On this episode of Tackling Tech Podcast, powered by Dyknow, Brett McGrath talks with Ari Flewelling, an educational technology specialist and certified educator, trainer, and innovator. Communication and transparency are key for going into this unique school year. Teachers have stepped up to the plate, proved their professionalism, and adapted quickly with the help of professional development and the right technology tools.
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Ari Flewelling’s background in K-12 education
Ari Flewelling started her career as a high school English teacher and loved being in a teaching role. She was passionate about technology from a young age, as she was fortunate to grow up with a computer at home that she could use to gain experience using technology. That love for technology combined with her passion for education led her to her current role as a district technology coach where she works both with the point and click aspect of technology as well as coaching teachers on how to innovate and really improve instruction based on how students are using technology for learning in the classroom.
Going back to school in this new age of education
Ari shared that this time of remote learning provided a rushed implementation of technology for most educators. Because of this, she encourages teachers to “try everything” during this time so that when they are using technology in a structured way, they will know what works and why. Ari believes that this is a time of great exploration and curiosity, and she hopes that in the Fall, school and district leaders can focus on 2-5 tools with specific purposes so that teachers can become well-versed in using technology for instruction in a more structured way. The ultimate goal with this is for teachers to become tech comfortable and use technology in a way that’s easier for them, and also maintain consistency for their students.
When thinking about Professional Development on an individual teacher level, it is engaging in learning sessions and activities that help them grow their pedagogical skills, content knowledge skills, and technological skills. Ari believes that true professional development is when you can bring all of these three concepts together and create synergy between teams and departments.
Ari suggests that when creating synergy with PD, the first thing is to think about what your need is from a curriculum and instruction lens rather than starting with a technology tool. She shared easy steps that can help create synergy between curriculum, instruction, and technology. Start with the curriculum and instruction department, layer in the Special Ed department, then bring in the EdTech department and technology department, and lastly bring in the data analytics team (if you have one) to make sure what you are doing is working.
Providing PD for technology tools
Providing PD for technology at the district level can be tough, so Ari suggests that as a district, it is wise to have a succinct list of the technology tools and apps that the district formally supports. Once you have a set list of tools, then you can build PD from this list of tools. Provide PD only for the set book of tools that you offer or support, and then teachers can supplement that list with tools of their own that they don’t receive formalized PD for.
Differentiating Professional Development
When differentiating Professional Development, Ari recommends recognizing that everyone has the same basic knowledge about technology tools. Knowing this, give teachers the opportunity to opt-out of certain PD sessions based on the level of PD or the specific technology tools. This allows more experienced teachers to not be bogged down by lower-level PD sessions and less comfortable teachers to not feel rushed to take part in more advanced Professional Development.
In order to determine teachers’ comfort level, Ari suggests that teams survey stakeholders to see if teachers are or are not using the tool in their classrooms to get an idea of how they are using these tools and who should be enrolled in various PD courses. Ari emphasized that PD needs to hit on content, pedagogy, and tech. Truly impactful Professional Development is an intersection of all three of these topics.