We flipped professional development and our teachers loved it

A district built a learning network for teachers and saw PD participation increase 600 percent

Learning cultures have no doubt shifted for students in most K-12 public schools. With new one-to-one initiatives, blended learning, online courses, project-based learning, one could argue that students are now more prepared than ever before for the 21st century. But what about teachers?

How are teachers learning to operate as professionals in the 21st century? Most teachers rely on traditional professional development methods like guidebooks on curriculum implementation or face-to-face. lecture-style settings, the gist of which is “Tell me something and maybe I will do it.” Other teachers, though, strive for more dynamic personalized learning opportunities (like the ones our students receive). So, how is it that we are preparing our students for the 21st century with a sense of urgency, but when it comes to quality learning for teachers, many school districts do not practice what they preach?

There are many theories of why we use words like collaboration, creativity, and communication with students, but we judge and evaluate our teachers with words like individual assessments, standards, and individual accountability. Maybe it is the fault of a “system” that places high expectations for teachers to teach 21st-century skills, but only be evaluated on 20th-century learning outcomes.

The reality is that when teachers move away from the front of the classroom and hand some of the control of the learning process over to students, students become more active learners. The process of learning moves to the forefront, and the act of obtaining points or scores takes on a lesser role. The more teachers interact with students individually, the more informal, formative assessment can take place. Also, struggles that can lead to students simply giving up on their homework can be diagnosed and corrected by the teacher, allowing the student to progress in his work and ensuring understanding of the material.

In a flipped class, the first benefit comes in the recovery of class time. We recognize this to be true for our students, so how can we apply this same principle to professional development?

Next page: The platform that flips PD

During the 2015–2016 school year, the Montour School District in Pennsylvania flipped professional development to create a robust and innovative digital network called the Montour Learning Network (MLN) for EdTech and Innovation. The MLN’s vision is modeled after Pittsburgh’s Remake Learning initiative, a professional network of educators and innovators working together to shape the future of teaching and learning in the Greater Pittsburgh Region. MLN will serve as a resource to shape the future of teaching and learning based upon Montour’s newly written Core Values. All staff members can access the network individually to read articles about learning innovation, browse upcoming ed tech events and opportunities, and connect with other network members within the Montour School District. (Check out this video to learn more about how MLN works.)

Since the creation of the MLN, digital professional development participation has increased 600 percent. Through weekly updates within the entire district, the MLN engages teachers through a wide variety of support networks, including Google for Educators, EdTech Resources, Social Media, Digital Citizenships, Tech Support, Innovation Zone, and more.

Montour School District recognizes that the number one resource we have is each other. Montour is filled with talented staff members doing extraordinary things for children every day. District leaders honor and respect the staff’s time by providing asynchronous professional development. Through the MLN, Montour has established a Digital Badge reward system that enables teachers to share and learn from each other. The goal of awarding these Digital Badges is to create a community of professionals to promote a growth mindset and support a learning culture while working together. To date, Montour teachers have earned numerous internal badges in a wide range of competencies including Digital Citizenship, EdPuzzle, ClassFlow, GAFE, Flipped Learning, and many more.

With MLN, the district has created the same sort of learning environment for its teachers that it delivers to its students. Flipping our professional development gives our valued educators the freedom to learn on their own time and review material as often as they need. Having so much information at their fingertips also makes their interactions with school and district leaders more productive. Now that their PD has moved into the 21st century, all of our teachers are better prepared to pass along those 21st-century skills to their students.

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