Tacoma School district uses data to provide needs-based training and support

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Tacoma Public Schools started a Microsoft Innovative Educator program last year, hoping to create an ongoing support system for technology in the classroom. In the past, instructional technology support and training would fall on the shoulders of the district Instructional Facilitators. They would provide training by posting a district-wide class at a not-so-central location, on a topic of their choosing and at a time that fit a handful of schedules. Does this sound familiar?

Tacoma is moving past the old approach to professional development, where one would shoot at the target and hope to hit a bullseye. Through our Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program, we are now looking at data through the lens of how we can make an impact on more staff and students, and measure what supportive measures are needed.


Year One: Collaborate and learn from others


Sixty-seven participants applied voluntarily to be part of this professional network. Almost every school in our district had an MIE. During the first year, participants learned together to understand the significant roles that technology plays in our classrooms, jobs, and the lives of our students. Each month we met to learn about ISTE technology standards, Office 365 applications, and how these productivity tools apply to the standards. Some of the participants began to train staff in their schools. These training sessions were very well attended, and we found that staff enjoyed learning with their own staff and preferred training at their sites.


Year Two: Collaborate, grow, learn, and train


We expanded our membership and increased our expectations in Year Two. During this time, the MIEs would need to achieve their trainer status to be a part of the program. With the help of Microsoft and i2e we had MIE trainer classes in our district to facilitate that. We also used the Microsoft Educator Community to backfill those participants who were unable to attend. Eighty-four participants applied, which provided some schools with two MIEs. Our district instructional facilitator roles also switched from trainers to MIE coaches, and elevated the training from our team. Our MIEs could now provide the entry level classes and our team would then teach implementation classes for effective instruction using the tools.

We needed to know what each individual school’s technology skill level was in order to tailor our training. We had begun this process in the previous year, with our office concluding when a district got a “needs assessment” rating. In that first year, we did not give it in all schools and we made some “first pancake” mistakes. This year, our Instructional Technology team came together to determine the data points we needed to know about the technology skill levels at each building. To do this, we created a Microsoft Form with questions on our Office 365 applications, and questions centered around the SAMR model to determine everyone’s ability level.

We asked our MIEs in each building to distribute this survey. Before our first meeting, the “needs assessment” data was compiled from Forms, downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet and uploaded into Power BI. We had Power BI in our district, but I was not familiar with the tool except in using it to see data that was already curated.

At the first meeting of the year we had a Power BI dashboard pinned to our Teams site, showing each school’s results. The MIEs were excited by the results. All too often we would either overestimate or underestimate data. This tool provided us with a true, real-time picture of staff technology skills.

We had some schools that had fewer results, so to get better data we had our MIEs resend the form. I explained to our MIEs that we don’t want ten percent of the staff determining what the whole staff will need in the way of training and support.

Now that we have the data, the MIEs will look at it with one of our Instructional Facilitators to determine which trainings are necessary in their buildings. Our group uses the Teams platform to access and record all this information. Teams has provided us the ability to create a “one-stop shop” scenario. Our team is excited to see the individual school’s transformation and growth at the end of the school year.

Our hope is that we have made a huge impact on our educators’ technology skills and that knowledge will provide our students the 21st century learning they deserve.

Kim Williams

Tacoma Public Schools

Instructional Technology Business Analyst



Dave Davis

Tacoma Public Schools

Instructional Technology Director


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