Education Week - Calendar of Events - August 21, 2013 - (Page C4)
‘Flipped’ PD Initiative Boosts Teachers’ Tech Skills
A Minnesota district relies on video and job-embedded
coaching to improve teachers’ tech skills
By Robin L. Flanigan
Anna Wilcek was comfortable instructing her students
on how to interview residents of a nearby retirement
community and write biographies of them.
How to integrate technology into the project was
The 6th grade teacher recalled asking, “What
ideas do you have for me?” during a recent faceto-face
workshop with Wayne Feller and Kristin
Daniels, the technology-integration specialists in
the 8,500-student Stillwater Area school system in
The collaborative, technology-driven nature of the
relationship between teachers and the technology
coaches is the hallmark of what the district calls
“flipped professional development.”
Known as job-embedded coaching in educational
leadership circles, flipped PD offers face-to-face support
and personalized online resources, such as howto
videos on using interactive-whiteboard software
or the iPad’s multi-tasking bar. Teachers watch the
videos to find new or better approaches and then
discuss developing those approaches with the technology-integration
Under that system, Ms. Wilcek, who teaches at the
347-student Andersen Elementary School, learned
how to edit student-shot movies in iMovie, export
them into iBooks Author, and post the finished products
on her website for downloading.
“I wouldn’t have had the knowledge or time to pull
all of that together,” she said. “It’s such a gift to have
the specialists sit right next to you. They give me
the confidence to move forward because I know I can
have support whenever I want it.”
Stillwater started flipped PD in 2011-12. Here’s how
it works: Mr. Feller and Ms. Daniels meet with 200
classroom teachers and specialists in small groups
each month for structured, two-hour coaching and
workshop sessions that focus on individual projects,
then offer additional guidance by request. The model
is used in all nine of the district’s elementary schools,
with 93 percent of classroom teachers participating.
Coaching support is essential if teachers are to use
technology effectively in the classroom, according to
a 2011 white paper released by the International
Society for Technology in Education, a Washingtonbased
membership association that promotes innovative
uses of educational technology. To support
that idea, ISTE now has benchmarks for technology
coaches seeking to give effective guidance and support
to teachers in a digital age.
Unlike in traditional professional development,
context plays a critical role in flipped PD. Content
area, grade level, technological expertise, and the interests
of each teacher and specialist affect the type
of online training offered.
“We don’t come in dictating what they’re here to
learn and work on,” Ms. Daniels said. “When they
realize they’re being given time to think about what
they want to be doing, and to grow at their own pace,
they’re absolutely relieved. And there’s been a remarkable
shift in attitude toward personal growth
because of that.”
Stillwater embraced flipped PD because “it had the
largest impact and really was the highest return on
investment,” said Michael Dronen, the coordinator of
educational innovation and technology for the district.
The district was inspired by still-cited research
from the 1980s that showed only 10 percent to 15
percent of teachers added a new classroom practice
to their repertoires when given professional develop-
ment but no follow-up support. That figure jumped
to 90 percent, however, with sustained support.
Bruce Joyce, who helped conduct the research,
reinforces that statistic in a book he co-wrote, Realizing
the Promise of 21st-Century Education: An
Owner’s Manual, which was published in 2012.
Stillwater’s personalized professional development
is “extraordinarily ambitious, and worth everybody
taking a look at,” said Mr. Joyce, the director of
Booksend Laboratories, based in St. Simons, Ga.,
which partners with school districts on projects for
long-term staff development and improvement.
The district produces four types of videos. “Proac-
tive” videos are typically tutorials covering the basics
of Stillwater’s most-used technology tools. “Reactive”
videos are created in response to a specific
request; one teacher, for example, learned how to
create a video about online bullying after an incident
the day before. “Spontaneous capture” videos
document best practices, project ideas, and success
And “individual backpack” videos are raw, unedited
snippets created on the fly to answer specific questions.
‘Try Something New’
Although the district’s teachers are still warming
up to the idea of watching videos to learn, the technology-integration
specialists have noticed an appreciation
among them for being able to determine
the direction of their own professional development.
In a nod to that role, Mr. Feller, who is writing a
book that identifies promising classroom practices
created in Stillwater through flipped PD, uses the
term “teacher client” when referring to teachers.
Substitute teachers rotate classrooms on formal
training days to allow small groups of teachers and
specialists to learn side by side.
“When we bring them together, there’s a real
dynamic synergy that happens,” said Ms. Daniels.
“They can go right back to their classroom and try
something new later that day.”
To increase collaboration and transparency, the
technology specialists guide teachers through the use
of Google Docs to set goals for the year, link to videos
and other resources, and chronicle their progress.
Mr. Feller pointed to a dramatic increase in innovative
multimedia projects over the past two years
as evidence that flipped PD is working.
In the first year, three teachers began helping students
publish their own books using text and images.
That number jumped to nearly two dozen this
school year. Meanwhile, students are collaborating
more, some are blogging, and their tech-related vocabulary
is expanding, Mr. Feller said.
“A fifth grade student was talking to a group of
adults, and in a matter-of-fact way referenced the
idea of creating and sharing a document with his
teacher and classmates,” he said. “He was referring
to Google Docs. He had this new way of expressing a
concept that was nonexistent a few years ago.”
Like technology itself, flipped PD continues to
A complete overhaul of the way in which instruc-
tion is planned and delivered takes time and is
laden with risks, acknowledged Mr. Dronen, the innovation
and technology coordinator.
“It’s not unlike asking someone without any training
to walk out on a tightrope,” he said. “But once
you’re on the rope and have those basic skills, it’s a
really thrilling place to be. And it allows for deep reformational
This article originally appeared in Education Week Digital
How Flipped Professional
Development Stacks Up
An end-of-the-year survey was sent to all
teachers who participated in flipped professional
development in the Stillwater, Minn., district.
The overall results of this survey indicated that
teachers favored this approach over traditional
Mostly flipped PD
SOURCE: Stillwater, Minn., Schools
As with any new initiative, there are lessons to be learned from
one year to the next. The Stillwater school system in Minnesota, in
its second year of using a professional-development model called
“flipped PD,” learned several lessons:
• Include principals, not just teachers. In the first year,
conversations with principals in schools that used flipped PD
often shifted from how it was helping teachers to the way technology
could help school leaders be more efficient and manage personnel
• Strengthen the use of online resources. A collection of
such resources is useful, but teachers and specialists would
learn even more if those resources were available through an online
• Allow teachers to self-reflect. It took until the second year
to realize a self-reflection process would be invaluable for
teachers and specialists. Now they’re asked to write in online journals
throughout the school year about their flipped-PD experiences.
• Realize the potential for continuous growth. Michael
Dronen, Stillwater’s educational technology director, said that
had the district understood earlier how much of an impact flipped PD
would have on continuous growth, it would have accelerated the rate
SOURCE: Education Week Digital Directions
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - Calendar of Events - August 21, 2013
Education Week - Calendar of Events - August 21, 2013
Flipped’ PD Initiative Boosts Teachers’ Tech Skills
Study Aims to Evaluate Tech-Related Teacher PD
Online Tools Playing Greater Role in Teacher PD
MOOCs Provider Targets K-12 Teacher PD
Opinion: Getting Real About Educational Technology
Cultivating Tech-Savvy Teachers Should Be Higher Priority, Report Says
Opinion: Want Better Classroom Tech?
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Education Week - Calendar of Events - August 21, 2013