What’s the Buzz: Professional Learning and Development

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What's the Buzz
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As we anticipate the first official day of summer, many educators look forward to a well-deserved break. Thinking of what we accomplished, given the challenges faced, we reflect and wonder how to increase effectiveness next school year. Many outside education think educators spend the summer months enjoying time off when, in actuality, the opposite is true. Most educators spend the summer getting ready for the next school year and participating in professional learning and development (PLD). Let’s talk about how the term has evolved over the years. 

Years ago, educators went to professional development (PD) in-services where they sat and listened to an expert explain a theory, instructional model, or new resource the school had purchased. The purpose was to prepare teachers to put an application deemed necessary by the school into practice. Educators were passive in most of these sessions, listening to the presenter go through slides or displaying materials for “show and tell.” Those in the know came early to get a seat in the back so they could do something more productive for themselves, like grade papers. These types of sessions did little to change teacher practice or effectiveness.

Teachers decided that relying on others for our development as teaching and learning professionals didn’t serve them well . As a group, we began to look for and create opportunities to learn about instructional practices that were of personal interest. Most educators appreciate learning from others who have worked to solve instructional problems similar to those they face. Free professional learning events such as Twitter chats and unconferences like Hack Education and Edcamps began filling that need. Attending these events allowed educators to fulfill their own learning needs. Still, it didn’t necessarily translate into instructional practices that districts were looking to adopt.

In the last several years, schools have begun to embrace the tenets of adult learning theory when approaching the work to increase teacher and in-service training effectiveness. Recognizing that adults are self-directed learners whose prior experiences can shape their understanding of a concept has been a game-changer for many schools and districts. In many cases, the shift to professional learning and development has allowed teachers to choose their preferred professional learning activities along a structured pathway that aligns with school and/or district goals. This change to PLD builds teacher capacity and increases the likelihood that educators will be able to implement the strategies that they have learned successfully. 

So, what will you choose to learn this summer? TeachersFirst® has quite a few opportunities available:

  •     The TeachersFirst Summer Book Study takes an in-depth look at a text that talks about structured technology implementation in the classroom. The book study has both required and optional activities, allowing participants to choose how much they want to engage and practice the strategies suggested.
  •     Our regular OK2Ask® sessions will focus on strategies that can be leveraged for blended learning. It’s hard for educators to shift to more effective pedagogical approaches without the tools to support them. Our offerings this summer will be able to assist.
  •     We offer a special series of sessions for those who would like to implement school-provided Google or Microsoft tools better. You can register for them here. Enjoy the freedom to choose which sessions you would like to attend, knowing that the strategies will work within the guidelines set by your district.


Other opportunities for Summer PLD include:

  •     This competency-based SOPHIA Learning course on flipping the classroom. SOPHIA has several timely, self-paced courses for educators offered for free. They have partnered with Capella University to provide free certificates or optional graduate credit for a fee.
  •     PBS Teacherline’s self-paced courses on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. These courses offer CEUs that may be eligible for credit with your school. 
  •     Friday Institute’s MOOC-Ed courses. These courses run year-round, but several are slated for this summer.


What will your summer PLD plans include? Let us know in the comments below. Interested in hearing more about upcoming PLD opportunities this summer and beyond? Join the TeachersFirst® mailing list.

About the author: Ruth Okoye

Dr. Ruth Okoye is the Director of K12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning. As a long-time technology coach, Ruth shares ideas and strategies for professional learning and thoughts on how to motivate yourself to “dig deeper” into educational technologies.

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