Rethinking Professional Development in the 21st Century

I have been contemplating recently about the state of professional development in schools. The term “professional development” generally evokes a conference or a workshop/institute held outside of the school’s facilities and run by an external organization and attended by educators from several other schools, locally, regionally, or nationally. In the 21st century, I wonder if we need to broaden our horizons beyond this model and consider on-demand, realtime professional development. I’ve written previously about using Twitter as professional development; there have also been several newspaper articles and blog entries on the subject too. But Twitter still resides externally and is primarily about engaging educators working outside your immediate school facility.

How can we provide professional development in-house and one that’s on-demand and in realtime?

If I have a question as a Language Arts teacher about accommodating a student who has been recently diagnosed with expressive and receptive language disorder, then who, where, and how could I access the training I would clearly need immediately to work most effectively with that student? What are the different possibilities to structure that training? How about ongoing support? Frequently, teachers in such situations would turn to their Learning Center (if they have one) and ask for resources and tips on any accommodations/modifications to structure in the classroom and on homework for that student. However, is that enough, and what has the teacher absorbed about how that student best learns if they have simply been given a list of reading materials and strategies to use?

We have been experimenting this year at ACDS with providing such on-demand and realtime professional development to our 1:1 iPad Pilot teachers. It has been relatively easy to schedule trainings given that the pilot has only covered one grade level. However, as we expand the 1:1 iPad initiative to the rest of our middle school next year, scheduling ongoing trainings and providing realtime support could prove to be more difficult. I hope to share more about our approach this year in future posts, and what benefits have accrued as a result of keeping the iPad and curriculum training in-house, versus sending our teachers to workshops and conferences.

Does your school do something unique or innovative with professional development? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Rethinking Professional Development in the 21st Century

  1. Nishant,

    I am actually on the path of developing a very different approach to PD; it will be one of my main focuses in the year to come. Based on input from a very small but selective group of schools, we are looking to put together an interscholastic working consortium to leverage our respective interests in program development focused on 21C (Nth C) skills. Had hoped to have the initial quantum of 8-10 schools be this summer but got a late start; anticipate we will be active by next summer. If you and others are interested, you can contact me for more info.


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