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How to Transform and Personalize PD Within Your Own District

With traditional one-size-fits-all professional development, many teachers get overlooked and fall through the cracks, just like our students, resulting in poor implementation in the classroom. Why have we spent so much time revamping educational programs for students, but we deliver the same old PD for teachers? What about our Digital Age educators? Differentiation and personalized learning opportunities are just as important for teachers--creating empowering learning communities is key.

Instead of ”professional development,” we need authentic, personalized “professional learning opportunities” that improve workflow and foster creativity. They should allow for teachers to make connections with content, and most importantly each other. Teachers need the same level of engagement as students, and they are more engaged when they participate in professional learning opportunities that give them ownership, and a personalized experience.Teachers need choice just like our students, and experiences that enhance and develop the 4C’s: critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration.

Most districts don’t have funding to send teachers to national conferences, or to host keynote speakers, but instead have found ways to revamp the look of Professional Learning to meet the needs of their staff in non-traditional ways. Here are few of the unique ways educators are given opportunities to expand their learning environment through creative measures.

Edcamps, based on an Unconference model, are free, discussion-based sessions. The presentations are not predetermined, and anyone attending the event is considered a presenter. The participants create the schedule and the topics by writing their ideas on a blank sheet of paper or index cards, then they take them to a large whiteboard or common area where they post their idea. This creates spontaneity and often sparks unique conversations in problem-solving sessions, as a facilitator will lead by asking discussion questions to spark conversation.

Hattiesburg Public School District uses SimplyBook.me to offer technology training for teachers by allowing them to book appointments with the district technologists for training on the topic of their choice. Teachers get a menu of choices of what they want to train on, and can even suggest trainings that are not on the list. Dr. Will Deyamport, a technologist in the district, takes pride in this format and believes “it puts teachers at the ownership of their learning.”

Carson City School District has created C.A.F.E.: Create, Collaborate, and Connect, Advocate, model, and teach digital citizenship, Facilitate blended learning experiences, Engage in professional learning opportunities. Teachers can “drop-in” to the administrative center at their convenience on a given day to have coffee and snacks, and talk tech in an informal, cafe-style learning environment. Teachers have the option to stay for 15 minutes or two hours--it’s truly based on their current need.

Participating in a Twitter Chat is a great way to quickly gain valuable information on any topic you choose at a very fast pace, as you make connections with like-minded individuals all across the world. There are thousands of twitter chats available everyday.

The Flipped Professional Development model focuses on maximizing teachers’ time by creating a blending learning model in which information is dispended ahead of time. Utilizing resources like posting important information in the workroom, bathroom, or lounge, via a QR code, attached to a video, or website, makes sharing information appealing and convenient.

Gamification relates to applying game thinking into a non-game context. Teachers execute challenges, level up, and complete episodes to earn recognition, in-house certification, skill advancement, and even money! Badges and prizes are also awarded. The process involves embedding tutorials, articles, or videos that explain the tool or concept into a learning platform, then a simple way for them to show their level of understanding through a quiz, or performance task. Learn more about how a school in San Diego is using Gamification to personalize learning for teachers.

Ladue District has implemented a Technology Leadership Academy for teachers. This year-long training model creates a small cadre of about 15 teachers that learn and work together. The cadre is given the opportunity to connect with other educators in the district at various levels and subject areas, and they receive collaborative training face-to-face with technology coaches. The goal is to train educators to be technology leaders in their schools.

Setting learning goals that are individualized for teachers is ideal because it puts them in charge of their professional development. Teachers can choose how they want to meet their goal, rather it be by attending a conference, workshop, online tutorial, or face-to-face meeting.This allows for individualization, and opportunities for collaboration.

The key to successful professional development to create a professional learning experience that supports teachers to make learning better, faster, long-lasting and transferrable. Changing the way we view professional development as a whole can certainly create impactful and productive learning experiences for teachers, which has a domino effect in the classroom.

Editor's Note: Patricia Brown is a technology integration coach, an adjunct graduate professor, and an edtech professional development consultant. She is also an official EdSurge columnist.

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