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Expanding PD on a Shoestring Budget

Doing more with less is something Stacey Davis and Patricia Sullivan, technology integration administrators in the 86,000-student Baltimore City school district, are all too familiar with.

Over the past few years, the number of support staff for helping teachers integrate technology into their district has shrunk from 41 to three, requiring a complete re-thinking and re-structuring of the way the district delivered technology professional development to its faculty.

To help continue delivering professional development to the 6,000 teachers in the district, the team leveraged technology to "replicate" itself, said Davis.

For instance, when the team decided to roll out a new online grade book, it created videos that were sent out through email to teachers to garner support and interest. In lieu of face-to-face training for each school, the IT team asked principals to identify one person for in-person training who could then go back to the school to deliver the PD curriculum.

Once the gradebook rolled out to schools, Davis and Sullivan also performed videoconferencing trainings to help teachers feel more comfortable with the technology. Having the real-time videoconferencing helped bridge the gap between online-only and face-to-face PD, they said.

To help with tech-training and troubleshooting, the team used students in the district, said Sullivan. They launched a program called the Infinity Tech Team in a handful of schools. Each team had a teacher leader who committed to working with the students for a certain amount of time each week, and students had to apply to be a part of the team. The teacher leader delivered a curriculum about how to be responsible, respectful teachers of technology to help students learn soft skills like professionalism and leadership. The program will expand to more schools this year, said Sullivan.

Leveraging the knowledge and expertise of students to both provide leadership opportunities and fill holes caused by budget gaps is a definite theme throughout this year's annual ISTE conference here in Philadelphia. The more educators I talk to, the more I hear about schools breaking down the traditional barriers and putting students in positions of responsibility.

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