Using eLearning tools to maximize summer PD

Denise Douglas-Faraci, EdD, shares useful advice to help teachers maximize summer Professional Development

professional-developmentSchool’s out for summer, and what better time for teachers to continue their education through professional development programs?

Between travel plans, family commitments, and taking a well-deserved break, it can be a nuisance for teachers to report in-person for professional development programs.

eLearning options, however, offer teachers the chance to virtually engage in active learning collaborations and without the confines of a classroom, online professional development gives teachers access to peer-learning, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and digital citizenship opportunities (Aoun, 2011; Boulos & Wheeler, 2007; ISTE NETS for Students, 2007).

Not to mention, several studies have reported that e-Learning professional development provides additional options for teachers to update skills and knowledge that they can then apply to instructional practices (Santovec, 2004; Smith, Clark, & Blomeyer, 2005).

Maximizing summer professional development

Effective teacher professional development meets the following characteristics: collaborative, sustained, results-oriented, and standards-driven, embeds in teacher instructional practices, and promotes deep understanding of new topics to expand expertise. Additionally, teachers should seek out professional development programs that target curriculum to affect student achievement, and enhance teaching practices.

Summer eLearning professional development should align with professional standards, address individual learning styles, and promote collegial discussions and creations in a virtual environment. Of course the goal of these programs is implementation of e-Learning knowledge into instruction. A relationship should exist between the variety of e-Learning tools and various learning styles, creation of activities that align with professional standards, and the presence of collaboration and interaction.

(Next page: How to use summer PD eLearning tools)

How to use summer PD eLearning tools

Wikis, Google tools, social media, shared bookmarks, tag clouds, podcasts, and streaming video that teachers either construct or access are examples of Web 2.0 e-Learning tools that educators can use to collaborate on curriculum planning and maximize professional development during the summer.

A Wiki can be a tool for content writing collaborations. Teachers can select and securely set up a Wiki tool such as PB Wiki or Wet Paint, for example. Teachers can grant access to others to change content or just to read content. Teachers participating in the Wiki can collaboratively create content such as a thematic unit plan or a lesson plan. This is ideal for cross-curricular lesson plans born of collaboration between history, fine art, and English Language Art content specialists, for example.

Teachers can access word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software in Google Drive to create and share content. They can work from different locations asynchronously or synchronously editing content in real-time. Work products are stored in the cloud and accessible from anywhere by those with access privileges.

  • Social Media

Teachers can share content with designated recipients on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. During the summer, as individual teachers discover or create interesting content, a link can be shared via Twitter or Facebook.

  • Social Bookmarking Tools

Once teachers create or locate interesting web based resources, they can share the URLs by using a bookmarking tool such as or Google Bookmarks.

Teachers can use a tag cloud generator such as Wordle or TagCrowd to create visually appealing text. The tag cloud can embed on a wiki, web page, or other web-based applications.

  • Streaming Media

Teachers can create videos or podcasts to share with peers and students. Audacity is a free online tool to create audio tracks that for podcasts and then upload the file to PodOmatic, for example. Many computer operating systems include movie-making software. Teachers can create Power Points and convert the file to a movie. Teachers can upload movie files to Teacher Tube or You Tube and share via a blog, website, wiki, social media, or a social bookmark.

(Next page: eLearning standards to consider)

Qualities teachers should look for when using eLearning tools

Teachers might look at the International Society for Technology in Education’s NETS Standards to inform the design and development of curricular activities and inform e-Learning tool choices. Other professional standards to consider may include:

  • The American Psychological Association (APA) Learner-Centered Psychological Principles, 1997;
  • The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (2001);
  • The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) Standards for Staff Development (2001a) and Standards for e-Learning Professional Development (2001b); and
  • The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Standards for Online Staff Development, 2004.

Teacher professional development in the summer can be authentic, engaging, flexible, meaningful, and productive. The best professional development activities align with professional standards and produce changes in instructional practices in the classroom.

Denise Douglas-Faraci, EdD, serves as an adjunct professor and a course lead at Kaplan University.

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