Introducing Classroom Technology Through Professional Development

Technology is a topic not unlike math or history:  you either embrace it or hide when it is mentioned.  Many teachers who think they are technologically inept use technology daily without realizing it.  A simple projector is technology, as is a phone or a smart board.  The second argument stems from student use of technology:  if students use their phones to play games, how can phones be a serious contender for the next best technological advancement?  Lastly, most teachers believe they do not have enough time to learn or practice the latest technology breakthrough.  Enter the fascinating world of technology through a teacher development program, a venue that breaks through the aforementioned barriers to assist teachers in effectively bringing technology to the classroom.

In today’s world, students use computers and phones as if they were born with keypads in their hands.  When a teacher instructs students using technology, student interest is immediately piqued and lessons are often more immersive.  To learn this technology, it is important to thoroughly understand it yourself.  By practicing with other educators in an environment away from the stress of the classroom, teachers can share ideas, rehearse using the technology in a lesson plan, and give advice when the technology is mastered.  Giving a teacher development program meeting in a “text expo” format will entice teachers to try something new.

Social media is technology’s primary method of communication.  By creating a social media group for instructors via Twitter, Facebook, or another form of social media (depending on what may work within the firewalls of your district), educators can connect in real-time discussions of current technology topics, ask and respond to technology questions, and learn the latest technology news.

Ensure the meetings are interactive to keep everyone engaged.  At the end of the meeting, ask teachers to describe their favorite technology or the app they use most regularly. Be sure these apps and technological wonders are written down so each participant can have a copy emailed or sent to a form of social media discussed in your meeting.

Visit www.eschoolsolutions.com for more great ideas on how to make your teacher development program meetings productive and student-focused.

 

Creating an Effective Professional Development Plan

The goal of any professional development (PD) plan is student success. However, the road from a teacher development program meeting to the door of the classroom is oftentimes not as smooth as a newly paved highway.  In fact, many PD meetings are unintentionally subdued as a well-intentioned administrator addresses teachers and presents information, asks questions, and dismisses his or her audience.  With no input or spontaneity, educators leave more confused and distraught than when they arrived.

To create a more successful and open meeting, it is imperative for administrators to begin with a positive anecdote or comment.  After inviting input on the first chunk of information, the administrator can engender enthusiasm with an interactive technology, such as Twitter.  Many school districts now have a specifically-designated hashtag on Twitter for teachers and administrators to participate in synchronous conversations, ask questions about current topics, and tweet any questions or comments they are eager to have answered.

Other forms of technology are appearing daily, and a teacher development program is a phenomenal forum for educators to discuss what technologies they are utilizing in the classroom that they appreciate and students love.  When teachers can share information on how they help their students learn, everyone wins.

Before the PD meeting ends, ask teachers to share a short story of a funny or heartwarming event from their classrooms.  This may be a great time for a student-perspective technology story also.  End the meeting on a positive note and ensure that any information teachers want–such as web addresses or Twitter information–is provided to them within a day’s time, before the novelty of the idea becomes stale.

To create your perfect teacher development program, visit eSchool Solutions’ website at www.eschoolsolutions.com for the most innovative ideas to encourage your instructors to teach more effectively.

Implementation is Crucial to Professional Development Programs

Teaching students with different learning styles and abilities in a closed room with little guidance is an intimidating task.  To ensure teachers had the correct tools for the job, school districts began offering professional development for teachers.  With most of the programs focused on workshops, the experiences were intended to give the ultimate form of teaching in the least amount of time. According to a 2013 National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education report, however, professional development (PD) programs are not inspiring their intended market; in fact, with over 90% of all educators nationwide participating in PD programs, the overall consensus was that the current PD program model was “abysmal,” and training was ineffective.  Keeping in mind that more than $2.5 billion in federal funds are spent annually for PD programs, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is less than positive about the results.  “As I go out [and] talk to great teachers around the country, when I ask them, ‘How much is that money improving their job or development?’ they either laugh or they cry,” recalls Secretary Duncan.

