With budget cuts slashing districts’ ability to provide intensive professional development for their educators, PD 360 and its mobile component Observation 360 are offering schools a way to access learning resources quickly and easily.
“[PD 360] is basically an on-demand professional development system, so it has a series of video segments that cut across a huge array of topics for teachers, stemming from teaching reading, to classroom management, to differentiated instruction,” said Mary Esselmann, assistant superintendent of professional development, assessment, and accountability in the Kansas City, Mo. school district. “It pretty much runs the whole gamut,” she said.
PD 360 offers more than 200 hours of research-based video content, as well as tools for follow-up, tracking, reflection, and group training. Observation 360 is tightly integrated with PD 360 and allows for effective classroom observation and walkthroughs.
“We use it on our iPad, and you can also use the web-based version,” Esselmann said. “When schools are using peer-to-peer, they can [use it to] input the observations directly,” she said.
Esselmann said that the programs’ custom template ability was a major bonus for her district.
“We actually have a standard observation template that’s aligned to our teacher evaluation…and all of our teachers and schools are built into it,” she said. “It’s just a matter of touch, touch, touch. You touch the school, you touch the teacher, you bring up the template you need, go through the walkthrough, and it allows for comments you can immediately upload or save for later,” Esselmann said, adding that the data then provides for an immediate district read of how well teachers are performing in terms of key standards.
PD 360 is currently used by more than 600,000 educators, and some schools, like South Garland High School in Garland, Texas, note that teacher retention increased after the introduction of the professional development software. Teachers can access the video components during collaborative sessions or at home.
“A lot of teachers use it in areas that they want to grow in personally or they just want to know more about, so it’s been a pretty good tool for us,” said Esselmann.
The flexibility of use has proved a boon for Esselmann’s district.
“Given the limited time we have for professional development as a group, whether it’s at the school level or across content areas, it provides a really good way for us to individualize professional development at the level of the individual teacher as well as at the school level in terms of goals,”
She said originally, school leaders expressed concern over whether the new technology would catch on, but during the first year, more than 45,000 segments were viewed.
“I’d say almost 85-95 percent of teachers in any building have accessed the system, so we’re quite pleased with the use,” Esselmann said.
The mobile software also lets teachers and administrators upload their own videos.
“It actually has that flexibility, so we’re not only able to access the full library of PD 360, but we can also access our own custom video bank,” Esselmann said.
Observation 360 currently works on the Apple iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.