Beyond the Slideshow: Project-Based Professional Development

Or, how to get the teachers to do your work for you.

PowerPoint? More like Ow-erpoint, am I right? When the projector flicks on and the slideshow goes up, I know I start to tune out - and I'm sure I'm not alone on that.

But professional development doesn't need to be boring. The best PD training takes into account the same things we look for in good, tech-integrated lessons: clear instructional goals, differentiated learning styles, and a strong content focus.

Follow these four steps when creating PD modules and your training will be sure to stand out above the rest.

Step 1: Have them do pre-work.

Have your teachers choose one or two lessons where they've integrated a educational technology tool into the lesson, but it's important that these tools are ones they found on their own, outside of the scope of what the district requires.

By asking your attendees to bring something they're proud of and worked on, you can effectively turn the tables and use them as the experts. This also allows you to avoid the pitfalls of heading into a PD session and stumbling over the rules and regulations that some schools or districts might have regarding the use of technology in classrooms.

Step 2: Break 'em into groups.

Once the PD starts, have your attendees break into groups. You're going to want some pretty diverse groups here, especially when it comes to grade level and content areas.

By diversifying the groups, you'll get more applications of a tech tool, and better ideas of how folks can, will, and do use them in their classrooms.

Step 3: Practice makes perfect.

Now that they're in their groups (and have hopefully introduced themselves if they don't already know each other) it's time to start the projects.

Send them to the tool you're using to get them to do their "projects." They won't know it, but you're doing the same thing they do every day in their classrooms - using technology to have their students collaborate, share, and learn.

For this PD training on project-based learning, I'm using padlet.

Step 4: Share out.

At the end of the session, ask your attendees what they learned. This question should be intentionally broad and their answers will most likely reflect their personal learning style.

If you're still building your training module, it's probably also a good idea to ask them for feedback.

And, finally, leave them with a pile of resources to explore. By providing a simple packet or one-sheet at the end, you're encouraging them to continue their explorations of new technology AND giving them something that'll help them remember what they've already learned.