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5 ways to provide meaningful PD in an hour or less

In just five minutes or a lunch period, teachers can get a meaningful PD experience

PLCs-communitiesEd. note: Innovation In Action is a monthly column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education.

meaningful-pdDuring the past few years, there has been a major shift in instruction for students. We have figured out how to effectively reach them through engaging activities, allowing for student voice and choice. We have also seen a number of educators who are pushing this same shift in professional development.

I believe that it is absolutely necessary to engage teachers in professional learning that is relevant to their daily teaching while being able to provide numerous on-demand opportunities for professional learning. In order to meet the ISTE Standards for Teachers, teachers are asked to engage in professional growth and leadership opportunities. Furthermore, the high standards set by the ISTE Standards for both students and teachers demand that teachers be engaged, curious, and dynamic professionals. Teachers need and want new and valid approaches to PD.

This year, I have used and seen several models for PD that have truly engaged teachers and met the various needs of educators faced with certain time constraints. Here are just some of the ways to help reinvent professional learning in your district.

Tech-Mex Tuesday or Tech Tuesday

These sessions can be offered before, during, or after school as a way to entice teachers with a relevant tech topic as well as free food. Tech Mex Tuesday can be as simple as an overview of a website, like, paired with chips and dip. Teachers are able to learn about a great website or resource in a less formal, but more flexible, setting. Sessions can be offered on a weekly or monthly basis, providing an opportunity to share the latest app you’ve found or a clever new way to use an existing piece of technology.

Next page: PD in just five minutes

Lunch and learn

This works much like Tech Tuesday, giving teachers a relevant topic or resource during their lunch time. Believe it or not, many teachers are quite willing to volunteer their lunch period to learn about a new topic or instructional strategy. Have participants bring their lunch or order a pizza for those participating. Keep it informal and be sure to share a great resource or lesson idea that teachers can take back to their classroom immediately.

Edcamp as district PD

Earlier this year our district conducted our first Edcamp and the response among teachers and staff members was overwhelming. Our version of Edcamp gave educators choice in what they wanted to learn about, while providing strategies that were classroom ready the next day. Some teachers learned about the calming effects of yoga on students in the classroom, while many took advantage of sessions offered on various technology resources. Sessions are not too long, and educators are free to move around and explore at any time. In fact, we offered a variety of sessions led by district teachers who shared their expertise with grateful colleagues.

5 minute PD or 15 minute PD

Another idea that we have experimented with is finding even shorter timeframes to expand teacher knowledge. By sparing just five minutes, teachers can learn about a new resource or strategy in order to incorporate it into their classrooms. As we started implementing Google Apps for Education last year, we wanted to provide teachers with a quick resource to help guide them. We sent out five minute videos that explained how to use a particular feature or perform a certain function. The 15 minutes that teachers were required to be present before and after school also helped in regard to teacher training. When installing interactive projectors last year, we offered 15 minute PD, when teachers could quickly learn how to utilize a particular function of the interactive projector software, or even take a few minutes to explore a new website. Every little minute counts, and these informal sessions provided teachers with the support they needed in order to be successful.

Twitter chats

As many connected educators are aware, the benefits of Twitter as an on-demand form of PD are immeasurable. Our district recently took advantage of this, completing a book study of “Teach Like A Pirate” using a Twitter chat. Teachers new to Twitter were introduced to the concept of a Twitter chat, study questions were shared prior to the chat each week, and teachers joined on Monday evenings at 8 pm. The greatest benefit of the evening chat was that educators were able to join in from wherever they were—at the soccer field, in front of the TV, or even while on line at the grocery store (which actually happened on a few occasions).

In order for professional development to be effective, it must be designed to engage teachers on relevant topics that meet their various needs. Educators must take advantage of every opportunity to continue their professional learning, using non-traditional timeframes to develop their craft and practice.

Rich Czyz is director of curriculum and instruction for the Stafford Township School District in New Jersey and the co-founder of the Four O’Clock Faculty blog. He is on Twitter @RACzyz.

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