TILT Staff Development Program
Traci Piltz, Ann Brucker and Shelly Stanton
On any given day, the Billings Public Schools’ Technology Integration Specialists are busily running all over town, working with students and teachers who want to spice up their lessons with technology. If you’re able to track them down via their Google Calendars, you might find them huddled around a table with a group of like-minded teachers who are collaborating on ways to integrate technology into their lessons. They’re taking part in TILT, a prestigious program that was started over a decade ago by Desiree Caskey.
TILT, which stands for Teachers Integrating and Learning Technology, uses a small study group approach to professional development. Teachers who apply and are accepted into TILT are grouped with peers who work together throughout the program to become more technology literate. TILT provides teachers with time and training, as well as opportunities for collaboration and exploration of technology and its integration. This 3-phase program takes teachers at their levels of readiness and moves them from being learners and explorers to sharers and innovators.
Phase I: Getting Grounded
Phase I is an exploration of technology tools in a safe collaborative environment. Phase I teachers complete several hands-on projects, improve their technology skills in a variety of areas, and become proficient in accessing and using Google Apps for Education, iPads, and the Mac OS.
“As a teacher in the district for 12 years, I have come to heavily rely on my colleagues who have been a part of TILT for their expertise. I am an informal technology trouble-shooter for some of my colleagues currently, but feel that there is so much more to learn. Teaching the staff the amazing things students can learn, through technology, is something I am very passionate about. I really want to use technology in my classroom in a way that enhances student learning and teaches students that technology can be used in more productive ways. Many students are not exposed to technology and I love to bridge that gap; I am so driven and excited to be a part of this learning community!”
Phase II: Tech it Up A Notch
Phase II continues exploration, but the focus turns toward enhancing the content in one's curricular area. Phase II teachers focus on creating classroom environments in which technology is seamlessly integrated with purpose.
“As a member of TILT Phases I and II, I grew as a learner. When I look at how my classroom has transformed over the past three years, I see how technology has changed the learning environment. The technology did not replace any curriculum, but it became a tool to enhance the learning in my classroom and maximize my teaching. As an educator, it is my mission to make the adjustments needed to create a mobile, interactive classroom, and a powerful learning environment. Having technology and digital tools available to my students is essential to making this happen.”
Phase III: Train it Forward
Phase III emphasizes professional growth through the planning and delivering of staff development opportunities for colleagues. Phase III teachers emerge as leaders and mentors, assisting other teachers to improve pedagogy, both with and without technology.
“I want continue as a life long learner as well as give back to the district and mentor teachers through Phase III of TILT.”
Some ways that TILT “graduates” have shared their learning are by presenting at the district’s annual Tech Fair, local and regional conferences, and even events at the national level. TILT members have organized and hosted major events such as Montana’s first official Google Apps for Education Summit, the Montana Council for Computers in Education’s Summer Tech Summit, and the Billings Tech Cadre.
Last year, the TILT program expanded to students with the formation of KILT (KIDS Integrating and Learning Technology). It moves growth-minded, outgoing kids from being simply users of technology to producers and teachers of technology. They return to their classrooms eager to share what they’ve learned.
Teachers who have been through the various phases of the program have consistently raved about how they have grown as professionals. As one teacher put it, “TILT has been the most powerful professional development opportunity of my career and has had the greatest impact on my classroom.”
Applications for the 2017-18 TILT program will be open this fall. Billings Public Schools teachers, be sure to watch for notifications in September. We would love to work with you!