As I prepared for my blog post this week, the word ‘essential’ kept running through my mind.  What does e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l mean?   How is it used in our world today?  How does its real world use relate to school professional development?  I think we would all agree about what is considered an essential when we travel – taking medications, contact solution, spare underwear, and the like on a trip.  Hotel rooms even have signs indicating the importance society places on essentials.  This hotel picture seeks to assure us if we find ourselves without an essential, “we’ve got you covered. relax.”

hotel essentials

Another real world example is found in auto insurance.  Uninsured/underinsured motorist, liability, and property damage are all essential.  In fact, states have required minimums in their law.  You can negotiate to have more coverage, but minimum coverage is a non negotiable.  I like that word – nonnegotiable.  It is strong and not wishywashy.  My question this module was: What elements should every technology session in a rich professional development program include?  Changing it up a bit with my new word –  what are the non negotiables when it comes to technology professional development sessions?  Reflect for a second.  What are your current non negotiables when it comes to technology professional development sessions you host or attend?

“Harris (2007) suggests that although professional development can vary by purpose, objectives, content, grade levels, pedagogies, models, and assessment, effective sessions should all include being: (1) conducted in school settings; (2) linked to school-wide change efforts; (3) teacher-planned and teacher-assisted; (4) differentiated learning opportunities; (5) focused around teacher-chosen goals and activities; (6) exhibit a pattern of demonstration/trial/feedback; (7) concrete; (8) ongoing over time; and (9) characterized by ongoing assistance and support on-call.” I would like to propose these nine elements as the minimum from which professional development is designed.  That sounds good, but hand anyone this list and interpretation and implementation will vary.  

I would like to propose these nine elements as the minimum from which professional development is designed.

Let’s go back to the car insurance analogy.  Insuring yourself for $100,000 bodily injury liability per accident is much more finite.  However, acknowledging implementation will vary, the nine elements put forth good “minimums” to strive toward.  For example, #5 ‘teacher-planned and teacher-assisted’ may be interpreted by some administrators to be many teachers contributing once and by others to be a few contributing to the process throughout.  Either way, the idea of teachers being part of the planning process is upheld.  That is a win either way!

These nine elements are a critical foundation for successful professional development sessions.  If those minimums are in place, what does an individual session need to definitely include?  The book, Transforming Classroom Practice: Professional Development Strategies in Educational Technology (2008), provides an overview of professional development strategies that have demonstrated long-term success.  For example, this passage on page 13 resonated with me,

“Professional developers who understand where each teacher is in the change process are more likely to be successful than those who plunge headlong into the content of a session with little or no attempt to get to know each participant. Listening to the types of questions being asked and the ways each teacher is using technology allows the professional developer to accurately understand which stage each teacher is in.”  

What does this tell me?  It tells me that the teacher or the facilitator moves during the session are far-reaching.  You can have on-site, teacher designed, differentiated, ongoing professional development in place, but it won’t mean anything if the facilitator is not engaging with participants as a talented teacher engages with his or her students.  I urge you to reflect on the following question.  What facilitator moves are you using that say to your participants, “I’ve got you covered. Relax”?  

If you are technology coach, don’t forget that you have a duty to fulfill 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. Examining your professional development program in relation to these nine elements might be a powerful first step.


Borthwick, A. and Pierson, M. (2008).  International Society for Technology in Education; 1st edition.  Excerpt retrieved from

Borthwick, A. and Pierson, M. (2010).  Framing the Assessment of Educational Technology Professional Development in a Culture of Learning.  Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2011). ISTE standards for coaches. Retrieved from


Bathroom hotel sign. Retrieved from

Natloans. (2011). How to select Car Insurance. Retrieved from