By Hollyanna Bates
In a recent conversation with a colleague, we reminisced about the early years in our careers. Together we recanted tales of copier woes, overflowing file cabinets and the few tools available to connect students to the outside world. Flash forward to 2017: innovative classrooms share few resemblances with their earlier counterparts. As classroom instruction and technology has evolved, professional development models have undergone sweeping changes. Technology has dramatically shifted how teachers learn and grow and has also impacted when and how often educators engage in professional learning.
Darling-Hammond, Hyler and Gardner’s recent review of 35 studies of effective professional development included these components: content-focused, active learning, collaboration, models of effective practice, job-embedded coaching and expert support, feedback and reflection, and sustained duration. While technology advances cannot offer professional development which meets all of these elements, the collaboration, content-focused and models of effective practices are three strongholds offered by some forms of professional development offered through the Internet. Perhaps the most powerful feature of this form of learning is the time. School districts provide ongoing professional learning for teachers every year. The advantages of the learning opportunities described below are added to district-driven learning; teachers bettering their teaching on their own time, at home, with their interests driving what and how they learn.
Professional development in your pajamas is a phrase used to describe the experience of learning on a teacher’s own time, when it is most convenient for busy educators. Listed below are some short descriptions of tech-sourced professional development options with links to articles for greater detail.
Education podcasts are becoming a rich resource for learning and offer a way to capitalize on time in the car or while doing mindless tasks such as folding piles of laundry. For literacy-focused podcasts, two main groups produce podcasts from our favorite literacy experts. The Heinemann Channel can be found in the Podcast App while the Choice Literacy Podcasts can be found here. Both offer short, yet enlightening conversations which last anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Subscribing to a particular channel (for example, Teachers Ask Jen Saravallo), ensures that you will have content available when the need arises. Listening can happen in the car, while running, cooking or waiting for a plane.
If you cannot attend a literacy conference, because who can really make it to all the conferences, there are options to learn from home. Twitter feeds from the National Council Teachers of English and International Literacy Association conferences provide quotes from speakers, links to resources, provocative conversation, and reflection. Each year, participants at CCIRA Tweet content from sessions and luncheons. Use the hashtag #CCIRA18 at this year’s conference and capture your learning so that others may learn alongside you. Other unconference experiences include the Edcamp model. Described as participant-driven, the conference schedule and topics are decided by attendees when they arrive at Edcamp. Sessions are led by those in attendance. At the ILA conference last summer, a literacy Edcamp was designed for participants arriving a day early. Use the hashtag #edcampliteracy on Twitter to see photos and get a sample of what an Edcamp is all about. Edcamp.org provides a schedule of Edcamps in your area.
Facebook is new to the PD game but is gathering speed. While many engage in Facebook for personal use, there is another dimension. It starts with one article posted by a colleague. When that article is read, Facebook knows (yes, it’s freaky). Soon, more and more articles appear in your Facebook feed. The more professional articles, blogs, videos and book reviews that you click on, the more that appear in your feed. Facebook groups are another brand of professional development. Members of the groups are people who fit a certain profile or interest; most Facebook groups have thousands of members. One commonality between groups is a conversation about a topic with many voices and perspectives; resources and links are posted from those joining in. Some literacy-related Facebook groups to check out: Fountas and Pinnell Literacy Community, The Reading and Writing Strategies Community, Disrupting Thinking-Why How We Read Matters Book Club, Who’s Doing the Work?, Units of Study in Reading TCRWP, and the Book Whisperer Book Club.
Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M.E., Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.
Hollyanna Bates is a Past President of CCIRA and a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader/Literacy Coordinator in Summit School District in Frisco, Colorado.