Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Making Wise Decisions About Our Professional Development

In Special Education and ARRA Funding from EdTech Solutions - Teaching Every Student by Karen Janowski, she states, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to wisely invest in "high-quality" assistive technology and the professional development necessary to ensure effective integration and implementation due to the ARRA funding for special education.”

Another wonderful informational piece is The Council for Exceptional Children’s Questions & Answers: How the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Impacts Special Education and Early Intervention, It says that “The U.S. Department of Education has emphasized, however, that ARRA funds should be used for investments that can be sustained after ARRA funding expires, such as: Focused professional development…”

This reminds me of that old saying about Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. We need to make sure that we use this money wisely and that what we do with this one time money gives us a chance to grow after it is gone. We don’t need to throw our money away on things that will be obsolete before the year is out.

By focusing on professional development, we can help teachers learn to grow their own personal learning networks. In this way, the learning won’t end when the money stops. There are so many wonderful opportunities out there that actually don’t cost much or is free. Too many times we have become snobs about professional development and think that if we don’t pay a fortune for it, it can’t be worth anything. This past year I have attended many virtual seminars, live webcasts, attended conferences virtually and learned probably more than if I pay thousands of dollars to attend one thing. I hope school districts will wake up and encourage teachers to take advantage of these great opportunities.

Too many times I have gone to professional development that either didn’t apply to my subject area or was a waste of my time. I would like to see a day where teachers can be broken up into groups and attend a session that was really meaningful to them and where they can take the information and actually apply it to their classroom. There are so many recorded sessions that can be shown to the group and more are happening every day. For example, there is the K-12 Online Conference where all the sessions were recorded. Each session could be shown in different rooms and the teachers could choose which one would apply to them. Here is a keynote address that I recently heard live but it was recorded: Ustream from the 2009 Summer Faculty Institute at the University of Delaware. Keynote speaker: Alec Couros.

I have been lucky enough to develop a personal learning network where I can find out about these opportunities. I haven’t had to spend any extra money but it does take time. It takes time to develop my network and also teachers will need time to take advantage of the opportunities out there. All I have needed was my computer and an internet connection. Teachers could be given the choice of seeing these during school or on their own time, whichever is best for them. I really feel that once they start seeing these things, they will be as inspired and motivated as I am. Then teachers can take their knowledge and apply it to their classrooms.

Once districts and teachers can see how easy and relevant it is to develop a personal learning network which will help them get relevant professional development, it will get easier for many to find other opportunities. I believe that once the money stops, the learning will not. It won’t stop for the teachers and it won’t stop for the students. It is like planting a garden, and it will continue to grow.

I believe that we need to focus on professional development for teachers. Teachers need to speak out about their needs instead of waiting for someone to tell them what they need and then complain later that it isn’t what they need. What kind of professional development do you need? Do you have input in your district about this? If so, how do you do it? Do they listen? How can teachers get their districts to listen? Please share your ideas so that maybe we can make a difference in what happens with this funding.

Original image: 'Money!' by: Tracy O


Sarah Sutter said...

I put together a wiki with some resources for the staff in my building. Some of it is relevant to my district or Maine, but the online resources are certainly relevant for everyone.

I linked Alec Couros's presentation in the Building your PLN section of the wiki - it was a great overview.

loonyhiker said...

@Sarah I loved your wiki! Thank you for sharing your link. You had a lot of great information there.