Anytime, Anywhere Professional Development

As a building technology specialist, when it istime to prepare for staff development many thoughts and questionsbuzz around my head. My first thoughts start with the educationaltechnology research, which suggests that if you want staffdevelopment to be effective you need hands-on experiences, meaningfulinstruction to the staff, and examples of how the technology can beintegrated into the school environment. When we plan our staffdevelopment in the area of technology integration I have found webegin by asking these four key questions:

1) How can the new technology help us withteaching, learning and administration in our school?

2) Who is qualified or available to teach theworkshop?

3) How do we motivate our staff to learn aboutthese new technologies?

4) Do we have enough computers and softwareprograms to teach these teachers?

Most of our staff development in our schools comesin several familiar formats: professional journals, meetings, memos,seminars and follow-up handouts. As we begin to develop ourtechnology staff development plan, we want to motivate our staff witha fresh approach to gain their attention, we want to utilize ourresources in our district, and we want the instruction to beeffective. Living and working in today's society, the one approach wewanted to steer away from was to give them more materials to read. Wecould consider using a new technology to deliver the information: aWeb site, a CD-ROM or a new presentation device. However, this maysteer many staff away due to the fact that they may need instructionon how to utilize those devices. So we took some time, we lookedwithin our school district, and we looked for answers outside of ourdistrict.

Solutions are not always easy to find, but in ourschool district we have identified our strengths to overcome some ofthese new challenges. We found students on all levels who not onlyare interested in technology but could be considered resident expertswilling to share their knowledge with others. Furthermore, we havetechnology available in homes and most of our classrooms that all ofour staff are familiar with: a television and a VCR. So we set out touse these two strengths to help us with our professional development.But how were we going to put these two resources together to resolvethis new issue?

Initial Considerations

The platform of choice for our school district isthe Macintosh computer. By attending an Apple products workshop, wediscovered Avid Cinema, an easy-to-use, digital video-editing programthat could be purchased for most of the PowerMacs we already had inour schools. To run Avid Cinema we needed to purchase the Avid card,a video card and enough memory for each Macintosh so it could beinstalled. The total cost runs about $500 per computer. We arrangedthe purchases so we could have several Avid-equipped computers ineach of our schools, elementary through the high school.

Recent research in the area of educationaltechnology integration has suggested that staff development is a keyfactor for the implementation of technology in schools. Some of theresearch suggests that the trainers consider the following whenplanning technology staff development:

  • Staff level of comfort with the acceptance of change and this new technology;
  • Staff level of familiarity with the hardware, software and peripherals;
  • Staff need for different instructional levels and styles;
  • Staff need for several application sessions after instruction; and
  • Staff need for time, technical support and instructional resources while they are learning in their work environment after the instruction has occurred.

These considerations served as guidelines as weworked with our students on the development of our technology staffdevelopment videos and developed hands-on computer seminars. Wewanted to make sure that the viewer would be comfortable with thedemonstration, that the equipment was accessible, and that we wouldnot assume the viewer had acquired knowledge about the topics on thetape. Our main purpose was to assure that this type of modeling wouldbecome one more way to help ease the integration of technology intothe teaching, learning and administration of our schools.

Off and Running

After installing the necessary components andprograms to the computer, we were off and running. We conducted staffsurveys to determine their technology needs. Then we conductedstudent surveys to determine who was comfortable with demonstratingthe use of a particular type of hardware, software or peripheral. Thestudents learned the Avid video-editing program as they producedthese short staff development videos. But that's not all theylearned; they actively participated in every stage of videoproduction.

The students started by producing storyboards andscripts for their technology demonstrations. They then learned how toset up and use video cameras as they presented their demonstrations.This is the part they assumed would be easy, but they learned itwould take several shoots to get to their standards of perfection.Next, they entered the Avid Cinema video-editing process by whichthey placed their video from the camera or VCR into the computer.With the use of the Avid Cinema software, they edited their videos,completed the layout, recorded their scripts, put in the transitionsand effects, reviewed and polished their videos, and finally recordedtheir videos to VCR tapes.

The videos have helped our students in many ways.First, the students developed pride in their new role along with anewly found popularity at school. Second, they learned a variety ofessential work-related skills such as project based planning, teamwork, time management, logistics, visual and written research, andtechnology integration. Finally, they learned skills fortechnology-related careers such as digital imaging, video productionand photo specialists.

Our school staff (teachers, interns,administrators and secretaries) also reap the benefits from this typeof instruction. The videos were designed by the students based on thestaff survey results and our school's current hardware, software andperipherals. For example, the first video series included ademonstration of our e-mail system and how to send attendance viae-mail. It also showed how to create a presentation using a wordprocessor, and how to use the Internet for research. These videos areaccessible through our school libraries and serve to help all of usget acclimated to the new technologies.

The staff check out these videos for viewingduring a break or planning period, to take home and watch in theirleisure, or as a part of a staff development time. These short andbasic videos were created in a format that allows the viewer tobecome familiar and get comfortable with the new technologies intheir own school buildings. The viewer can rewind, stop or fastforward the videos based on their own individual needs. Instead oflengthy videos that focus on everything from the basics to advanceduse of an entire software program, our videos are limited to 9-12minutes. They are site based; they utilize a commonly found computeror peripheral in our school buildings, one piece of software, and oneexample of how it can be integrated into our teaching, learning andschool administration. These videos now serve as an integral part ofour staff development technology plan.

Questions Answered

We have found some answers to the questions posedearlier:

1) How can the new technology help us withteaching, learning and administration in our school? The technologyitself can serve as another tool for our schoolenvironment.

2) Who is qualified or available to teach theworkshop? Within our district, some of our students and staff who areconsidered resident experts on specific types of technology tools areteaching us the new technologies.

3) How do we motivate our staff to learn aboutthese new technologies? We motivate our staff by providing a varietyof resources that are accessible and comfortable for staff such assite-based videos and hands-on computer seminars, and by having anidentified group of resident experts.

4) Do we have enough computers and softwareprograms to teach these teachers? Yes, if we use the resources thatare currently available such as the human resources and commonplacetechnology that is available in the school environment.

We have found that these videos serve an integralpart of our technology staff development plan. They have helped staffgain access to instruction when it is convenient for them. It hasmotivated them to ask for more hands-on seminars based on their needswith (and interest in) the new technology in our school environment.And the videos have served as a supplement to the hands-on technologyinstruction given during structured staff developmenttimes.

These videos are created on the technologies inour school during this time period. As our population of staff becomemore familiar with the new technologies, the technology video librarycan be expanded for intermediate to advanced technology integration.The tapes that are produced now will continue in the future to servethe new staff that come to us each year, until our technologychanges. We feel the investment by our students learning, sharing andgiving to the school is extremely powerful. The staff benefitdirectly from this investment with short motivational videos whichallow them to learn anytime, anywhere and at their ownpace.

Rena M. Cifarelli is currently a TechnologySpecialist at Clayton High School in Clayton, Mo.

E-mail: [email protected]

Companies mentioned:

Apple Computer, Inc., Cupertino, CA, (800)538-9696,

Avid Technology, Tewksbury, MA, (800) 949-AVID,

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1998 issue of THE Journal.