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Bringing multimedia literacy into the classroom is working for a lot of teachers at a lot of schools, but not everyone has a strong enough background in technology to just jump right in and start working rich media content into their lesson plans. If you’re one of them, or if you’re just looking for a few new ideas, professional development opportunities are out there to help you discover the benefits that integrating a range of technology can bring to both teachers and students.
Why professional development?
The 1:1 Classroom has been making waves the last couple of years, particularly because of its ability to deliver differentiated content with a strong multimedia component. The 1:1 Classroom model brings with it a deep well of instructional potential, but teachers and administrators alike know the importance of providing some professional development resources to educators expected to work in the new paradigm.
Ann Lebo, an English teacher and assistant principal in Grundy Center, Iowa, told Iowa Area Education Agencies about the steps her school took to ensure their teachers were tech-ready before fully committing to the 1:1 classroom. “We wanted to make sure that all teachers were prepared before we gave all these laptops to kids, so there was a whole year of just getting teachers trained,” she said. “You can’t just hand people laptops and say ‘This fall we’re going 1:1.’ We had a whole year and a content management system in place ahead of time.”
One strong argument for professional development is the value of preparedness. Ms. Lebo went on to say that giving the teachers time to familiarize themselves with their 1:1 technology before rolling it out to students was key to the initiative’s success. If your teachers aren’t up to speed up to speed on the tech, or if the tech itself doesn’t work when students begin using it, “then you haven’t given them anything useful. That has to be in place or it does become more of a disruption or an impediment than an instructional tool.”
How to find development resources
Even if technology integration training isn’t available within your own school or district, there are many organizations that can fill in the gaps. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is one such organization, providing online courses and webinars that can help teachers get the most out of their interactive whiteboards or pick up some tips on mobile learning.
Single-course workshops can be obtained through multiple outlets, of which some might be right in your back yard. The New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE) puts on multiple workshops each fall semester, and education company Pearson — who launched an educational technology incubator in 2013 — offers virtual conferences and online training experiences for teachers without the resources necessary to travel.
Pre-arranged training courses are one thing, but what if you have specific professional development goals that can’t be met by ordering any of the training options available online or nearby? For one, ISTE can build a custom development package that matches the specific areas where you or your school need the most help. ISTE also puts on an annual edtech conference and expo, where teachers, administrators and school media specialists can network with technology coordinators, policy makers and teacher educators from all over the globe.
Conferences in general can be great places to sharpen skills, get ideas and interface with representatives of other schools working to integrate multimedia into their instructional philosophy. NYSCATE hosts an annual three-day edtech conference, as well as a one-day exhibition in the Hudson Valley where teachers and administrators can view demonstrations and talk to vendors and workshop leaders about new edtech solutions and multimedia techniques.
Of course, professional course fees and conference passes can sometimes cost more than your school’s development budget (or your own wallet) can easily justify. Even when that’s the case, though, there’s still hope.
The value of casual professional development
Lastly, don’t shy away from looking into meetups of like-minded educators in your area. Multimedia instruction and tech-enhanced classrooms are innovations in education, and exchanging ideas with a group other teachers and administrators on the front lines of this rapid advancement can sometimes be a greater asset to your classroom strategy than sitting and listening to lecturers argue a single edtech use case in broad strokes.
However long you’ve been working within the new media educational paradigm, we’re all trying to figure this out together. Conventional professional development tends to come in the form of classes and conferences, but conventional professional development might not be the answer when you’re striking out to break new ground with emerging technologies. Sometimes, just applying your attention to the challenges and opportunities of multimedia learning and sharing your thoughts with others who share your passion can lead to some of the sharpest professional development out there.
About the Author:
Justin Boyle is a tutor, editor and designer who works in media production for an ecology non-profit. He lives in Austin, Texas, and finds a lot of things interesting, especially food, finance, education, tech, art and travel. He contributes to several websites, including OnlineSchools.com.