Knowing the current PD program is not working is the initial part of the solution.  The challenge is understanding what professional development for teachers is lacking and add that integral piece to the puzzle.  Fortunately, the answer is readily available:  implementation of new policies.  Because the PD programs address only new policies without regard as to how they will work in the classroom, educators wander back into their classrooms after a day of training, think about their new policy, and typically revert to their original style of teaching because they were not taught how to implement the newest policy into their everyday class experience.

The aforementioned NSBA report also stated that a new skill is thoroughly mastered only after it has been practiced over twenty times.  At that point, most teachers are comfortable enough with the new skill to pass it along to their students.  Given this insight, the focus of PD training should rest on the interactions between students and teachers while introducing new policies and procedures both parties will utilize. By taking a look at the “how” as well as the “what” of professional development for teachers, school districts should find higher rates of success for their teachers and students alike.

To learn how to effectively implement professional development ideas to your school or district, visit the eSchool website at www.eschoolsolutions.com.

 

Training New Teachers With Professional Development Programs

In our hometown, two local universities host teacher education programs. One university is renowned for the ease of its program, and eager teachers-to-be flock to its doors. The other university, however, is headed by a former teacher-turned-principal who believes that current professional development for teachers needs re-working. Every potential teacher is required to student-teach in a classroom for one semester before graduation. Theory became practice as the interns learn to meet student needs before class commences, to focus student time by practicing classroom management skills, and to follow a curriculum that, while state mandated, still includes exercises that address myriad learning styles. While the first university graduates more teachers, the second university’s graduating class is significantly better prepared, more frequently hired, and remain teachers for longer stretches of time since they know what to expect.

This methodology is mirrored in a recent study by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, which depicts best practices for initial teacher education and induction. Along with the abovementioned ideas, the paper also explains that even a well-educated teacher may not meet the standards of an individual school if the teacher’s college or university’s professional development for teachers offered limited contact with students.

Other areas that heighten a teacher’s initial success in the classroom include a close collaboration between the post-secondary institution and the public school system; highly skilled supervising teachers and staff members; continuity of skills so what was learned in the teacher education program is what is expected in the classroom; observation and feedback for new teachers to learn how to more effectively teach and manage their classrooms; and collaboration with fellow teachers to keep the momentum moving forward.

These ideas and more are presented on eSchool’s Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) program, which allows school districts to customize professional development for teachers to meet individual goals using methods based on effective core values and goals. Visit our website to learn how your school district can benefit from eSchool’s proven programs.

How Leadership Changes Affect Teacher Absenteeism

The 2011-12 school year in Central Texas was a difficult one for Hays Consolidated Independent School District. Five school principals changed locations, and Assistant Superintendant Carolyn Hitt wanted to know if the change in leadership affected absenteeism within those five locations differently than in the other schools where principals remained constant. Ms. Hitt asked the eSchool Solutions Analytics Consulting Team to conduct an in-depth analysis on the teacher absence management data recorded in SmartFind Express to determine if the number of absences corresponded with leadership change.

The time frame analyzed included the remaining months an outgoing principal was on campus until a few months after a new principal was installed. Their findings showed no drastic fluctuations in the absentee rate. Two schools did note changes on teacher absenteeism, however. These changes differed from each other and, as such, are considered outliers. The first dissimilarity was an increase of personal leave days for teachers despite a decrease in total number of absences as one school’s principal exited.  The second school noted a 39% increase in employee absences when a new principal was instituted with most of these absences noted as “sick leave.”

Ms. Hitt was “pleasantly surprised” with eSchool’s teacher absence management results. She stated she believed the principals “…continued to manage absenteeism effectively–even though they’d learned they would be leaving their school for another assignment.” Ms. Hitt went on to say that the findings indicated new principals were able to maintain the same level of absenteeism as their predecessors while learning their new schools’ systems and procedures. In her opinion, this overturned the assumption that new leadership escalated teacher absenteeism.

Contact eSchool Systems when your district wants to determine what factors may be causing excess absenteeism, or to ascertain what one of the schools in your district is doing to curb teacher absenteeism. Our Analytics Consulting Team is ready to provide you with comprehensive teacher absence management programs and answer your most pressing questions.

