Thursday, February 21, 2008

Judi Harris and Professional Development

A while back I mentioned contacting Professor Judi Harris at the College of William and Mary about how we might better manage Educational Technology Development at our school. A few weeks ago, my colleague Joan Jones and I finally made it there. Joan is our school's curriculum coordinator, so I thought she'd benefit from Dr. Harris' wisdom as well. It's not exaggerating to say that what we learned was profound. Dr. Harris is one of the most down-to-earth, yet engaging and well read persons with whom I have had the pleasure to work. She referred frequently to the Diffusion of Innovations model as a way to understand how all professional development/innovation in general evolves as it is implemented. What's significant about that is understanding that you'll only reach a small percentage at first, but then with time, others will adopt and that new skill or technology will be diffused throughout the environment eventually--excepting the farthest reaches, those folks called laggers.

We developed a plan for addressing overall professional development at our school based on a two hour conversation with Dr. Harris. She helped us to see that we must first begin by helping our teachers the same way we'd help students--by identifying the ways they learn best and by creating a common vocabulary for a professional learning community.

1. Use one of our contacts at Organizational and Professional Development Services. This company has worked for the county in which our school is located, as well as on the state level. He specifically addresses learning styles, communication techniques and team building skills and change management.
2. Contact Judi Harris about speaking at our Inservice Day in Fall.
3. Organize Fall Inservice, including a long-term plan for faculty to demonstrate our long-term commitment to the process. (learning styles, communication techniques and brainstorming curriculum development themes). Possibly a survey?
4. Create committee for curriculum development.
5. Committee led by Joan conducts research (common vocabulary) about related curriculum themes suggested by the teachers and present to faculty at first whole-school faculty meetings after school begins.
a. Devise ways for teachers to engage with the new curriculum themes during the year.

I don't know how this will all go, but it's exciting to be around at the inception of a large-scale redevelopment process. We are hugely grateful to Dr. Harris for the time she spent with us.

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