picture of man falling into spiral in

Recently, I had the chance to view a 1977 Mel Brook’s movie called High Anxiety.  In that movie, Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) receives repeated therapy for his fear of heights.  However, none of these sessions take him through any real authentic and meaningful steps for countering the fear.  He continues to have episodes of high anxiety because he has not learned strategies for dealing with situations involving heights.

I liken this to the position of substitutes in the classroom.  Substitutes have learned the basic skills necessary for taking care of students when the teacher is absent.  Most have attended teaching school or in another way have figured out lesson introduction, modeling, and helping students work independently. They know how to send a child to the office if he or she is sick and take students to recess or specialist.  They follow guidelines for discipline as outlined by the teacher.  Thinking this through, what support have they been given regarding the technology in the classroom?  

Educational technology has changed greatly in the last five years.  The National Education Technology Plan states, “The cost of digital devices has decreased dramatically, while computing power has increased, along with the availability of high-quality interactive educational tools and apps” (p. 5).  As a result the learning space is changing.  Add to that options for taking attendance, completing assignments, and viewing learning resources that the Internet now affords.  Not stopping there, the variance of technology from not only classroom-to-classroom, school-to-school, and district-to-district is vast. I think one could say that all of this technological change and dependence could place a substitute in a position of high anxiety!

I think one could say that all of this technological change and dependence could place a substitute in a position of high anxiety!

This module, I spent time researching what districts provide to substitutes and what has been written about the subject.  I found some examples of materials created by districts to assist substitutes.  For example, the Monett School District in Missouri provides this handout. The document is dated September 2013 and it indicates more resources are online.  I chose to include it as an example because it provides a nice introduction to try and sooth anxiety and variety in its resources.  It explains what substitutes should be familiar with, what they can expect to be provided, and then outlines some step-by-step instructions with pictures.  A link to a webpage and videos are also included (although the links/steps seem out of date).  Step-by-step topics include what the district has determined to be important:  logging into the computer, connecting the cords, and opening/launching files.  While not exactly a professional development course, Monett School District is definitely making an effort to assist substitutes in feeling supported.  


Another resource I found was Keep Calm and Tech On: A Substitute Teacher’s Survival Guide to Integrating Tech, a blog post by Rochelle Tkach.  It supported my belief that the differences from classroom-to-classroom cause trepidation.  Tkach calls it an “unfamiliar jungle every time a new supply call is assigned.”  Refreshingly, the author takes a growth mindset stance.  For example, the SMART Board is mentioned as a device that all should embrace. She says that the SMART Board or LCD projector is great because you can count on it.  It’s stationary; it won’t go anywhere so you should learn to use it. She also recommends having some regular sites for hooking kids on the lesson and for filling time.  She likes GoNoodle and Google360, to name a couple.

Thinking back to the movie, Thorndyke overcomes his fear by facing it.  Tkach’s stance advocates for this as well.  By committing to knowing how to use the SMART Board or or LCD projector, her tips “may also rescue a substitute teacher scrambling to whip together daily plans.”

Speaking of fear, I challenge you to make a compelling video that will help substitute teachers.

How does this relate for me to ISTE Coaching Standard 4b: Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment?  It has given me another important piece of professional development to create for my district.  Currently none is provided.  I will create materials for a professional development opportunity for substitute teachers by collaborating with the Director of Human Resources and substitute coordinator.  To get started, I will survey teachers and building office managers to gather suggestions of topics to include (ISTE Coaching Standard 4a: “Conduct needs assessments to inform the content and delivery of technology-related professional learning programs that result in a positive impact on student learning”).  I will then create a PD plan.  I will gather feedback on this plan from a variety of perspectives:  technology department, substitute coordinator, office managers, and technology committee teachers. Because one-shot workshops often don’t change teacher practice and have no effect on student achievement (Yoon et al, 2007), it will need to be well thought-out.  At this time I am planning an initial session to include the following:

  • relevant specific topics
  • active learner participation
  • hands-on practice time
  • formative assessments for checking understanding
  • resources for learning during and beyond the session
  • ways to stay connected beyond the session
  • Q & A opportunity

I would love to learn how substitutes are supported in your district; please comment below. If you have been a substitute, what is the best support you’ve been provided for using technology in the classroom?  What advice can you share?

Works Cited:

How to Be a Great Substitute Teacher. (2013). Substitute Teaching Tip: Substitute Teachers and Technology.  YouTube.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZpl5XZve_s

International Society for Technology in Education. (2011). ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-coaches

Manolova, D. (2014). My version of high anxiety’s movie poster. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/k7MigR

Office of Educational Technology. (2016).  National education technology plan.  Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2015/12/NETP16.pdf

Tkach, R. (2015). Keep calm and tech on: a substitute teacher’s survival guide to integrating tech. Retrieved from https://blog.learningbird.com/a-substitute-teachers-survival-guide-to-integrating-tech/ 

Yoon, K. S., Duncan, T., Lee, S. W. Y., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. (2007). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007–No. 033). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs