1. Constant Progress (the ‘C’ in CHOICE)*

We’ve heard great descriptions of where educators are in their learning. Innovation and educational technology offer a wide range of descriptors: early-adopter, pioneer, settler, cutting-edge, bleeding-edge, guru, ninja, pirate. Or not tech-savvy, tech-averse, just-got-a-smartphone.

Wherever an individual starts, forward movement is key. Again, we aren’t talking about where teachers should be. We are talking about where they are, and then helping them move forward. Movement is necessary. While everybody starts at a different point, we want each to make progress. By giving teachers the autonomy, opportunities for mastery, and the creation of their own purpose for doing the learning, we will see an inspired movement toward individualized goals. Perhaps one of the goals will also be to move beyond the individualized mindset to a mindset of personalization (where teachers are not only identifying what they need, but also seeking to find the answers on their own).

The bottom line is that they can’t end up where they started. Stagnation is not an option; movement is necessary. And when they have learned what they set out to know, they will set new goals. Constant progress.

In our classrooms we would call this a growth mindset. In our professional development we should strive for the same thought process. We don’t know now what we want to know, but we are fully capable of identifying what we need and working toward an understanding of it. We can grow and learn just like our students. Indeed, we should be the models for continuous learning and consistent movement forward. What great examples we’ll have for our students when we can talk about the time we didn’t know something, but struggled through the process of learning about it. Just like we are asking them to do.

And by the way, this progress is for everyone. We can’t just count on the younger teachers and administrators to innovate and use technology. In many cases, we need the seasoned veterans to take their vast knowledge and experiences, and connect them with new technologies to assess what will work best. We can’t always expect those who are new to the content to also add innovative strategies of the teaching of it. In addition, I don’t buy into the idea that younger teachers are “digital natives” and therefore know how to integrate and infuse technology or other innovative approaches. They seem to be more like digital tourists. They use the fun stuff, and enjoy the moment, but they don’t live here. They stay up late playing, but then they go home. They aren’t using the technology for learning, educating, and connecting.

On a continuum of EdTech use, I see the highest use when students are in middle school. In high school, it is hit-or-miss based on what their teachers are comfortable with. In college they regress even more, it seems, in their use of the latest educational technology. And the low point on the continuum seems to be in schools of education. You are right in thinking that I don’t have a peer-reviewed academic study to support this claim, and clearly many programs are doing a phenomenal job preparing their future teachers. Even so, it is a consistent comment from the numerous student teachers I’ve worked with, talked to, and presented to. Those about to enter the profession would like a little less Piaget and a little more Pinterest.

One recent example came when I presented to a group of about thirty undergraduate students who were preparing to do their student teaching the following semester. I had heard they weren’t too tech savvy, so I decided to start talking about something they would be familiar with. When I asked how many were on Twitter, two hands went up. “But not for education,” they said. I scrapped some of the other parts of the presentation so I could introduce these students to Twitter and meet them where they were. They moved forward that day and left understanding the power of personalized learning.

*excerpt from the book Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development