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GEAR 4 - Professional Learning and Building Capacity

Gear 4 - Introduction

Professional development encourages, facilitates, and often requires education professionals individually and collaboratively to create, join, and sustain professional networks both within and outside of the district, frequently leveraging the latest in social media. If districts establish flexible policies and practices that encourage and credit the personalization of professional learning for teachers, administrators and other education professionals, the result ultimately will help reduce the digital divide by fostering equitable learning opportunities focused on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation. 

In Future Ready Schools, technology and digital learning expand access to high-quality, ongoing, job-embedded opportunities for professional learning for teachers, administrators, and other education professionals, including those who support the technical infrastructure of districts.  Such opportunities ultimately lead to improvements in student success and create broader understanding of the skills that comprise success in a digital age.

professional learning & building capacity

Gear 4 is comprised of the following Future Ready elements:

  • Shared Ownership and Responsibility for Professional Growth
  • 21st Century Skill Set
  • Diverse Opportunities for Professional Learning Through Technology
  • Broad-Based, Participative Evaluation

District and school administrator training needs center on three areas:  understanding how to streamline and integrate major initiatives into a manageable workload for both staff and leaders, seeing examples of strong leadership and implementation, and implementing using easy-to-use resources.

Digital professional learning communities, peer-to-peer lesson sharing, and better use of data and formative assessment, combined with less emphasis on traditional professional development sessions eliminate the confines of geography and time. These ever-increasing resources offer participants vast new opportunities to collaborate, learn, share, and produce best practices with colleagues in school buildings across the country.


Gear 4 - Guiding Questions for Planning

  • How do districts empower teachers, administrators and other education professionals to take ownership of and be accountable for their own professional learning?
  • Do school and district leaders have the tools and capacity to learn and model new technology-enabled professional learning?
  • Do schools and districts support and encourage innovation, exploration, and calculated risk taking as they implement digital teaching and learning strategies?
  • Are educators using technology and social media to personalize their own professional learning?
  • Do districts ensure all staff have 24/7 access to up-to-date devices and high-speed broadband for professional learning?
  • Are educators collecting data on their use of technology for learning and using it as evidence of their effectiveness in their evaluations?

Gear 4 - Professional Learning and Building Capacity Priorities

The Wisconsin Digital Learning Plan Goals, Recommendations, and Priority Activities within each section of the plan represent issues that speak to our engagement with federal, state, and local education agencies. Activities are targeted for completion by state education agency (SEA) and local education agency (LEA). In many cases, there will be collaboration between and among agencies to meet the goals.

GOAL 4.1

Teachers, administrators, and other educational professionals are self-directed in their professional practices using technology to optimize teaching and learning.


Ensure educators have access to high quality digital professional learning resources and collaboration tools by creating digital professional learning communities, peer-to-peer lesson sharing, and professional development sessions eliminating the confines of geography and time.


  • Within the statewide educator resource portal (WISELearn), create a repository of best practice resources, which can be utilized through an established professional learning network.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Create a digital ecosystem that includes our state resources of WISELearn, Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC) and other agencies that encourage educators to personalize their own learning.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Maximize access to local, regional, and statewide opportunities for educators to learn, share, and document their professional development activities.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Promote and participate in ongoing local, regional, state, and national opportunities to meet educators’ range of learning needs.  (LEA Target for districts)

GOAL 4.2

Educators, administrators, technical support staff, and other appropriate staff demonstrate understanding and application of a dynamic skill set applicable to their professional learning, their professional practices, and their classroom or other work practices.


Create diverse opportunities for learning in a supportive culture encouraging innovation, exploration, and calculated risk taking especially in the use of best practices in digitally-enabled learning environments.


  • Develop, adopt, and implement digital learning competencies for educators, administrators, and technical staff.   (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Provide professional development for school and district leaders, instructional support staff, and technical staff to prepare local leadership teams to plan and implement successful digital learning initiatives. (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Guide educator and administrator preparation programs to ensure that their graduates are ready for digital-age schools.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)

GOAL 4.3

Diverse opportunities for professional learning are available to all staff.


Develop a network of professional development facilitators to prepare teachers and other staff for digital learning.


  • Develop and promote personalized professional learning opportunities based on competencies rather than on seat-time and place.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Provide resources, tools, and partnerships to support facilitators in delivering face-to-face, online, and blended professional learning programs for staff members of all content areas and levels.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Provide opportunities for all education professionals to create professional learning networks (PLNs) both within and outside of the district and school by leveraging social media and blended learning.   (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Encourage institutes of higher education to adopt technology competencies as part of the educator and administrator preparation programs (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)

GOAL 4.4

Educators collect data on their use of technology for learning and use it as evidence in their evaluations.


Promote a digital system of performance evaluation allowing educators to be actively involved in goal-setting, collection indicators of progress, and self-reflection strategies.


  • Provide state and regional training on the collection and analysis of data used as criteria for evaluations.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Create a system of professional evaluation that uses a broad set of indicators including student achievement, evidence of improved instructional practice, and student engagement.   (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)