SmartFind Express Indicates Trends in Teacher Absenteeism

If you were ever in doubt as to how SmartFind Express could help your school district, read this example of how eSchool Solutions Analytics Consulting Team was able to run a thorough diagnostic report for Hays Consolidated Independent School District in Central Texas to determine myriad absenteeism discrepancies within its campuses.

Overall, eSchool’s SmartFind Express report for Hays pointed out that the district spent over $1 million due to teacher absenteeism. Looking deeper, the team discovered that while the district noted an 11% decrease in absenteeism, seven schools showed an increase. More startling was the fact that student absentee rates were below those of their teachers. Individually, two schools noted a drastic increase in the number of Friday planning periods, and one location’s personal absence days, where 60% of the total were taken on Fridays.

Working with the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, the consulting team from eSchool revised the district’s current plan to improve absentee statistics, both at individual locations and district-wide. As Assistant Superintendent Carolyn Hitt reports, “We just didn’t have the time, resources, or the expertise to conduct the analysis.” With SmartFind Express’ database and eSchool’s team of experts, the report’s findings allowed Ms. Hitt to meet with principals from every school in her district, explain the results, and develop objectives for each school.

Studies have shown that an increase of teacher absences creates a dramatic drop in student test scores. Therefore, money lost is not the only issue when discussing absentee rates with your school district because students attain greater knowledge when their teachers are absent less frequently. These two strong factors prove the extraordinary necessity of excellent teachers and substitutes. Help your students reach their potential by utilizing the available database of eSchool’s SmartFind Express.

Can Professional Development Help Bring U.S. Schools to the Top?

A recent educational poll ranked the United States in 19th place when comparing academic scores of 15-year-old students across the globe, according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. An even more demoralizing statistic concerns our overall math and science scores, in which additional countries surpassed the United States in student scores. These findings seem remarkable considering our country’s emphasis on education. How have we slipped from our top placement to barely surviving a “Top 20” ranking in the span of two short decades? An even more important question is: How can we attain a more prestigious ranking in the near future?

Not surprisingly, theories abound as to where greater emphasis on education should be placed: on students, on parents, on teachers, or on the curriculum. Many leading experts believe that re-evaluating the current programs of professional development for teachers to include research-based practices to assist teachers in better connecting with their students may hold the promise for improved student test scores. State Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Donald Payne, Jr. of New Jersey have proposed the Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act, which outlines how student achievement and higher accountability (President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative) act as a ruler to measure the effectiveness of professional development for teachers. The Act also encourages individualized teacher training to assist every teacher in attaining personal teaching goals since the current one-size-fits-all training methodology seems not to induce higher overall student learning levels. This model is spurred on by a similar approach that was recently adopted by Shanghei, China. Shanghai’s approach to teaching is to address each instructor individually, determine where areas of development are necessary, and tailor training to that need. Shanghai currently dominates the international benchmark examinations and based on their standards, the US is hoping to increase its national test scores.

The Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) system offered by eSchool Solutions can create customizable professional development for teachers or your staff. By meeting the needs of your teachers, you are meeting the needs of your students. Visit our website today for more details.

New Technology Trends for Teachers in 2014

In order for a student to comprehend information, that student must be attuned to what is happening in the classroom.  Many students immediately dissociate as they slump down in their seats, texting instead of listening to what is being taught.  Today’s teachers must develop an ongoing method to immediately engage students.  Many professional learning activities support thinking outside the box, so teachers are looking at technology, especially for teens, to engage students.

 

The traditional chalkboard was upgraded to a white board, which was replaced with a smart board.  Teachers must understand that change is inevitable. With advances in educational technology comes the necessity to evolve one’s teaching methods. Take a look at two technological marvels anticipated to improve your classroom in 2014:

 

  • One of the most celebrated technologies on the market is 3D printing.  In the past, the cost of printers exceeded the price range of most school districts’ budgets.  However, predictions are that 3D printers will become mainstream in 2014, granting access to small businesses and schools with limited budgets.  Students will be able to work in groups to hypothesize, design and implement ideas, then use a 3D printer to build their product and ascertain whether their plan succeeded or necessitates further thought.

