Peeling the Onion of a Professional Development Plan


June 17, 2016 by Dr. Robbie Barber

As an exercise, a classmate and I have created a professional development plan for putting iPads in the hands of every 9th grader and 9th grade content teacher.  We laid out the plan needs including a half-time Technology Coach and a regular schedule of dedicated professional development time.

But what exactly needs to be covered in this professional development time?  What are we expecting the Technology Coach to do?  Is there a set list of skills that the teachers need in order to incorporate iPads into their daily lessons?  Well…yes, there absolutely is!  In fact once you start, it’s hard to stop making a list.  Let’s look at the basics.


Did you think about teaching someone to power off equipment?  Or how to copy and paste?  It may be a checkoff list where the teachers clearly show their knowledge.  But is it safe to assume that?



What do teachers need to know to do make it through their professional development plan?  When you break it down to the little details, it can go on forever.  Instead, let’s take a look at TPACK (Technology, Pedagogy, Content and Knowledge) and make a list of things that intersect in these areas.  I don’t want to focus on making sure which item goes into which pocket of TPACK.  Instead, I’ll just try to brainstorm things that teachers need.

To incorporate iPads into the daily use of 9th grade students, the teachers will need to know specifics about their iPads.  They will need help on deciding which apps are right for which situation.  This is the biggest piece and ties into other issues.  Technically, they need the piddling details of how the device works, how to solve some problems themselves and how to contact someone for help.  Without paying attention to these little details, any professional development plan will fail.

I prefer to share with my teachers the SAMR model.  I don’t expect that every lesson will
be an “R”.  I just want teachers to un
derstand where they are and where they want to head.  Not every lesson reaches for the “R”edefinition.  Some simply need to be “S”ubstitutions.  But it’s better if you make your choices with your eyes wide open to the possibilities.

Teachers also need to have a set of strategies for classroom management with the devices, ideally they team up and agree.  They need to have a method of sharing documents whether they use Google for Classroom or Office365 or something else entirely.  Teachers need a plan to share files and work together.  Teachers need for students to be able to share files and work together.

Dr. Ottenbreit-Leftwich recommends her version of the four E’s for using a tool or teaching method: Effective, Efficiency, Enhance and Engage.  If the teaches apply this to their lesson plans, does it meet one of the E’s?  It may be that having students type their essay instead of writing it is merely a substitution in the SAMR model.  But it is certainly more efficient in terms of saving time and energy.  It even becomes augmented by the fact that a teacher can easily make comments and allow for iterations of the same essay.  At this point, have we engaged the students more?  In terms of 9th graders with iPads, typing their essay and putting in a Dropbox or other app changes the work completely.  The essay writing is now a small part of the process.  There’s iterations and feedback and maybe hyperlinks added to it too.  Suddenly the 9th grade English Language Arts class is very different from the student’s perspective.

What else needs to be considered to make a professional development plan succeed?  And, by success, I mean that it improves the teaching and learning in the classroom.

One thought on “Peeling the Onion of a Professional Development Plan

  1. anneleftwich says:

    I love the idea of making a checklist for teachers to complete as they learn. Although, that would cover the TK elements, and perhaps even the TPK elements, but I think the TPACK elements would be very difficult to check off (and once you got there, you could do a checklist for SAMR or TIMS, but again, that seems confusing and a lot of work).

    “They will need help on deciding which apps are right for which situation.” – how can you help them with this? What do they need to know? What can the consider? Kathy Schrock has a website that’s helpful for evaluating apps: or finding software. Do our teachers do this, or should we just help them with it?

    How did this exercise help you identify the knowledge elements you need for your PD plan?


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