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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Do We Need to Individualize PD Instruction?

I was cleaning out my father-in-law’s house the other day and noted that he had at least 3 book shelves full of manuals – how to do, how to fix, etc.  He also had quite a collection of “____________ for Dummies”  books (DOS for dummies, Windows for Dummies, Lotus 123 for Dummies).  He is no dummy.  I marveled at all of the stuff that he wanted to learn (and at how much stuff we had to dispose of).  There was even a two inch thick, three ring binder that was just a manual for Eudora email!  Can you imagine?  Hard to believe that:    1. It was needed and 2. It existed!  He recently downloaded and printed the manual for his Samsung Galaxy Tablet.  At 85 years old, this is just the way he is comfortable learning. 
Where’s the Manual?
Perhaps that is one of the problems with teacher’s being comfortable with using new technology with students.  There is a disconnect in the way that the generations have to learn it (or want to learn it).  In education there is a wide spectrum of generations of educators on any given staff.  One thing is for sure; most of our students are not looking for the manuals!  In fact, there are very few manual readers left anymore (my husband is one- he once brought me a car manual to read while I was in the hospital, but I digress) and since they are on DVD’s or online, you still have to know tech to get to them! 
The Power of Video
Twenty years ago, I facilitated a revolutionary modular learning system called Synergistics from PITSCO. Since each pair of students had different curriculum and activities, they had video tapes that showed them “how to” do the activities of the day.  I saw then the power of video for learning.  It allowed for individualized instruction, students could work at their own pace and they caught on quickly.  I used to make “how to sheets” complete with screen shots for my students and fellow teachers.   Youtube has virtually made them unnecessary.  The most recent group of students I worked with, wanted the “how to” for completing the project, but definitely did not need or want the “how to” for learning the technology.  They just chose it from a list of links of cool tools and took it from there!
The Continuum of Learning
I think the generation we are teaching now is perfectly comfortable learning by doing, and are certainly adept at finding a video that will teach them if they need it.  I often forget that I have the answers at my finger tips (which my own children are quick to point out when I call for help, duh!).   The next group will have had iPads in their hands since they were very young.  Their technology may be built right into their glasses.  There is a great continuum of learning styles and comfort levels in teaching staffs that should be addressed in professional development.  We strive to individualize learning for our students – do we need to individualize learning for our staff?   How would that look?


  1. One of the things I like about video training is the ability to replay sections and take notes. This is not available in a traditional classroom.

  2. I agree, I always told my students that the video has far more patience, they can ask it to repeat over and over (however, it will not repeat it in a new way which is sometimes needed).