EdTechTeacher presentation for MASSCUE: Nurturing 21st Century TeachersI’m getting ready this week for MassCUE, the annual Massachusetts gather of the EdTech community. It’s held at Gillette Stadium, which is a quirky and awesome place to go for a conference. The Kraft family is very generous in sharing the space, and John Kraft last year gave the best impromptu “keynote” of the conference in his welcoming address.

I’m very fortunate to be presenting at MassCUE with the folks from the Watertown Public Schools; we’re doing a session called “Teacher to Teacher Professional Learning.” Over the last five years, Watertown has built the best teacher-led, job-embedded, blended professional development program that I am aware of. They do a ton of things right. They have a comprehensive PD program for every teacher, planned in advance of the school year. They offer a series of blended courses called Team21. (It used to be Technology-in-Practice, but now they have a 21st Century Skills focus rather than a tech focus.) Every teacher in the district has to take, or teach, a TIP. All the TIPs are designed and led by teachers. They are blended programs, with both an online and face-to-face component. They all require a product at the end. The courses are differentiated, so novices can take something in the shallow end and more advanced teachers can be challenged. Small groups of teachers can “place out” of Team21 courses and design their own independent study of curriculum design.

Every year, the model gets better. Early on, the courses focused on learning technology skills. After four years of building capacity across the institution, they are shifting to a learning goal focus. This year, the theme is collaboration. The PD team (admins and teachers) assumes that at this point, anything that people want to do collaboratively will ultimately involve technology, so they’ll be building on a foundation rather than shifting trajectory. They now also hold an annual showcase for teachers to share their projects.

So much about this is right: teachers teaching teachers, a shifting focus from tech to learning goals, advanced planning, a common set of institutional goals with flexible pathways for teachers to meet these goals, blended learning opportunities that let teachers experience online learning as participants, extended focus on a set of topics so that teachers have enough time to not just hear about a topic but to change their practice.
When we designed the EdTechTeacher T21 Program, this is what we hoped would be the next step for our clients. (Not that Watertown is a client, they did this on their own.) We hoped that the T21 Program would help build a core of innovative educators, and then those teacher-leaders would be able to build capacity throughout their institutions.

So if you are at #MassCue2011 this Thursday, come on by!