What to do when digital learning resources are spread thin
Natasha Rachell, one of four digital learning specialists (DLSs) for Atlanta Public Schools, works with the district’s sixteen educational technology specialists (ETSs) to coach teachers on enhancing teaching and learning through technology. "They’re the boots on the ground," says Rachell of the ETS team members, each of which works with up to seven schools.
But while the ETS team were enthusiastic "go-getters," constantly seeking out apps and innovative lesson ideas to share with teachers, the specialists were spread thin. With 5,500 teachers across the district, there was a good deal of ground to cover in terms of visiting classrooms and running teacher training sessions on tools like Google Workspace for Education. "The ETS team would each be working in isolation, and kind of doing their own thing," Rachell says.
As a result, teacher training across the district wasn’t as consistent as they would’ve liked to see. "Teachers would pick and choose what worked for their schools, classrooms and students, which meant the technology was varied," Rachell says.Varying technology also meant varying levels of training: some teachers took advantage of training if they were using Google tools in the classroom, while others required more of a helping hand to get started. District-wide, five teachers held Google Educator Level 1 certification, while two had Level 2 training. In addition, skills training was varied among the instructional technology department; Rachell was a Level 2 Google Certified Trainer, but only 3 ETSs and DLSs were Level 2 Certified Trainers.
To increase the reach of digital learning throughout the district, the Instructional Technology Department needed to provide more training for ed tech staff, and a more systematic and supportive way to train teachers—who could then share their knowledge with their peers. In this way, technology could be infused into the Atlanta Public Schools curriculum by teachers and digital learning specialists who’d undergone the same training and shared the same mission.
"We needed to explain to teachers that training was the way to bring forth 21st-century teaching," explains Dr. Aleigha Henderson-Rosser, the district’s executive director of instructional technology. "If they really wanted to be part of this movement, they needed to jump in feet first."