PD Perspectives

Building a PD Plan: Identifying Goals

Summer is the perfect time for school districts to restructure their professional development plan. A successful strategy incorporates all of the district stakeholders: administrators, teachers, technology coaches and curriculum directors. The first step in crafting a PD program is identifying goals for next year; be that expanding technology tools, offering support for a specific department, or focusing on a particular curriculum component. Next, research tools and resources that will help your district reach these goals. Finally, review the existing PD plan and expenses, and consider allocating funds in a new way. If a majority of the budget last year was spent on conference attendance, consider using it this year for an on-site workshop, or a blended learning PD platform. This week, we'll focus on creating a plan outline. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on finding PD resources and budget restructuring.

Gathering data

Start by identifying instructional goals. Your PD program may be dictated by your district's strategic plan, or you may choose to take a more flexible, democratic approach by surveying stakeholders about what they feel is important in next year's PD program. Here are a few ways you can engage others in outlining PD goals:

  • E-mail survey. Summer is a busy time for teachers, who may beenjoying time off or working a seasonal job. Send a brief, three-to-five question survey. You could have teacher's rank issues on importance on a scale of one to five, or answer true-false questions about the state ofPD at the district. For example: True or false? I feel that our existing PD program supports my individual teaching goals. A benefit of this strategy is that collecting and aggregating data is simple.
  • Connect with advocates. Reach out to teachers who are known for being vocal and honest. This might be a person who has (respectfully) challenged district protocols in the past. Ask them for their honest opinion on the current state of professional development in the district, and be prepared for constructive feedback.

If you don't already have one, consider asking interested teachers in participating in a professional development committee. While they might not be able to meet before the start of the school year, they can be instrumental in crafting and adapting PD plans in the future.

Analysis

Using the information you gathered, identify the top two or three areas for improvement. How do these points align (or not align) with your district's strategic plan? Have these areas been the focus of professional development in the past?

You should also identify whether or not these topics apply to the district as a whole. If you got a lot of feedback about issues with standardized testing from the math department, but not from any other departments, this may not be an area you choose to focus on in the overall, district-wide PD plan. That's not to say it's not important -- be sure to address any and all concerns shared by your teachers in one way or another. (Like calling a meeting with a specific group to problem solve.) In order for a PD plan to be successful, teachers should feel that their voices are heard, and their voluntary feedback is being taken seriously.

Breadth vs. depth

Decide how specific you'd like your PD objectives to be. For example, a district with a large Hispanic population might identify "improving outcomes for Spanish language students," as an area of focus, and could provide teachers with tools to connect specifically with those students and their parents (ie. bilingual learning materials). Alternatively, your goal might be "improving outcomes for ESL students." Here, you would take a broader approach, offering workshops on general ESL strategies (ie. using visuals in presentations, modifying assignments).

How you decide to frame your objectives is up to you and your stakeholders. Regardless of the objective you choose, make sure you'll be able to measure the outcome of the program at the end of the year. Next week, we'll take a look at different ways schools across the nation structure their PD plans.

Image attribution
Site: flickr.com [Image 1]

Digital Citizenship 101

4751630027_301e80a5e3_z.jpg

Last week, our "Watch It, Try It, Share It" was all about digital citizenship. We shared tools and training resources that educators and administrators can use in creating a #digcit program in their classrooms. More of our education and general life experiences are moving online, so it's important that we give students the tools and understanding they need to interact on the web--and how their online actions can have a real-life, offline impact.

Safety & security

Safety is among one of the top concerns among parents when it comes to teaching their children about using the internet. It's a valid point; while making new (albeit unknown) friends or sharing about themselves from behind a screen might seem safe to children, there's always potential for unknown consequences for this type of behavior. While drawing the line between privacy and safety can be difficult, establishing open communication about online actions is key to protecting students in our virtual world. In fact, Google executive Jared Cohen believes this conversation is equally--if not more--important as substance abuse or sex education:

"We’ve talked to parents in New York, Saudi Arabia, Africa, and it becomes very clear that their children are using technology at a pace that’s faster than their physical maturity process, so kids are using technology earlier and faster. Our conclusion in the book is that parents need to talk to their kids and start early about the importance of online privacy and security, years before they even talk about the birds and the bees.

I remember in health class in elementary school where, you know, they scare you away from using drugs, they scare you away from having unsafe sexual activity, they scare you away from using alcohol and tobacco. This is part of that conversation."

