Introducing technology into a classroom can be a challenge. Teachers may be reluctant to change the lesson plans they’ve developed over the years or outright fear that a device would inhibit their ability to deliver solid instruction. Some teachers just don’t believe in it - period. That’s why in the “Teaching the Teacher” session at this year’s Jamf Nation User Conference (JNUC), Taylor Bell, senior instructional technologist, Maryville University of St. Louis, suggested schools take a different approach. Lead, she encouraged, with professional development.
Not only does Maryville have the country’s largest 1-to-1 iPad program in private higher education as a part of their Digital World initiative, but the university also made a concerted effort to build a robust professional development program to support it. Bell said the school increased their professional development budget by about $400,000 in order to pay faculty and staff to attend two weeks of trainings (which were added to their contracts).
The school’s Center for Teaching and Learning, in conjunction with Bell’s team, works hard to organize one of the trainings each fall on campus. With more than 130 unique sessions which are led entirely by Maryville staff, there’s no shortage of content. “We focus on things like teaching and diversity, as well as engaging our students,” Bell said. “And last year there was one session called ‘Apps, Apps, Apps - Using the iPad in Class.’”
But Bell encourages everyone to also think beyond traditional lectures and training sessions. Rather, she said, consider an app smackdown - an exercise that combines gamification, competition and experiential learning. Ask educators which two apps they’d choose to use in the classroom. Then have them describe what makes their app choice superior to someone else’s selection. The exercise, Bell said, fuels great conversation and additional app discovery among teachers. A win-win.
But how is the initiative to put professional development at the forefront going? Bell said 95% of the school’s full-time faculty have attended Digital World PD and Canvas Institute - two voluntary professional development opportunities the school offers. The numbers speak for themselves. And when it comes to their overall comfort with technology in the classroom, Bell pointed out some notable stats:
- 98% percent of Maryville’s full-time faculty said they use the iPad for teaching and course preparation
- 98% also said they were also moderately comfortable, or more, with their use of the iPad
- 94% agree that the use of technology is instrumental to student success at Maryville
But the faculty and staff at Maryville aren’t the only ones embracing this focus on technology. After implementing Digital World, Maryville saw a 46% increase in the freshmen enrollment; 19% of those students shared that Digital World was a reason they chose Maryville over another university.
So why focus on providing technology to students in a higher education setting? Because they want it. But, as Bell noted, it’s up to schools to realize professional development should never been an add-on to a technology initiative. Rather, it should be the foundation on which the rest is built. When professional development is carefully considered and executed, both students and educators will be set up for success.