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Professional development and professional learning aren’t the same thing—learn what elevates professional learning to the next level.

What makes professional learning actually work?

Professional development and professional learning aren’t the same thing—learn what elevates professional learning to the next level

“Don’t call it professional development—call it professional learning.” Jill Abbott, senior vice president and managing director at SIIA, made this statement in a recent edWebinar.

Additional panelists Jeff Mao, CEO of Edmoxie; Bruce Umpstead, director of state programs at IMS Global Learning Consortium; and Ilya Zeldin, founder and CEO of 2gnoMe, recommended that educational leaders take a deep breath and recognize that there is a crisis happening in our districts.

Related content: How to deliver PL that really works

There are vast quantifies of people who could be the best teachers ever, yet they don’t want to be in the profession. It is not easy for teachers to thrive and to grow when teacher professional learning is irrelevant, generic, and unsustainable.

A familiar comment from teachers regarding district or school-wide professional learning is, “Well, we’re just going to ride this one out because it is going to change in two years or when we get a new administrator.” The panelists suggest that if “we can get the professional learning piece done collaboratively with teachers, not at teachers, maybe we can retain and recruit highly qualified engaging and innovative educators.”
Effective models of professional learning

The first goal of effective teacher professional learning models is understanding who teachers are and what needs they have. This approach can enable administrators to differentiate to meet the needs of all their teachers.

Professional learning opportunities need to be designed with agency, fidelity, contextual learning, relevancy, and sustainability. When given agency, teachers understand the what, why, and how so they can genuinely embrace what they are learning and put those skills to use in their classroom instruction.

Challenges of professional learning

Professional learning defined as one-hit wonders with hour-long speaker presentations and all-day workshops leaves teachers unequipped to implement best practices and personalized learning opportunities for their students. The challenge for school and district leaders is recognizing that this model is professional development and not professional learning.

Professional learning opportunities are puzzles that include establishing knowledge bases, developing skills, instilling trust, and belief in the process and, most importantly, allowing time for practice. The biggest challenge for leaders is how to integrate all the puzzle pieces into authentic learning experiences that support teachers in making changes that impact student learning.

Technology and professional learning

Whether face-to-face, virtual, or both, technology has the potential to personalize professional learning for teachers. It gives voice and choice to the learners in terms of learning through activities that are meaningful, relevant, driven by interests, and many times self-initiated. Being able to connect to individuals in and outside of the district through webinars, voice chats, or phone calls lends itself to teacher agency. This gives teachers the capacity to have choice and voice versus canned and generic professional development programming where one size does not fit all.

The bottom line is if we as school and district leaders are asking our teachers to recognize and personalize learning for the students, isn’t it about time to do the same thing for them?

About the presenters

For over 20 years, Jill Abbott has been a leader and visionary in education. She currently serves as the senior vice president and managing director of the education division of SIIA. Most recently, she founded Abbott Advisor Group and focused on providing strategic planning and visioning and policy development for the role of educational technology in education innovation and transformation for federal and state governments, businesses, and non-profits. Previously, she was the CEO of Continuum Education, associate executive director and COO for the SIF Association, eLearning Strategist and Education Liaison for the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio SchoolNet, chief learning officer for para instructional designs, regional curriculum director for 9 school districts, and a classroom teacher.

Jeff Mao is an education technology leader with over 25 years of experience. He was the Learning Technology Policy Director for the Maine Department of Education for ten years and was directly responsible for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), the state’s 1:1 student computing program. He served on the Board of Directors of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) for six years including two as Chair of the Board. After leaving state service, Jeff was a Senior Director for Common Sense Media’s education division. And before that, an advisor for Future Ready Schools and has moderated and presented numerous Future Ready’s Summits and Institutes. He has been recognized by EdScoop (EdTech Hero, 2017), SETDA (Leader of the Year, 2013), and Common Sense Media (Educator of the Year, 2012).

In 2018, Bruce Umpstead joined IMS Global to engage State Education Agencies (SEAs) in the important work of data interoperability and drive adoption of the CASE Network of Competencies & Academic Standards (CASE®). Before joining IMS Global, Bruce worked as an Edtech data analytics consultant after a brief tenure at the big data analytics company Brightbytes. From 2007 to 2013 Bruce served as the state director of educational technology and data coordination with the Michigan Department of Education. Bruce holds an M.B.A and B.A. in public administration from Michigan State University.

Ilya Zeldin is the founder and CEO of 2gnoMe (To know me), an award-winning platform that puts teachers at the center of their professional development. The platform is content-agnostic and inter-operable with any learning management system and any learning framework or set of standards. For admin-level leaders and coaches, 2gnoMe clarifies who needs what kind of learning in the first place, to personalize the learning experience for every teacher – at a massive scale – and measure its usefulness and impact. Before 2gnoMe, Ilya led several technology start-ups and managed the global cloud program at Dell Software.

About the host

Joyce Whitby is a lifelong educator who spent over 10 years teaching graduate-level courses in educational technology at Long Island University, wherein 1984 she developed the T.E.A.M. program (Telecommunications, Education, and Multimedia). Since then, Joyce has been in the business of educational technology with key roles in professional development, marketing, and sales leadership. In 2017, Joyce and her husband (aka @tomwhitby, co-founder of #edchat) launched their own consulting business working with small- to medium-sized innovation companies seeking growth in revenue and market share,

Join the community

New Models for Professional Learning is a free professional learning community on that explores how technology has enabled a new world of personalized professional learning that is more collaborative and responsive to the needs of educators.

This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by 2gnoMe, the recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

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