 

  • “Personalization engines” determine the learning styles – auditory, visual, or kinesthetic – of each student in order to give their teacher ideas on how to successfully reach each child during every lesson.  Take, for instance, a kinesthetic learner in a classroom struggling to learn an auditory lesson.  The teacher speaks, the student zips and unzips his/her backpack or clicks their pen repeatedly.  Without anything for their hands to do, the lesson is lost to them.  Opening up the lesson to incorporate the learning styles of each individual student will give the teacher the opportunity to better share his or her knowledge, and give the students the benefit of learning on a level they better understand.  Technology is often incorporated into these lessons, which are highly recommended by teacher development programs, by having the kinesthetic learner answer questions on a smartboard, or by allowing an audio learner access to a learning CD for concepts they could not interpret through a worksheet (visual learning).

 

As professional learning for teachers continues to evolve districts are moving to automated tools like ERO to track learning activities – from the registration process through evaluations and all of the follow up activities associated with professional learning. Even more powerful is ERO’s integration with a variety of PD systems, making it the central repository for all professional learning like:

  • Registration

  • Delivery

  • Awarding of credit

What tools are you using to manage professional learning activities in your district?

How the Affordable Care Act will Affect Substitute Teachers

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, was passed in 2010 with the Supreme Court upholding the law in 2012.  More succinctly entitled the Affordable Care Act, President Obama anticipated a mandate that would “put consumers back in charge of their health care”.  Several of the regulations from this bill and the Internal Revenue Service’s edicts relate specifically to part-time employees, which constitute much of the substitute teacher population.  It is now in the best interest of districts to use absence management systems and carefully track worked hours to determine the validity of part-time versus full-time employment.

If you’re already using an absence management system, do you have access to your district’s data? Have you started accessing historical and current data to assist with setting Affordable Care Act policies in your district? But we’re talking about a lot of data – and in its raw form can be difficult, time consuming, and overwhelming to average, aggregate, and filter. Consider working with an absence management expert; someone who can help you:

  • Quickly identify substitutes / groups who have exceeded 30 hours

  • Develop and implement ACA polices in your district

  • Use historical data to estimate the financial impact of the polices you put in place

  • Determine who will be eligible for benefits during the stability period

Absence management tools – like SmartFindExpress – offer the tools you need to manage the ACA process in your district – from “look-back” to “stability” to monitoring; you’ll be able to determine which substitutes are working 30 or more hours each week.

Learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how it affects substitutes by joining us at our eSchool Solutions SmartFindExpress Solutions Summit in Denver, Colorado on April 9 – 11, 2014.  As one of our key topics, eSchool Solutions promises to answer as many questions as you have concerning substitute teaching as it pertains to the Affordable Care Act, and how absence management systems can remove many of those concerns.

 

Still Time to Register for the 2014 Solutions Summit 2014!

There’s still to register for the eSchool Solutions 26th annual SmartFindExpress Solutions Summit in Denver, Colorado. For organizations interested in allowing three or more participants, eSchool Solutions offers reduced team registration packages.  Find the pricing of each package as well as applicable discounts and additional information here.

Once your registration is complete, prepare to be dazzled by our lineup of timely topics for our two-part breakout sessions, including information pertaining to the Affordable Care Act, Integration, and Job Exports.  The breakout sessions are complemented by a plethora of current discussion group topics.  Our small discussion groups are designed to encourage participation from all members, and will center on myriad topics:  Recruiting and Hiring Substitutes, Substitute Orientation, Getting More Out of Your Announcements Page, Using Reports in SFE 2.3, and more.

With one evening and two full days of presentations, breakout sessions, networking, and discussion groups, you will learn to work smarter, and your organization will surely reap the benefits of your new knowledge and expertise. Visit www.eschoolsolutions.com/summit to discover how your district can improve performance by attending this year’s summit.

The 2014 SmartFindExpress Solutions Summit, hosted by eSchool Solutions, is scheduled for April 9 through April 11, 2014. Remember to register early to take advantage of the early registration fees for you and your district, and we look forward to seeing you this year in Denver!