Are you wasting funds on unused ed tech?

A focus on professional development and coaching can help educators take full advantage of these tools
By: | January 21, 2020
(gettyimages.com: Sami Sert)(gettyimages.com: Sami Sert)
Doreen Bergman is the director of educational programs at Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES in New York.

Doreen Bergman is the director of educational programs at Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES in New York.

We know that nearly all teachers (90%) use some type of tech in their classrooms. And the tool that’s used more than any other? Video streaming, according to a recent survey in which 60% of teachers reported implementing it.

I oversee the purchasing of more than $400,000 in media resources per year as the director of shared educational programs for New York’s Onondaga, Cortland and Madison counties. But what I’ve learned is that shiny new tools aren’t worth much if educators don’t receive hands-on professional development to take full advantage of their benefits and support all learners. And a large majority of U.S. teachers—78%—say they haven’t received the training they need to teach with ed tech and other media technologies. 

PD can cover learning what resources serve different types of lessons, how to align the resources and lessons to state standards, and how to implement video as an instructional tool, for instance. Using video as an example, here’s how we incorporate more PD—and how to overcome potential administrative obstacles. 

From shared service models to regional- and school-level PD

The goal of our shared services model is to ensure equitable access to resources across our small- and large-member districts. More than providing purchasing power, our model includes a comprehensive program of specialized PD events at the regional and school levels to support the use of new technologies in the classroom.

But what I’ve learned is that shiny new tools aren’t worth much if educators don’t receive hands-on professional development on how to implement them in the classroom.

At the regional level, our specialized events may include a PD session on embedding media, during which teachers discuss specific lessons. In the morning, they learn what tools they can leverage, and in the afternoon, we drill down into the lessons and they learn the instructional methods for integrating media.

At the school-level, we help teachers understand how to segment a movie, for instance, so that they can show a portion during class. They can then assign the rest of the film for out-of-class viewing, rather than devoting a week’s worth of class time to showing it. We demonstrate how to set up instructional tools and identify what students should look for in the movie, such as themes, video treatments or the use of music. We can also work on how to contextualize the film in the era that is being studied. For example, we cover how to use Of Mice and Men when studying the Great Depression.

Coaching and tech supports

Our team also supports embedded coaching within schools to help educators align resources with standards and their content areas. Working with teachers one on one, we begin by helping them evaluate their use of media in the classroom. A coach or trainer then looks at the curriculum and standards, and helps the teacher align those with the media resource. 


Read: Why these FETC session attendees got ahead in their planning to purchase digital tools


We also work with principals and other administrators to help them understand film as an instructional tool—not just as a reward. This involves what they should be looking for when they observe a class that is using film—including evaluating how the teacher supports learning, what exercises students are completing in relation to the film, and how the media is being used in alignment with standards.

To ensure streaming access isn’t impeded by internal issues, our team works with tech administrators to overcome school-level obstacles. These hurdles can range from the excessive filtering of content to failing to provide equitable tech access to students. One solution we use for the latter issue is to establish mobile hot-spot lending programs for students without home internet access.

Regardless of the budget size or whether the technology is purchased at a school, district or consortium level, it is vital that teachers receive quality PD on how to use new media resources. Only with strong hands-on training can they create more engaging learning experiences, maintain high academic quality and avoid wasting resources.


Doreen Bergman is the director of educational programs at Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES in New York. In her role, she focuses on creating professional learning opportunities for educators across the central New York region.


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