Respectful communication

Participating in online society comes with many of the same circumstances you'd find in a real-world society. There are laws, communities, etiquette expectations--even different languages. Understanding the nuances of this online universe comes with experience and a solid foundation in digital citizenship. From composing polite, professional e-mails to spotting and reporting cyberbullying, there are many things new members of our virtual society need to learn.

While it may seem common-sense to say "treat others as you'd like to be treated--even in your chat group," the anonymity and false sense of security that a screen provides mean that it's easier for children to respond rashly to a negative situation. Teaching students about the permanence of their online footprint is crucial--just because they've deleted the rude message they sent doesn't mean it's gone--and more importantly, doesn't mean that it didn't have an impact on it's recipient. It's like the popular toothpaste analogy that circulated the internet last year--once the message has been sent, it's impossible to take back.

Technology toolbox

Digital citizenship isn't all about teaching "the dangers of the Web." Giving students the tools they need to navigate technology can empower them to expand their learning. Online research strategies and creative and academic-focused apps and games can open up a world of educational opportunities. Think of the first grader building a digital prototype in TinkerCAD, or a high-schooler collaborating with a student from halfway across the world on a video project.

Teaching children about positive internet and device use can be as simple as modeling it in the classroom. A tech-positive environment can be established using the SAMR model, which guides educators in enhancing and transforming their teaching through technology. Giving students access to these tools during school time, rather than having them navigate them on their own, allows adults to instill healthy online habits during the learning process. It can mean the difference between a student using Minecraft to learn about coding, or simply using the program's chat or battle feature purely for entertainment and socializing.

Healthy habits

Learning when to use the internet is just as important as learning how. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children from 2-5 years old should only engage in screen time for a maximum of one hour per day. For children six and above, that number is more flexible. The AAP encourages families to take responsibility for setting these limits. "Parents are in charge of setting limits on digital media for kids and teens six and older. [...] The amount of daily screen time depends on the child and family, but children should prioritize productive time over entertainment time."

In this context, screen-time is defined as using devices purely for entertainment purposes; it does not include using a computer for homework or school projects. As computers and smartphones become more ubiquitous, this line between what qualifies as screen-time and what's considered "productive" device use has blurred. Setting boundaries and establishing ways children can positively incorporate technology into their daily lives is the first step in creating these healthy habits.

What have you done at home or in your classroom to promote digital citizenship? What are the greatest advantages and challenges facing this tech-savvy generation? Let us know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for more from our Digital Citizenship series!

Image attribution
Site: flickr.com [Image 1]

Halfway There: Teacher Self-Care

February can be a challenge--whether you're enjoying this week off , or back to work after a three-day weekend, many teachers are at the halfway point of their school year. With about five months down and four to go, winter means more school-wide colds, with less daylight and fewer holiday breaks. A self-care plan for teachers and an awareness on the part of administration can make all the difference in re-energizing the educational environment. Check out some of the resources we've compiled to combat the winter blues.

For teachers

Create a Self-Care Plan to Beat the Winter Blues
"As the school year slows to a crawl through these dark, cold days of winter, it can be difficult to sustain the high energy required to accomplish the many daily tasks presented by our colleagues, our students, their parents, and the curriculum. Although it is wise to build daily practices in your life that give you a sense of wellness and fulfillment, it is especially important to do so when there may be little support to draw from others who, like you, may find themselves with fewer reserves. This is a good time of year to apply practices designed to help you take good care of yourself."

Setting Boundaries Can Mean a Happier Teacher Career
"Adults know logically that we have needs and lives, but at times, it's as if we are faulted for putting our lives first. We keep our doors open at lunch, we stay on the phone sometimes hours beyond the last bell, soothing parents or communicating with families about that which their student does not. Why? Because we love and care. But we as professionals must love and care about ourselves, as well."

12 Choices to Help You Step Back from Burnout
"A tired teacher is a powder keg waiting for a match. In my bouts with burnout, I've learned that stepping back from the brink is about choice. These 12 choices have helped me recover and be a better teacher for my students. In the long run, a burned out teacher is of no use to her students or herself. You can choose to step back. You can do this, teacher! Your calling is noble, but you must sometimes regroup and adjust to make it."

For administrators

10 Tips for Administrators to Help New Teachers Avoid Burnout
Time. No matter what administrators do or offer, they must invest in time for new teachers to prepare for the workload and also reflect on the experiences of each week. If there’s no formal time offered for reflection, teachers will not grow from the initial experiences and/or difficulties.

