Our goal this year was for teachers, tech-savvy and not, to increase their comfort level with using technology and Thinkfinity’s website/resources. In order to meet this goal we used two support methods, onsite and online, each designed to complement the other. At our school I serve as an on-site facilitator that teachers called upon, but we also leveraged a lot of online tools including the Thinkfinity Community. Below are a few of the strategies that we used, and a summary of how they worked.
- Have teams of teachers take online courses / webinars during a specific time frame so they have the flexibility of fitting into their own schedules, but can also reflect upon the take-aways as a group (either in their online group or over a lunch-and-learn). Here is a link to webinars that teachers could view.
- Provide links to online professional development resources that support what your teachers are currently doing in the classroom. Then schedule some brief face-to-face meetings to discuss what they have learned and how they have been able to apply the information to their own classroom activities. This hybrid approach allows them to take advantage of the many online options available, and encourages the sharing of ideas and opportunities among your teachers.
- Create a private school “group” in the Thinkfinity community. We used this for our discussions, blog posts, questions, and the sharing of documents. Teachers were able to post their lesson plans, get feedback on them, and even collaborate on them.
- Demonstrate for teachers the benefits of using an online community such as the Thinkfinity Community. Help them to know who to go to for onsite help with immediate issues, and how to tap the community to get additional support they need. For example, they might access information from the group, Online Tools for Educators.
- Keep teachers motivated and engaged. Keep in constant contact with them through emails and group discussions – though not in overwhelming volume. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them to share their successes. Ask them to share their frustrations. This helps teachers keep a sense of community, and that sense of community keeps them motivated and engaged.
In addition, we plan to encourage each department to tap into other groups that exist within the Thinkfinity Community. This could include tapping into the groups that have been established by leading content organizations, such as Learning Math from NCTM or All About Science from AAAS.
Joshua Jeon is the Technology Coordinator at Albert G. Lane Technical College Preparatory High School (Lane Tech) in Chicago, Illinois.