The Impact of Modeling in Professional Development: One District's Journey
As the iLearn Coordinator for Eden Prairie Schools in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Natasha Monsaas-Daly has plenty to think about. But that hasn’t stopped her from continuously pushing beyond the status quo.
“We have taken the inspirational quote attributed to St. Jerome of ‘Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best,’ and used it as a driving force for iterations of our usage of Schoology as a platform for professional learning for teachers and students.”
Never settling for anything but the best, Natasha mobilized 14 schools, 154 groups, 1,645 courses, and 11,970 users around a single strategy—continuous improvement via Schoology.
"It was important for us to meet teachers where they were in their journey," Natasha explains. "Some teachers were ready to transform their courses, while others were just learning how to get started. We continued to offer learning that was tiered to a teacher’s specific needs."
Taking PD from Good to Better to Best
Natasha set out to educate her school district on using their new LMS by demonstrating how to leverage the tools and interactivity within the platform itself.
“I have been helping teachers implement technology as a seamless part of their daily routine through job embedded coaching, co-teaching, and building teacher leaders.”
She began her team’s professional development efforts with a simple topic—how to use their LMS (good). They quickly moved on to individualized training sessions (better), and then to full staff participation in blended learning courses (best).
“This model has leveraged the power of Schoology to provide unique professional learning opportunities for staff,” explains Natasha.
The Teacher Becomes the Student
It’s not easy to understand the experience a student might have when using an LMS, especially when you’re always on the other side of the teacher/student relationship. With that in mind, Natasha made it a point to have teachers experience Schoology as a student.
"Using an LMS for PD has allowed teachers to view their work through the lens of a student," says Natasha. "It has also allowed us to model a variety of notable features in Schoology and given our teachers the practice they need to take these ideas into their classrooms."
"Because all of our PD is delivered via Schoology, our teachers have made great gains in what they are willing to try in their classrooms."
Natasha gamified her PD program into a type of self-paced BINGO, which allowed teachers to learn the system at a pace that was right for them. "Schoology BINGO was rolled out to the staff after we began our journey with Schoology," she explains. "What we found was that many teachers were unaware of the options and features within Schoology."
"Additionally, some of our teachers were stuck. They were not at a point in which they could transform their Schoology courses beyond a content repository. Schoology BINGO gave teachers an opportunity to explore new features and take their learning further." This gave instructors the freedom they needed to explore every nook and cranny of the platform as students to better understand the learning experience.
Eden Prairie Schools offers several online and blended learning courses via Schoology, about Schoology. Natasha says, "This year we are starting a series of Schoology 101: Creating Learning, Schoology 102: Implementing Learning, and Schoology 103: Innovating Learning."
"Prior to this we had offered online learning sessions entitled Maximizing Schoology and Schoology: Changing the Game. Through all of these sessions it was important to ensure that we were offering PD that was relevant to the varying needs within the district."
Real Continuous Improvement
After less than a year, Natasha has made Schoology an integral part of the Eden Prairie Schools, and she is just getting started. Every day, teachers are improving their use of technology, their workflows, and their blended learning pedagogies.
All of this has propelled Eden Prairie staff to a whole new level by ensuring everyone has the necessary skills to transition themselves, and their students, into the future of a 1:1 digital environment—from good, to better, to best.