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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Professional Development Should be Optional

Yes, I am spending some time catching up and responding to a lot of posts today. This is again from EDUC-8813...

To address the problem of use of technology, our school district has made an important step to force teachers to embrace technolog. First, all administrative tasks must be completed using a computer. For example, student grades, progress reports, attendance, email; and lesson plan. Secondly, we are required to take technology proficiency exam twice a year to ensure that teachers and administrators are using technology proficiently.

I'm impressed the ambitious intent of this program, but wow, forcing sounds like a bad idea. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Dagget speak at a the first Orange County High School Summit. He shared research that the International Center for Leadership in Education had conducted on America's most successful high schools. Though these were all cutting edge, one significant element they all (the top 30, as opposed to the next 300) had in common was that professional development was strictly optional. Dr. Daggett shared the trend that only 1/3 of a staff (the excited early adoptors) will get on board the first year, followed by another 1/3 of the staff (the pragmatists) the following year, and finally by the final 1/3 that feels the pressure to conform or be run out by their competition. There are always a handful that resist to the point that they are actually run out of their job, and there is nothing you can do about those folks anyway. This approach helps ensure that resources are being applied where they will have the greatest impact.

I've found this to be an appealing idea, and look forward to seeing it implemented in Orange County schools. I am currently working with a school district that is tackling a three year technology integration plan and is making all technology staff development optional. So far so good after one training with excited folks only. :)

-Mark

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