5 Steps to a Digital Professional Development Makeover

Education leaders suggest creating a diverse menu of professional development options for educators to choose from. Basheer Tome Flickr 2.0 CC license

As technology continues to be a critical part of education today, education leaders are looking for ways to make professional development more relevant.

Traditionally, educators don’t want to go through district-mandated professional development. And the type of training they receive doesn’t always work for them. One principal likened the current training options to a restaurant menu that only includes one appetizer and one entree.

“Most often it’s a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s mandated from the top down, it is boring, irrelevant, costs too much money; and is sometimes associated with a flavor-of-the-month type of initiative,” said Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in Bergen County, New Jersey. “There’s no follow-through.”

Sheninger and others are setting out to change how learning happens among educators with a digital makeover that consists of at least five steps.

1. Create a sustainable professional development plan
In the first step of this makeover, it’s important to take a big picture look at where professional learning is now, where it should go and how to get there. Professional development isn’t a box to be checked off after a conference or one-day workshop with a consultant. Instead, it’s an ongoing process of learning every day, throughout the day.

2. Provide informal learning opportunities with the help of technology
Learning may look different depending on the person, the school’s resources and the academic goals that schools set. But that’s the point: Quality training allows educators to pick options from a diverse menu, self-direct their informal learning time to meet their needs and learn through a method that works for them.

3. Design professional development around an academic content area  
While it’s easy to focus an entire formal training session on a cool technology tool, it’s more important to put an academic content area at the center of professional development efforts. Then staff members can demonstrate how technology tools can help educators reach academic content goals, said Craig Blackburn, director of technology programs and instructional support for Santa Clara County Office of Education in California.

4. Combine traditional, blended and virtual learning experiences
A different approach to professional development gives educators flexibility in how and when they learn. Traditional face-to-face, blended and virtual learning all provide unique advantages and can be mashed up to provide learning opportunities that cater to different people’s needs, Sheninger said.

5. Train the academic content trainers how to model technology use
When it comes to academic content, curriculum coordinators who work in different subject areas don’t always know how to use technology to support what they’re teaching educators. They’ll call up Mike Lawrence, executive director of CUE, to go through the technical components, but he’ll politely say “no.” Instead, he’ll guide them as they figure out the digital tools so they can effectively model technology use to other educators during training sessions.

Final thoughts
Ultimately, Sheninger hopes to see a professional development model created that is relevant, meaningful and self-sustaining. What else do you want to see in a makeover of professional development?

Read the entire article by Tonya Roscorla at the Center for Digital Education at http://www.centerdigitaled.com/news/5-Steps-to-a-Digital-Professional-Development-Makeover.html

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