Education technology continually examines and redesigns pedagogy in an attempt to meet the learning needs of our students. But rarely do we apply this same level of commitment and creativity to the learning experiences of educators. We often don’t reflect on how professional development—both in-person and virtual—can be better, more relevant, more applicable and more appropriate for teachers.
With this in mind, as well as being armed with Teq’s OTIS For Educators (a powerful virtual professional development, training and remote learning support for educators), Brian Moore is working to change just that. Moore is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the East Pennsboro Area School District.
EdSurge: Tell us a little bit about your district as you’re currently operating—are you remote, in-person or hybrid?
Moore: We are a small suburban school district (approximately 2400 students in two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school) located in Enola, PA that started the school year completely online. However, we recently moved to a hybrid model where we have some percentage of our students that live stream every day. We also live stream and record lessons for students in the hybrid model on their “off” days or days of the week in which they aren’t reporting to a school building for face-to-face instruction.
What were some of your biggest fears surrounding professional development going into fall?
As we entered the fall, professional development was a struggle. We had to balance providing teachers time to prepare for 100 percent online instruction with the need to provide PD pertaining to specific areas like SEL, differentiated instruction and technology integration. OTIS really helped our teachers meet our district’s goals in using technology to deliver high quality instruction. We developed playlists to assist teachers in need of either a refresher or introduction to specific online learning tools like Google Classroom or to use tools like interactive white boards for distance learning.
Prior to OTIS, how was your district handling PD?
We would post links and information to various organizations offering a multitude of professional development opportunities. However, there was nothing streamlined or succinct. We wanted something we could design. OTIS allows us, through playlists, to develop various learning opportunities that we want our teachers to experience.
What is OTIS’s value in PD and beyond?
We started using OTIS in March, immediately after the state mandated school closure. Teq graciously offered the use of its OTIS platform for free. This was in an effort to assist school districts through the closure. Immediately, we had teachers use the platform to learn about remote teaching tools and applications that they would need to use in order to provide instruction during the mandated school closure.
We found that OTIS was our go to resource as we worked with teachers to prepare them for online instruction. It was also an opportunity for our educators to earn professional development credit, which was limited due to the closure and the cancellation of previously scheduled in-service days.
How have you optimized your existing systems to better serve your staff?
We offer trade days to our staff. In our contract, professional staff are able to partake in professional development opportunities in the summer or outside of the regular contractual day. Time accumulated in approved professional development may be used for trade days. We designate three in-service days as trade days. If staff complete PD prior to an earmarked trade day and submit the proper paperwork, they do not have to report to school that day. Over the summer, a majority of staff chose to complete district assembled OTIS playlists to earn trade days.
We use OTIS to accommodate PD for staff who opt to not take a trade day and are required to report to buildings for in-service/PD. We develop playlists in OTIS and assign them to these staff members. The ability to develop and assign playlists in OTIS allows us to target areas of need, such as instruction for ELLs and SEL. We created playlists to address SEL and high impact instruction for ELLs.
How has OTIS transformed your work? Is the platform saving you time?
Honestly, it has made it a lot simpler. OTIS offers so many different PD opportunities that meet our district needs and meet individual staff needs, which makes our PD relevant for all stakeholders. In our state, all teachers must accumulate 180 hours of continuing education and professional development within a five-year cycle. OTIS automatically uploads teachers’ hours directly to the state department of education. This is a game-changer for us. That function saves a great deal of administrative time.
How else has OTIS changed the PD experience in your district?
Rather than have to look all over for PD opportunities, OTIS offers us a one stop place to develop, assign and track professional development sessions. Teachers appreciated the personalized approach to PD that OTIS allows us to offer. Staff can complete modules and sessions at their own pace and when it’s convenient for them. They also appreciate the ability to pick and choose which modules, sessions or playlists they wish to complete. Our instructional coaches started to make and upload customized PD sessions for instructional staff. We used it to prepare our teachers to use different online learning platforms and tools as well as best practices pertaining to distance learning.
How do you envision your long-term collaboration with OTIS and what advice would you have to other potential educators and leaders using remote PD for the first time?
We envision utilizing OTIS for at least the next three years. I would recommend OTIS to anyone who wants to increase the effectiveness and buy-in from their teachers for professional development. It is fantastic. It’s easy to use and highly beneficial. The support offered by Teq is amazing. Their staff is always ready at a moment’s notice to answer questions and help in any way they can. Great people!