Databus Issue: 2008 3 07/31/2008
The Importance of Professional DevelopmentNancy Burns Certified CTO, Technology Specialist
While writing this, my thoughts were particularly on smaller school districts such as we have in Humboldt County, 2000 ADA or less, I’m hope other larger districts can also find some useful information below.
In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself or your staff is permission to take advantage of professional development opportunities. Too often, especially in smaller school districts, we find all kinds of excuses for not participating in professional development and trainings.
I don’t have the time.:
How many times have you heard it or said it. “It’s a great training, but I just don’t have the time to take away from work. Things are just too busy around there right now.” Or “I’m not a member of a technology team, I AM the technology team. If I leave, there will be an emergency.”
If you wait until you ‘have time’ to take advantage of professional development and training opportunities, you might still be waiting on retirement day. By taking a few hours or days to participate in a professional development or training, you will likely find that you will return with new ideas, renewed energy, and a better understanding of how you can go about your job in a more efficient manner.
Think about it this way. If you were to be off sick for a few days, would your school district go to “Hell in a hand basket”? Probably not, if you are doing your job to be best of your ability. And if the answer is yes, then you definitely need further training and education to bring you to a point where you are able to support your school or district efficiently enough to be able to step away a few days without such a great impact. By taking the time to improve yourself and your staff, you are creating better, more knowledgeable employees.
There is no money in the budget:
Especially in these times of budget crunch, one excuse you might see or even use is that there just isn’t any money in the budget to pay for professional development. If your management makes this claim, be inventive. While your school or district will definitely benefit from any training you receive, ultimately, you are the one who gains the most. Whatever you learn, you can ‘take it with you’. Be inventive and flexible when it comes to financing a professional development or training you really want to participate in.
Offer to pay the conference fees if the district pays travel, or vice versa. Cut costs by sharing expenses with some other participant either within your district or coordinating with other schools and districts to share expenses between several schools. Several people driving to a conference in one car or sharing lodging expenses can sometimes make the impossible possible. If your management sees you are willing to give a bit, that might be enough to convince them to meet you half way on expenses of a much desired training.
If you find the money really just isn’t available, how about a WebEx or GoToMeeting training. More and more our vendors are providing this very low cost option as an option to train on specific pieces of software or hardware. With a conference room or lab, a computer and projector, you can provide a quality training to your staff at a minimum of cost.
Also, remember there are some funds that have specific professional development provisions written in. Don’t hesitate to point out ‘and it can be paid out of Voucher funds’, or ‘there’s money available using EEET to pay for this’. Sometimes our management staff just isn’t aware of the funding that is available.
What about others?
While it is great to be able to have professional development opportunities for the technology staff, let’s not forget about those other members of your school district. The teachers, administrative staff members, paraprofessionals, MOT employees: all of these people are also members of your team and can benefit from technology professional development opportunities. The more they know, the better trained they are, the easier your job will be when supporting them.
Encourage them to participate in trainings. Look for ways you can provide on site trainings for all employees to improve their understanding of the equipment and software they have to use in their day-to-day workday. Can you plan small group trainings with specific groups of staff members where you focus on what you see as a wide spread misunderstanding of a software function? How about a working lunch?
If you find you have only the time and funding to attend one professional development event each year, my recommendation to those from any size school district would be to attend the CETPA conference. CETPA offers a wide variety of training opportunities under one roof, vendors coming to you instead of you having to go to each of them. While professional development is a learning time, it is also a networking time, talking to other like minded individuals, sharing experiences offering suggestions to one another based on having just ‘been there, done that’. CETPA offers this and so much more. It is a time for touching base with old colleagues, making new connections, touching that new piece of hardware you’ve heard so much about, or giving a test drive to several different student information systems or other software packages in the same room to see which would work best for your school. CETPA, like other professional development opportunities, is a time of making and re-establishing connections. There is an excitement when sitting down for lunch and listening to the conversations going on around you. “Did you see the…” or “Where did you get the…” or “Let me tell you what I heard in this training…”. So many people, so excited about work!! Wow! I find that very impressive and one event can generate so much energy.