Teacher professional development (PD) is essential if technology provided to schools is to be used effectively. The goal of successful technology PD is its integration into teaching to impact student learning. However, before we start to discuss technology integration it is important define technology integration. According to Edutopia (2007), “technology integration is the use of technology resources — computers, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, digital cameras, social media platforms and networks, software applications, the Internet, etc. — in daily classroom practices, and in the management of a school” (para.1).
The key to a successful teacher PD program is the ability to adapt. Adapting materials to a teacher’s comfort level. Teachers new to technology can be exposed to the full series of professional development modules, while those further along on the learning curve can enter where their knowledge and skills stop, and help their less technology-savvy colleagues along. “Professional development resources should be available online to facilitate a convenient and immediate learning experience for teachers. Teachers should have the opportunity to interact with fellow instructors and experts as members of online communities, so that they can share best practices and learn about effective technology integration” (Hanover Research, 2014, p. 7). Using technology for effective PD facilitation focuses on helping small groups accomplish a goal and helps a teacher to develop his or her own skills for presentation. Yet, what tools are available as a facilitator and what are some resources to get you going in your search for design and implementing professional technology development? This article will introduce video conferencing tools to get facilitators started.
Using video conferencing to ease the cost and logistics of PD is a great way to bring a guest speaker and expert into your school for customized professional development. There are also lots of ongoing webinars and live sessions that teachers can tune into for learning more about a subject. Many organizations offer monthly or weekly webinars that cover a variety of topics. Video conferencing is fairly easy to set up with the use of tools such as Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom, BigBlueButton and Join.me. Teachers and a PD facilitator can connect virtually using equipment such as a laptop or desktop, a projector, and Internet access (of course) and most schools already have the hardware place. So let’s focus on the tools for collaboration and learning through video conferencing. To learn more visit the A Teacher’s Guide to Videoconferencing: How to Plan, Produce, Present, Manage, and Assess a Distance Learning Class by Susan Mason and Mike Davis.
Google Meet and Hangout on Air formally known as Google Hangout
Google is breaking up Google Hangouts into two different tools, Meet and Hangouts Chat. Google Meet is a website and an app for iOS and Android. It is the replacement for Google Hangouts video chat. Google Hangouts on Air is a live-streaming service. Both are very cool…it is Google after all. Google Meet is limited to 30 participants and allows for screen-sharing, video recording and best of all calls are encrypted.
Skype and Skype for Business
Skype and Skype for Business are free communication software programs that allow you to make calls, instant message and video conference online. Teachers can collaborate and exchange ideas for various learning opportunities such as virtual field trips and guest speakers. Think about hosting a virtual career day and bring in experts in fields such as engineering and medicine. Skype is also a great way to collaborate with other classrooms across the globe.
To learn more: https://education.microsoft.com/skype-guide
Zoom is free. This tool provides an unlimited number meetings for up to 50 participants with the average duration time of 40 minutes per meeting. Zoom provides video conferencing, web conferencing, and group collaboration. Zoom allows for screen sharing and the use of annotations while screen sharing. This is the author’s personal favorite.
BigBlueButton (BBB) is an open source web based program that enables universities and colleges to deliver a high-quality learning experience for remote students. The features available through BBB, including presentation, audio and visual aspects, and a whiteboard feature.
To learn more: https://bigbluebutton.org/teachers/
The free version of Join.me allows you to hold an unlimited number of meetings with up to 10 participants per meeting (one organizer plus 9 viewers) using up to five video streams. You can chat with participants, transfer files, join the audio part of any meeting by internet (VoIP), and allow participants to control your computer.
Virtual PD is an exciting area to explore. New technology can make connecting educators and experts from across the world quick and easy. We can increase access and availability, create meaningful connections, and support educators in their PD with the help of virtual tools. Through the use of video conferencing, teachers can change the learning space (physical to virtual) and with these tools, teachers can provide on-demand PD to teacher anytime of day.
Burns, M. (2015). Can PD be virtual? Technology and Trends. Edutopia. Retrieved https://www.edutopia.org/blog/virtual-pd-technology-and-trends-monica-burns
Edutopia (2007). What is successful technology integration? Retrieved https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description
Hanover Research. (2014). Professional development for technology integration. Retrieved http://www.hanoverresearch.com/2014/07/02/professional-development-for-technology-integration/
Mason, S. & Davis, M. (2000). A teacher’s guide to videoconferencing: How to plan, produce, present, manage, and assess a distance learning class. EduLynx, Inc. Retrieved https://www.nps.gov/lecl/learn/news/upload/teacher_guide_videoconferencing.pdf
(@jvanderm): Assistant Professor VanderMolen teaches public health at Grand Valley State University. The contribution of her research is to examine the benefits of assistive technology, UD and UDL. She is also a member of the steering committee for SIGPL.