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Personalizing Your PD

By Willona M. Sloan
 | Aug 16, 2017

Personalizing Your PDBudgets for professional development (PD) have been shrinking for years despite the fact that no one denies the critical importance of PD for educators’ success. These days, in order to continue their professional learning, many teachers have to get creative.

Thankfully, there are several budget-friendly options that literacy educators can rely on, even when faced with limited funding.

Digital tools

Digital platforms make it easy to connect with anyone, anywhere, build a professional learning network (PLN), and get the learning you need when you need it.

Coaching

Using cloud coaching, or virtual coaching, school districts can provide differentiated PD for literacy educators. “At a time when school districts may not have the resources to hire a full-time instructional coach or afford ongoing professional development, cloud coaching is an effective and innovative alternative to reduce teacher stress and empower literacy leadership,” says Julie Wise, literacy coach, consultant, and member of ILA’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group.

School districts are using free platforms such as Skype and Google Hangout, or low-cost options such as Zoom and GoToMeeting, to provide teachers with access to support coaches as well as authors, experts, and other educators.

Another trend is the hybrid online course/coaching support package. This can include the coach assessing educators’ videotaped lesson plans and offering timely feedback. Without the need for travel costs, substitute teachers, or any of the other traditional PD expenses, these options open up new avenues.

Collaboration

Free digital tools that allow for collaboration are trending for good reason. For example, Wise notes that some districts have started using Google Classroom to create online PD sessions where educators can post their assignments and lesson plans, upload student samples, and engage in ongoing discussions.

Twitter is a powerful tool for motivated educators and a great way to build and converse with PLN members. Literacy educators are participating in ILA’s #ILAchat as well as #engchat and #titletalk, and even starting their own hashtags. Educators also use messaging apps like Voxer and Slack for sharing articles, podcasts, and other resources.

“The trend is virtual, online professional development,” Wise says. “We’re talking about differentiated, on-demand professional development where teachers are actually able to select the specific support that they need, whether it’s one-on-one coaching, someone watching and observing them, or working with an entire group of people.”

Micro-credentialing

Many school districts don’t have funding to pay for educators to earn new credentials. Enter micro-credentialing, a new way of valuing the experience and professional learning educators have achieved.

Educators can choose from more than 250 micro-credentials that explore different competencies and prepare the required evidence for evaluation to demonstrate mastery of the selected competencies.

One organization that offers micro-credentials is the nonprofit Digital Promise. “Micro-credentialing is a professional learning tool that recognizes educators for the skills they develop that are critical to effective teaching,” says Digital Promise’s Jennifer Kabaker, director of Educator Micro-credentials. “Micro-credentials support educators who are committed to continuous professional learning and Digital Promise is working with districts and states across the country to incorporate micro-credentials into professional development structures.”

Digital Promise uses the BloomBoard platform to offer its micro-credentialing. Using the platform is currently free, and literacy-focused micro-credentials include Introducing Digital Literacy Tools and Media Literacy.

Edcamps

Edcamps aren’t new, but they remain a growing trend for teachers who want to take control of their learning. The events are free, teacher-led, and entirely participant-driven. Edcamp Literacy was part of the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits! Learn more here.

Shannon Montague felt so fired up by the first Edcamp she attended that she co-founded Edcamp Baltimore in 2012. “[Edcamps] have been an ongoing trend because they’re clearly something that is working for professionals,” says Montague, middle school dean of students at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, MD, and an Edcamp Foundation board member.

Last summer, Edcamp Maryland hosted an ELA/literacy-focused event that addressed topics such as guided reading and rotations for primary grades, inclusion and differentiation, and student publishing.

“If you trust in your teachers and you believe in your teachers, then you should let them be in control of their learning,” says Colby Sharp, a third-grade teacher at Parma Elementary School in Michigan and a cofounder of nErDcamp, an Edcamp offshoot. “We have to empower teachers to be great and give them an opportunity to learn about the things that they’re passionate about.”

Find what works for you

These trends prove that no matter what your budget, there is some form of PD available to fit your needs. Self-directed literacy educators can build their skills by taking advantage of any of these low-cost PD options or taking one of the ideas and tailoring it specifically to their school’s needs.

Wilona SloanWillona M. Sloan is a writer, editor, and literary host from Washington, DC. She has written for numerous publications, covering topics in K–12 education


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