Support. Administrators should encourage a supportive work culture. This should include themselves team-teaching with new teachers. This relieves pressure, whilst also allowing for example to be shown, in-turn providing great professional development."

Why Introverted Teachers Are Burning Out "Business Review recently termed “collaborative overload” in the workplace. According to its own data, “over the past two decades, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more.” The difference for teachers in many cases is that they don’t get any down time; they finish various meetings with various adults and go straight to the classroom, where they feel increasing pressure to facilitate social learning activities and promote the current trend of collaborative education.

...K-12 campuses can meet the needs of teachers who are less extroverted, from 'providing professional development credit for personal learning' to simply offering them some options in regards to collaborative activities. Embracing ideas like these, schools could better accommodate the different personality types of their teachers; reduce burnout and save money on attrition; and foster an educational environment that encourages and cherishes introspective reflection within the students themselves."

Image attribution
Site: flickr.com [Image 1]

Personalized PD & Adult Learning: Facilitation & Support

Personalized professional development supports adult learning tendencies. It embraces project-based, incremental learning experiences, and gives teachers autonomy and choice in the content, pace, and method in which they learn. However, implementing a personalized PD program at a school district takes much more than simply letting teachers pick a topic and run with it. It takes careful planning and a commitment from teachers, administrators and the team that supports the program, from TOSAs to the tech department. The role of this support team looks much different in a personalized PD program than in a traditional "sit-n-get" setting. Gone is the facilitator standing in front of a group, leading a workshop and delivering information. Instead, teachers are interacting directly with content, and participating in hands-on exploration of apps and tools. Teachers are providing their own evidence of learning, and tracking their progress. When so much of the PD experience is in the hands of teachers, the impact of a facilitator may be less visible--but it is no less critical to the learning process.

"The most significant trend that continues to make an impact on facilitators is the demand for the incorporation of technology into the content and delivery of professional development." -King & Lawler, 2003

The changing role of the facilitator

The study of adult learning theory goes back hundreds of years, but has only recently become a popular subject of scientific research. Adult learning theory, or andragogy, was popularized in the 1970s by Dr. Malcolm Knowles. His theory addressed the role of the learner, and the "assumptions about the design of learning," specifically that adults: need to know why they need to learn something; need to learn experientially; approach learning as problem-solving; and learn best when the topic is of immediate value.

Knowles also addressed how the role of the teacher changes when the student is an adult. "Basically teachers should be aware that their role has been changed. Learner-centered classes will stimulate dialogue and knowledge construction. Learners will benefit from a scaffolding approach to learning where the teacher provides more support in the early stages of the course; this support is gradually faded until learners become self-reliant."

The TOSAs, tech coaches and other program administrators of blended-learning PD platforms constantly embrace these principles. They are responsible for the smooth rollout of a program, and ensuring that teachers have a solid foundation on which to scaffold their learning. Rather than imparting content knowledge, facilitators teach teachers how to use tools to become self-sufficient as they engage with the content on their own. They help administrators translate learning objectives into a digital format. They assess the district's "bigger picture," and identify where teachers are struggling to meet objectives. They advocate for their teachers, and communicate with program developers to make the learning experience as seamless as possible.

The comfort zone

Knowles also observed, "in a constructive approach teachers should see themselves as facilitators and co-learners. Teachers must bear in mind, however, that learners are individuals with different life experiences and learning preferences. Some adult learners will still prefer the traditional pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. Teachers should respect that, and at the same time gradually try to push learners away from their comfort zone in the direction of a deeper approach to learning."

Facilitators of blended-learning, personalized PD platforms are typically the "tech gurus" of their district. They're comfortable navigating the digital landscape, and are excited to embrace new technologies. These facilitators are also aware that other educators may not all be as comfortable behind a screen & keyboard--and the support that they provide doesn't always happen online or at the computer. Engaging with teachers face-to-face, hosting events, and recognizing accomplishments in real-time are all a part of a successful blended-learning program. Effective facilitators embrace technology as a part of a teacher's learning toolbox, and support and empower teachers on their PD journey.

Hats off to all of our Chrome Warrior Admins that are paving the way!

Image attribution
Site: flickr.com [Image 1]

Personalized PD & Adult Learning: Autonomy & Choice

We're exploring how personalized professional development can support adult learning theory, a concept developed by educator Malcolm Knowles. In last month's post, we took a look at how project-based and incremental learning experiences support the five principles of this theory (self-concept, experience, readiness to learn, orientation to learning, and motivation to learning). Another way that personalized PD embraces the cornerstone of adult study is in it's inherent ability to provide self-directed learning opportunities. What is self-directed learning? According to Knowles, self-directed learning "describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes." In terms of PD, it's about giving teachers a choice in when, how and what they study. There isn't a one-size-fits all approach to autonomous learning.

