of just thinking about how you can teach all teachers to differentiate their instruction in accordance with your RTI plan, try thinking about how the technology you already have in place can support differentiated instruction. Then plan workshops for teachers where they learn how to use the software they have as well as Open Educational Resources (OER) to provide high-quality instruction for all learners.
Of course, you can call on the MLTI professional development team to assist you with this. It’s important to remember that the MLTI Integration Mentors are not just another geek squad. We are all experienced teachers and we spend as much time learning about RTI, DI (Differentiated Instruction), UDL (Universal Design for Learning), etc., as we do learning new technology skills. When we plan workshops for a particular school, we try to determine what the school-wide goals are for that school and use those goals as the basis for our instruction.
As you are planning your in-service professional development time for this new school year, consider how you can leverage the technology you have to support your school’s goals and initiatives. Whether you call on outside consultants, Department of Education or MLTI staff, or use your in-house experts to provide this professional development, think about how technology can be woven into the plan. To request MLTI assistance, click here or visit http://maine.gov/mlti/events/request.shtml and be sure to check our many resources at Maine121.org
Thank you to Barbara Greenstone for this blog post. Barbara’s role is MLTI Integration Mentor and can be reached by emailing her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course if you have comments please post them below.