If I had my way, I’d never lead another mandatory, all staff, technology in-service at my school ever again. Simply put, they’re a waste of time and they don’t work. First, there’s a problem with focus. More often than not, the focus of all-staff PD is on the tool, not the curriculum. Second, it implies a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to professional development. Have you ever been in a room full of teachers at an in-service!? If there was ever a more diverse group of learners I have yet to see it. You think your students need differentiated instruction? Teachers need it even more!

That’s why I’ve adopted the KISSS Principle for professional development. Keep it…Small, Short, and Specific.

SMALL – I’m talking small group. Rather than work with a room full, select a single grade level. At my school, that’s 3 teachers. Then, before I start talking, I listen. I listen to find out what they are teaching. What are their learning goals? These answers differ greatly between grade levels and departments.

SHORT – Teachers’ free time is valuable and they get precious little of it. Try to respect that. Rather than one long session, I’ve found it’s better to do short mini-sessions before and after school. Fellow tech educator Suzanne Wesp has a program at her school called “Lunch & Learn” where teachers come in during their lunch for mini lessons.

SPECIFIC – Keep the training specific and focused on the curriculum standard. For me, the first sessions are more just casual conversations where we talk curriculum and I find out what these teachers are doing. Next I come in and demonstrate a “learning tool” or “project” that will help their students meet a specific learning goal or standard. Finally I work with them to develop a lesson that will help their students meet that standard. The goal of the training is to give the teachers something they will use tomorrow or next week. If I can get this lesson into a teacher’s lesson plan book I know I’ve struck gold because once it’s in there, it will likely become a regular part of their classroom curriculum.

Things to remember for successful teacher training:

Focus on the curriculum, not the technology tool. I try not to even use the words “technology” or “Web 2.0” when working with teachers. Instead I use “learning tool” or “web site”. Technology is MY passion, not theirs. Don’t intimidate with terminology.
Be there when they teach the lesson for the first time. This provides that much needed safety net when trying something new. In some cases I’ll even team teach with them, letting the teacher present the curriculum while I show how to use the tool. If I can’t be there, sometimes I’ll create tutorial videos or screencasts for the teacher to use.
Follow-up. Meet with them after the lesson. Discuss how it went. What worked? What didn’t? Discuss and make notes on how it can be improved next time. The important thing here is to make sure there WILL be a “next time”.
Share successes. Rushton Hurley ( has said, “Great things are going on in our classrooms and nobody knows about it.” Take time to share great lessons and student work with other teachers. Others might see it and say, “Hey, I can do that!”

“To Infinity and Beyond!”
As teachers use the technology…er…i mean…”learning tools” they will require less and less help from me. Better yet, they become “experts” on using that tool. If I have another teacher that wants to learn it, I can say, “You should go talk to so-and-so. They use that tool all the time with their class.” My long term plan is to develop a network of experts on various tools at my school. Eventually some teachers may even feel comfortable sharing their expertise with others outside our school.

The biggest compliment I think I could ever receive is seeing a teacher that I helped present at a conference. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting close.

Education is a Team Sport
Tutorial Videos? Okay, show me an example. Here you go: PhotoStory Animal Riddles

6 thoughts on “KISSS my PD”

  1. Great Post and great advice. The only thing I have learned is some teachers need you to teach them the tool.

  2. I'm not saying don't teach the tool, but teach it with a curriculum goal in mind. I'll team teach and help the teachers develop confidence using it at first, in hopes that they will learn to use it independently and eventually be able to teach others.

  3. Just kicking around web and thought I'd drop by your blog-glad I did.
    I TOTALLY agree Dennis. I will say this-a large group faculty development, that provides exposure to some thought provoking ideas, followed up on after a period of reflection, in a small collaborative group can help to expand practice in meaningful ways.
    It also helps the less inclined faculty to at least gain some vocabulary and hopefully some increased personal confidence.
    I always found it interesting what great teachers could conceive when given small sparks of inspiration.
    Still like you I believe the small group is where the real gains are most likely.
    Miss you buddy!

  4. Thanks for the comment Tim. (I figured that blog title would catch your eye.)
    Agreed. There is a place for large group PD, but for inspirational/motivational purposes. I would love to get someone like Hall Davidson, David Warlick, or Alan November to speak to our staff focusing on the power and possibilities of these new methods of learning. (He said, trying not to use the word "technology".) The purpose being to open their minds to the need to change and motivate them to action. But you're right, this must be followed up by small group, specific discussion and instruction on how to apply this in their own classroom next week, next month, and next year.

  5. I'm wondering when you can come work with a small group at our school next year? I'll have to look into train stations nearby…

    From the teacher's perspective:

    Small – A must!

    Short – Sometimes you really need more time to explore. But, a follow-up for those ready to move on seems the most beneficial. Time is priceless.

    Specific – Wonderful focus on the curriculum & not always the tool. Many times I learn a new tool & try to find a way to incorporate it instead of the other way around. Thanks for the reminder of where my thinking should start.

    Share – Instilling confidence in teachers is an amazing tool in itself. Mark Carls has given me so much in this area through his position or the confidence to fail & know I have a support system to back me up.

    Surprise – I never thought that I'd be teaching others at my school. But, I'm looking forward to my first "official" opportunity this summer!

    I'll be thinking about this post for a while…..

  6. Hi, I really enjoyed reading through your blog and really liked your KISSS Principal for professional development. I totally agree with you that teachers are also a diverse group of learners and need differentiated instructions at an in-service. I have seen it many times and trying to keep teachers focus and on task is another obstacle in itself.

    I am happy that I came upon your blog. I have a group project coming up where we have to create a common core in-service activity and your KISSS Principle concept fits perfectly in place. I will definitely make sure that I keep it small and focus on a single grade level, if needed break them into short mini-sessions and be specific with what I need to cover and present.

    I will definitely share this KISSS Principal with my colleagues. Thank you. =)


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