Take a look at what Knowles' described as the Role of the Learner:

  • Learners should know why they are studying something.
  • Instruction should be task-oriented, and it should take into account the wide range of different backgrounds of learners.
  • Learners should be able to relate what is being studied to their personal/professional experiences.
  • Learners should be motivated and ready to learn.
  • Learners should be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction. Instruction should be problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

These principles embrace self-directed learning: taking into account different learner backgrounds, self-motivation, understanding the purpose of study, and a learner's direct involvement in planning their instruction. These concepts are what personalize any successful professional development program.

Autonomy makes blended-learning PD possible

Blended-learning, personalized PD exists on the basis of self-directed learning. The success of the experience is dependent on participants' autonomy over their learning and engagement with the platform. Unlike with traditional 'sit-n-git' PD, teachers typically aren't scheduled for a set amount of time for blended-learning PD--there isn't an administrator taking attendance, ensuring that every teacher is present for a half-day inservice. Teachers must make the choice to engage with their learning platform, and to select what topic they'd like to study. Some of our districts, like San Jacinto Unified SD, take self-directed learning one step further by not mandating the game.

The benefit of using a blended-learning platform for professional development is that it provides teachers with a resource and a framework to structure and asses their learning. It also gives administrators the opportunity to select and quality control for core learning materials. How the teacher chooses to apply what they've learned is up to them, but they can evaluate their understanding throughout the process using built-in assessments. Essentially, a blended learning PD platform simply provides tools for teachers and administrators to use in their self-directed learning.

"The relationship between self‑directed learning and life‑long education is a reciprocal one. On the one hand, self‑directed learning is one of the most common ways in which adults pursue learning throughout their life span, as well as being a way in which people supplement learning received in formal settings. On the other hand, lifelong learning takes, as one of its principle aims, equipping people with skills and competencies required to continue their own self‑education beyond the end of formal schooling. In this sense, self‑directed learning is viewed simultaneously as a means and an end of lifelong education." - Philip Candy, Self-Direction for Lifelong Learning

Check out "Is Learning Increasingly Self-Directed in the Digital Era" for more information on how technology and learning autonomy impacts students, and how you can help your students navigate digital learning.

Image attribution
Site: flickr.com [Image 1]

Personalized PD & Adult Learning: Problem-Centered Learning

As a teacher or administrator, you are an expert at learning. You know how to engage students, how to tackle challenges in the classroom, and how to measure and evaluate what has been taught. Your days (and often nights) are spent honing this craft to ensure your students leave your classrooms better informed and prepared than when they arrived. When it comes to your own learning as an adult, you may be surprised to find that strategies that work for your students aren't necessarily what works best for you. Adult learning theory, or andragogy, posits that adults learn very differently and for very different reasons than children do. Understanding these principles can help administrators and organizations build better systems for professional development that work with the natural tendencies of adult learners.

Andragogy

Much of modern understanding about adult learning theory is based on research authored by adult educator Dr. Malcolm Knowles in the 1970s. The principles are as follows:

1. Self-concept: As a person matures his self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being 2. Experience: As a person matures he accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning. 3. Readiness to learn. As a person matures his readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles. 4. Orientation to learning. As a person matures his time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness. 5. Motivation to learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal

These principles informed Knowles ideas around the application of learning for adults:

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

Break it down: chunking

Incremental learning, or "chunking," is one of the ways that personalized PD supports adult learning. It addresses the fourth principle of andragogy: learning that is problem-centered, instead of subject-centered. Rather than learning everything there is to know about a topic, adults tend to learn only what is necessary to solve a problem.

Chunking learning allows adults to to apply an order of magnitude to the learning process--if you need to patch a hole in your tire, you're probably not going to take on studying auto mechanics. Instead, you're likely to Google the problem, and find the the most immediate solution. Chunking takes advantage of our ability to process information in the short-term to learn bigger and more complex information.

By breaking information down into smaller, related parts, we are able to scaffold knowledge quicker and more efficiently. Chunking is recommended as a study technique, and also informs many productivity and exercise methods. Rather than spending an entire day tackling a goal, experts recommend breaking it down into manageable blocks that can be accomplished in measurable minute- or hour-long time periods. This method is an organic solution to the fast pace of our modern society, when our days are often a revolving door of responsibilities and tackling to-dos.

