Professional development offerings for the new school year

The key to improving student achievement is to make sure teachers get the professional development they need to be successful.

Ed-tech tools are only as effective as the teachers who are using them—and the real key to improving student achievement is to make sure teachers get the professional development they need to be successful. With that in mind, here’s a roundup of new and noteworthy staff development services for the new school year.

Before districts can deliver staff development that is targeted and highly effective, they must identify each teacher’s areas of need. That requires a sound teacher evaluation system, something the Utah-based company Truenorthlogic knows about.

Truenorthlogic was founded in 2000 as iAssessment, which offered a customizable online program for teachers to self-rate their skills against a technology teaching rubric. The results of this self-assessment generated a recommended path for professional growth tied to teachers’ specific levels of understanding.…Read More

Professional development app helps schools personalize training

Observation 360 is currently available on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

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.…Read More

$1.5M grant jump-starts teacher development hopes to improve teaching by providing on-demand, one-to-one support for math teachers starting this year., which connects students with live tutors online for tutoring in math, science, social studies, and English, is the largest online tutoring and homework help service available—and, with help from a $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the company is expanding its horizons to help teachers as well.

Thanks to the grant, awarded last November, the company hopes to help improve U.S. teaching by offering an innovative new professional development model that will provide on-demand, one-to-one support for math teachers starting this year.

Approximately 200 algebra teachers from selected schools will be able to access the service beginning in September 2011 and running through December 2012. Participating teachers will be able to connect with online teaching coaches for on-demand, one-to-one live help from Sunday through Thursday, 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time. Coaches will be standing by and will provide live help within minutes of a teacher request, says.…Read More

Survey: Staff development is top ed-tech challenge

CTOs ranked planning as their highest professional development need, followed by instruction, policy, and leadership.
School district CTOs ranked planning as the top professional development need for themselves, followed by instruction, policy, and leadership.

Making sure staff members have the professional development they need to ensure effective 21st-century teaching and learning is the top challenge facing school district chief technology officers (CTOs), according to a survey that queried more than 50 Illinois school district CTOs.

The survey, titled “The Challenges and Professional Development Needs of the District Technology Leader,” was conducted by the Illinois Chief Technology Officers (ILCTO), a nonprofit organization that helps CTOs in “realizing their [school districts’] visions and goals for the effective, secure, and rapid implementation of instructional technology and operational information technology.”

According to the organization, a district CTO “could be an administrator, manager, or teacher who has responsibility for technology operation across a school district.”…Read More

West Virginia looks to Second Life

West Virginia educators can now turn to Second Life for professional development.
West Virginia educators can now turn to Second Life for professional development.

On Dec. 21, 2009, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) launched a definitive online resource for potential and current educators in West Virginia called Teach West Virginia. The WVDE uses this resource to educate teachers and the public about our 21st century learning program, Global21: Students deserve it. The world demands it. In addition, the web site provides information on available routes into the teaching profession within West Virginia. The WVDE projects that a large number of the state’s educators may reach retirement eligibility over the next decade as West Virginia is home to one of the nation’s oldest teaching work forces.

Teach West Virginia looks to be a part of the answer to this potential pitfall as it focuses on recruiting educators by providing potential candidates with fully interactive maps that display the approved teacher preparation programs and job opportunities throughout the state. It also features an interactive menu that lists the West Virginia professional teaching standards and most of the state’s certification requirements. Professional development resources are located within the “Ways to Grow” section that includes information about National Board Certification, advanced credentials and free eLearning courses offered to teachers employed within West Virginia for the purpose of certification renewal and specialized training.

Within this new resource, the WVDE has developed a unique and groundbreaking virtual world on the internet’s largest 3D virtual community, Second Life. This world is being created through a partnership with West Virginia University’s College of Human Resources and Education. Pamela Whitehouse, assistant professor of Instructional Design and Technology, is directing the production of a virtual space for Teach West Virginia, which showcases many of the things that are unique and wonderful about teaching in the Mountain State.…Read More

Arkansas TIEs into technology training

Arkansas teacher-educators learn new ed-tech skills to pass on to their colleagues.
Arkansas teacher-educators learn new technology integration skills to pass on to their colleagues.

How do you get a whole state integrating technology effectively into teaching and learning? How do you get teachers excited about using new technology and saying things like, “This training gave me the shot in the arm I needed and truly stirred my soul”? Believe it or not, it’s happening in Arkansas.

Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative (SWAEC) has been receiving a federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grant since the 2006-07 school year. Lindy Franks, director of the co-op, and I wrote the grant to fund a statewide cadre of expert practitioners who can provide high-quality technology professional development. This group is called the Technology Infused Education (TIE) Cadre and is currently composed of four teacher-trainers from each of the 15 education service centers in the state. The cadre trains teachers how to integrate instructional technology into their classroom, and it trains administrators on what instructional technology should look like when used effectively.

“The TIE program in Arkansas exemplifies how the appropriate use of educational technology can improve academic achievement by supporting teachers in their continuing quest to identify ways of focusing instruction on students’ individual learning styles,” says James Boardman, director of education technology for Arkansas.…Read More