Best In Tech 2010: Professional Development
Our expert reviewers share their best recommendations to help with your district's choices.
Thanks to the Internet, delivering professional development to your staff has become a lot easier.
Goal: We needed an organizational tool to track all of our professional development, and courses taken by my educators.
Response: Staff seems to do well, although it was initially hard to break from our former Department of Elementary and Secondary Education solution.
Learning Curve: The transition was fairly smooth. The designer configured the new website to work very similarly to the former product, which was very helpful.
How We Use It: We can now easily track all professional development opportunities in our district. On the district side, we are working to develop the system to its potential.
What's Next: Use the tracking system better throughout the district. —Rhonda Wingo
Goal: Our district needed a way to offer fluid and flexible delivery of our prioritized standards, pacing guides, and curriculum, as well as provide our 5,000 teachers a way to connect, collaborate, and communicate with each other and district experts.
Response: Our teachers loved the easy access to tools and curriculum and the ease of accessing their curriculum documents at home. Additionally, professional learning communities allowed them to be able to connect with their peers across our large district.
Learning Curve: We started with three professional development courses and quickly expanded; this year we have over 51 titles for teachers. Other departments quickly joined the movement.
How We Use It: We now offer online professional development courses throughout the year for all teachers, where they can earn recertification as well as graduate or in-service credits. —Jill Montoya
Goal: We needed self-paced SMART Board training for teachers to learn the basics, as well as advanced SMART Board features.
Response: Teachers enjoy being able to stop, go back and review, take notes, and try the new skills.
Learning Curve: It just took enrolling in the online courses with Blossom and then getting passwords and access. Having a SMART Board nearby to practice new skills is a good idea.
How We Use It: Teachers being trained now will become trainers for other teachers in district in-service programs. The training is vital for our continued use of whiteboards.
What's Next: All teachers will have a SMART Board available for use in their classroom beginning next school year. —John Orozco
Discovery Education Professional Development Services/Discovery Educator Network
Goal: We understood that giving teachers the latest digital content was not enough; we needed to train teachers how to use these tools to effectively improve student achievement.
Response: Following implementation of professional development across the district, we saw a significant improvement in elementary science scores on our statewide test.
Learning Curve: District trainers learned through webinars, face-to-face training, and hands-on work. After each training session, time was allotted for the trainers to return to their school to demonstrate to other teachers how to apply the tools they learned.
How We Use It: Teachers have developed digital study guides for the content on state assessments in science using resources from Discovery Education and video clips to anchor students' vocabulary development and experiences.
What's Next: We are continuing to improve capacity as teachers are beginning to become involved in the Discovery Educator Network, a community of educators around the globe, who are using Discovery Education tools and sharing ideas virtually. —Kelli Harris-Wright
Goal: We wanted to provide teachers and administrators with access to staff development opportunities that were standards-based and supported the academic curriculum. It needed to be flexible and collaborative, and reflect "best practices" strategies.
Response: PBS TeacherLine has given our staff development program another dimension by offering teachers flexibility in the format and a wide range of course choices. The technology courses have helped our teachers not only learn basic skills and strategies, but also integrate technology into daily classroom activities.
Learning Curve: Our teachers are able to access the coursework with very few problems. They find the online instruction convenient and like the fact they can access the courses from school or home.
How We Use It: We have seen teachers begin to integrate technology into daily activities and lessons, and to acquire new instructional techniques. Many of our teachers use PBS TeacherLine courses to attain +30 certification.
What's Next: We continue to seek ways teachers can find out what their peers are doing in classrooms and elsewhere, and bring back ideas that will work for their students. —Jayne H. Boswell
Goal: Our primary need was for teachers to feel comfortable using the SMART Boards and learn how to effectively integrate the boards' interactivity with the curriculum and the students.
Response: There was enthusiasm about our math intervention pilot, which used SMART Boards, and we wanted to expand. Teachers who volunteered to be a part of the pilot far outnumbered the teachers who did not want to participate.
Learning Curve: SMART educational consultants played an instrumental role in the success of the pilot by working closely with the district. They assisted in professional development sessions by modeling how teachers could create and modify SMART Notebook files to meet their needs.
How We Use It: Our district now has approximately 1,000 SMART Boards and 20 certified SMART Notebook trainers.
What's Next: Using the data we gained will allow us to continually improve our process. It has already proven successful. —Genith Crawford
Teachscape's High Yield Strategies
Goal: We could only provide so much training on our own, and we felt that an online program offered another option for our staff.
Response: Each year staff members choose the High Yield Strategies program option. Participants can either complete the program online or use it to supplement a book study of Marzano's Classroom Instruction That Works.
Learning Curve: The learning curve was almost non-existent. The overview of the programs gives all the training to quickly become comfortable. The templates and reflection activities make it easy for staff to discuss the effectiveness of the classroom strategies.
How We Use It: Teachscape's yearlong training for High Yield Strategies is one offering in our differentiated professional development program. Staff members implement strategies in daily classroom instruction and report findings to other participants.
What's Next: We will again offer this option to staff next year. We have also added the Classroom Walkthroughs program to our Teachscape library. —Lewis Stonaker
Goal: We searched for valid and credible web links to integrate more STEM–related lesson plans into our curricula.
Response: We discovered a wealth of content across the curriculum that allows us to use Thinkfinity exclusively.
Learning Curve: We looked at a variety of resources and continued to come back to Thinkfinity as the most sophisticated and comprehensive technological learning solution for us. We committed to training our faculty and expanding it into the daily fabric of instruction.
How We Use It: We use Thinkfinity as our main training and learning tool for teachers and students. Students can use Thinkfinity at home and there are also resources for parents.
What's Next: Our partnership with Verizon will help us to continue building and integrating Thinkfinity in our school. —Miguel J. Brito