Blended, personalized learning is a big shift from traditional PD, which is often a "one and done" exercise, like a day-long inservice on a specific teaching strategy. Blended learning embraces PD as a marathon, not a sprint by:

  • Breaking down learning objectives.
  • Enabling educators to tackle what's most relevant to their teaching practice, and to accomplish goals over a longer period of time.
  • Being accessible to the learner at any time, whether they want to engage with the material for twenty minutes or two hours, day or night.

If you're interested in applying chunking in other areas of your life, check out the The Pomodoro Technique or "Where do the hours go?" from the APA.

Chrome Warrior games, authored by educators, are an example of how you can take personalized PD and serve up bite size learning. Check out our new demo game online to learn more.

Image attribution
Site: flickr.com [Image 1]

Blended-Learning PD: Time, Accessibility & Evaluation

Professional development is a cornerstone of effective teaching. As an exercise in continuing education, it gives teachers access to the most up-to-date pedagogies and methods, educational technologies, and ongoing support to apply this learning in the classroom. It is not without its challenges, however. From classroom disruptions to funding and tracking costs, there are many factors that can impact the quality of a professional development program. Fluid and responsive, blended learning PD is able to redefine these roadblocks as inspiration for platform design.

Time & duration

Professional development requires time to plan, deliver, implement, and evaluate. Some districts allocate time during the regular school year for PD, holding in-service days, or providing substitutes for teachers attending conferences or workshops. Professional development represents a significant time commitment--especially considering that duration is one of the most critical components of a successful PD program.

Enter blended learning professional development. Online and computer-based programs are flexible, so teachers can devote as much time as is required by their administrators, or go above the minimum outside of school. These platforms allow teachers to take their PD into their own hands, choosing when and how long they spend on a learning objective.

Blended learning can also account for ability. A teacher who may only need to spend thirty minutes completing a task only has to spend thirty minutes, rather then sitting through a four-hour seminar after they've absorbed the information. Conversely, it allows teachers to revisit material, or spend more time on topics that interest them, and can act as a supplement to information learned in real-time.

Check out "Professional Learning Takes Time" from Education Week.

Accessibility

Accessibility to high-quality PD resources can be impacted by a district's location and funding. A rural school may have a harder time finding a local engaging speaker or workshop leader. A low-income school district may not be able to fund tech training for their staff, or be able to afford the necessary classroom equipment for implementation.

These real-life, tangible learning opportunities are invaluable, but sometimes they're simply inaccessible. Many teachers in these situations take advantage of virtual coaching, PLNs or other online resources to improve their teaching practice. Blended learning has innovated this online collaboration and accessibility, retooling these relationships to build comprehensive platforms that allow teachers and administrators to learn, share, and evaluate progress.

Teachers are thinking deeply about their practice and their profession. They're rewriting curricula, drafting new lesson plans, and sharing lessons online. Technology is expanding access to knowledge, innovation, instruction, and professional development in unprecedented ways. Technology is driving both greater equity and an increased focus on excellence. [...] I believe that geographic location should not dictate results. In America, poverty is not destiny—and neither is geography." -Arne Duncan, 2013

Evaluation

Imagine: Two hundred teachers attend an offsite, two-day workshop on effective classroom models. The following year, they take a course on social media and education. In the interim, administrators occasionally reinforce the learning by providing a link to a relevant article, or include the learning objective on teacher evaluations at the end of the year. Outside of that, the teachers may or may not engage in the material in their own time. In the end, how many of those educators were able to consistently implement what they learned in the classroom? How many of them were given the opportunity to demonstrate learning, or to ask the kinds of questions that inevitably arise when you delve further into uncharted territory?

Giving our imaginary district the benefit of the doubt, they did the best they could to expose their teachers to up-to-date research and tools. Or, maybe they simply book workshops to 'check the PD box' for the school year. Without evaluation, their intention is moot, because they'll never know if the time and resources invested in these workshops was worthwhile for teachers or student achievement.

The ability to evaluate progress is of the most significant inherent improvements of blended-learning PD. Platforms like Chrome Warrior give teachers and administrators the tools to evaluate learning: a gamified, evidence based system; the ability to assign peer reviewers who can provide feedback; and a forum for discussion and collaboration on missions and sorties. Learning is tracked, validated and visual with badging, and accessible by colleagues and administrators. So rather than saying, "I attended a conference on social media and education," teachers can point to concrete evidence of their engagement with the learning materials. So not only is blended learning ideal for administrators evaluating PD outcomes, but it builds a sort of "professional portfolio" for teachers as they learn.

