The transition to student-centered learning can be a difficult time for educators. Teachers’ roles are changing, and even experienced educators can struggle to adapt to new classroom technology. Regularly scheduled, hands-on professional development resources are essential to a successful blended learning initiative, but traditional professional development can be costly and time consuming. Due to time and budgeting constraints, few districts are providing enough professional development resources to their teachers.
To help solve this growing professional development resources shortage, explore the three sources below. While these alternative professional development resources can’t replace immersive PD sessions, they offer additional support for teachers that are hesitant to buy-into a new tech program or administrators trying to become district technology leaders.
3 Low-Cost Ways to Grow Your Professional Development Resources
The second largest search engine, YouTube offers a host of free resources about using technology in the classroom. Consider making a playlist of how-to videos and webinars for your staff. Setting up a curated stream of PD content will allow you to efficiently share multiple videos with your district, ensure that all materials are consistent with your district’s mission and best practices, and prevent irritating ads from interrupting useful content.
Don’t know where to start? Check out YouTube Learning, a subsection of the site that’s home to thousands of educational videos. Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t differentiate between pedagogical and classroom videos, so you’ll have to do some digging to determine which videos are meant for students and which are useful professional development resources. Once you find a webinar or informational video that you think will be of value to your district’s educators, make sure to subscribe to the channel it was posted on to receive updates when similar videos are uploaded.
2. Collaborative Professional Development Resources
If you’re looking to enhance your PD program while saving some much needed funding, consider pairing with a nearby district for joint professional development sessions. There’s a learning curve to using technology in the classroom, but collaborative PD will expand your teachers’ learning community and allow educators to share skills, advice, and feedback across districts. Numerous studies have shown that collaboration and community bonds lead to better student outcomes. In a study of 120,000 K-6th grade teachers in New York City, researcher Carrie R. Leana found that teachers who collaborated with their peers were more likely to have high performing students. Leana writes, “Students showed higher gains in math achievement when their teachers reported frequent conversations with their peers that centered on math, and when there was a feeling of trust or closeness among teachers.”
For further proof that collaboration between districts and educators leads to student success, take a look at the work being done by Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools. The League is an application-based professional learning community of 73 forward-thinking districts and charter schools. Rather than starting from scratch with each new tech initiative, districts in the League replicate and build off each other’s success, saving valuable time and energy. The League boasts numerous success stories, including the unprecedented academic gains seen by the Elizabeth Forward and Avonworth School Districts.
Social media is one of the greatest and cost-effective professional development resources. It might seem counterintuitive to some, but many innovative administrators encourage their teachers to maintain active social media accounts. Twitter chats can be immensely valuable for teachers that want to learn how to effectively differentiate learning.
Finding an online community of likeminded educators can be an empowering experience for a teacher that wants to better use technology in his or her classroom. With hundreds of weekly chats built around topics such as special education, Webb’s depth of knowledge, and using technology in the classroom, teachers are bound to find the right learning communities for their unique academic goals.
If your staff doesn’t feel comfortable participating in a Twitter Chat, browsing popular education hashtags can be a great way to find blended learning think pieces, lesson plans, webinars, and other resources for professional growth.