Research: Most ed tech PD in spring was informal, teacher-initiated

Dive Brief:

  • According to a survey from the University of Virginia and the EdTech Evidence Exchange, only 27% of teachers report receiving professional development for technology-based remote instruction in spring 2020, saying they relied on informal and self-initiated learning instead. However, administrators reported almost twice as many teachers (52%) received formal learning opportunities. 
  • Overall, both groups cited informal and teacher-initiated professional learning as the primary method of teacher training for technology-based remote instruction. 
  • Teachers said they sought to learn from “educators working in contexts similar to mine” in making ed tech decisions.

Dive Insight:

The need for professional development grew quickly this spring when teachers and students were forced by coronavirus school closures to embrace distance learning. Now, a majority of teachers and administrators believe the need for technology will increase over the next three years, the survey results show.

“Educators agree that we need technology now more than ever. But neither teachers and administrators, nor schools and districts, have the information they need to figure out what ed tech tools will work best in their unique contexts,” said Verna Lalbeharie, managing director of Digital Age Personalized Learning at the American Institutes for Research. Lalbeharie added facilitating better peer-to-peer learning and connecting educators to learn from one another may be effective strategies to support teachers’ use of ed tech

Los Angeles Unified School District, which already had a comprehensive instructional technology program, revamped its ed tech program to make it more suitable for distance learning. A team looked through its 130 PD sessions and transformed them from in-person lessons to those suitable for distance learning, and the district is also providing teachers with several options based on their level of PD experience.

In Pennsylvania’s Parkland School District, Superintendent Richard Sniscak said it’s important to remain aware of teachers’ varying levels of professional development. “[Distance learning] professional development to date for us had been sporadic or limited at best, because we weren’t teaching in an online environment,” Sniscak said, when schools first closed, of distance learning PD availability prior to the pandemic. “We were using technology to support education, more or less.” 

Post-closures, he said, it became critical for teachers to understand best practices for teaching online. The district required weekly PD for teachers, with daily programs available for those who wanted it.

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