Image attribution
Site: flickr.com [Image 1]

Blended-Learning PD: Minimizing Costs

A few weeks ago, we explored how blended learning PD platforms, like Alludo, can minimize classroom interruptions and their impact on student performance. Addressing and solving the common challenges of traditional "sit-n-get" professional development is a big part of our design process. We work closely with our partner districts to identify how we can keep improving our software: from delivery and content, to evaluation. One of the challenges identified by many of our partners is the cost associated with providing professional development, and knowing how best to invest in programs. With blended learning PD platforms, costs are upfront and transparent, and the results of the program are measurable.

Uncharted spending
Professional development spending is a nationwide challenge. Not necessarily that too much is being spent, but that too little is being done to track spending. "Because districts tend to characterize professional development as programming, they typically underestimate other investments in teachers’ knowledge and skills—such as how much they spend on salaries during hours teachers attend in-service workshops," says a report from Education Week. One district was reported to have over nine different offices overseeing how their PD funds were spent--without auditing the quality of these programs. National standards for PD don't exist--so the responsibility falls on districts to ensure that these funds are being spent in good faith. And the stakes are high--it's estimated that the top 50 largest schools in the country spend a combined $8 billion dollars on PD per year.

A return on investment
One of the biggest challenges associated with PD spending is knowing whether or not programs have had their desired effect. Did the teacher understand and absorb program objectives, and were they able to implement them in their classroom to improve student performance? The answer to this question is often "no," or even more often, "we don't know."

This of course, is not a reflection on educators, but rather a reflection on a system left unmeasured and unaccounted for. "'There’s a sense that teacher effectiveness matters, and we’ve got to help teachers improve in effectiveness, but we don’t necessarily know how. But districts are operating as though they do know how,'" said Marguerite Roza, a scholar at the Center on Reinventing Public Education in Education Week.

A 2015 study from The New Teacher Project found that despite professional development spending and initiatives, teacher performance rarely improves as a result. Again, this is not a reflection on educators--but rather an indication that there is a lack of understanding on a higher level.

"Where we have fallen short, as a field, is monitoring whether professional development efforts are really helping teachers improve their instruction—or even setting a clear vision of great instruction for teachers to work toward—and absorbing those results into future strategies. We’ve been too slow to evolve when things are not working," says the TNTP report.

Setting and measuring goals

"In reality, professional development should be viewed as a means to an end: better teaching practice and student achievement. As such, we should assign concrete, measurable goals to development initiatives and invest in those that actually produce the desired outcomes." -Dan Weisberg, 2015, TNTP

Not only can blended learning be less expensive to implement than traditional PD, but it can help districts collect data to determine whether or not their program is a good investment. Just as teachers evaluate their students' learning, districts and administrators are able to evaluate PD learning through collaborative online platforms. Evidence is submitted and reviewed in a constantly scaffolded environment. Teachers experience new content and tools firsthand, and engage with them to produce results--whether it be working with multimedia presentation software, or developing an online professional learning network. Learning is transparent: teachers and administrators can see their colleagues' progress through leaderboards and digital badges. With blended learning, time (and money) spent on professional development can return positive, measurable results.

October Reflection & No Hassle November

Out-of-the-Box October Reflection
October is coming to a close--and it’s only fitting that our reflection wrap-up should be as out-of-the-box as the last month has been!

  1. Use five words to describe your class in October.
  2. Name a song that illustrates your best teacher moment this month.
  3. Last chance! Do something you’ve never tried before in class--whether it’s a new way to present material, or a game you’ve always wanted to try out. Go for it!

No Hassle November
We know professional development isn’t always easy--that’s why next month is “No Hassle” November. We’ll focus on ways blended and online learning enrich and improve traditional PD programs and minimize districts' “pain points”--high costs, teacher absence, lack of assessment tools and resources. We’ll also share more information about our newest feature--and how it addresses a challenge facing districts who are implementing online programs like ours: allocating time and manpower to generate content.

We’ll take a look at this study on “High-Quality Professional Development for Teachers,” which looks at PD's "bad reputation" as well as "what states and districts are doing that is working, and what policies are in place to support effective teacher training activities."

What are some of professional development challenges your district is facing, and how are you responding to them?