There's always room for even the best teachers to learn a few new things.
If you don't believe us, consider this: Few things highlight the need for deep, quality professional development like the hiccups experienced during rollouts of Common Core State Standards and 1:1 device deployments. And that's just the tip of the PD iceberg.
Luckily, a number of solutions are available to both simplify and enhance the delivery of teacher training — several of which were on display at the 2014 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference.
1. Knowledge Delivery Systems
A leading professional development platform, Knowledge Delivery Systems at ISTE debuted its new Professional Learning Platform. The all-in-one platform features comprehensive content, social collaboration, and personalization tools, which it uses to recommend videos and topics.
PLP will begin its rollout in districts including Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as the state of New Mexico. The company also raised $9.8 million from investors including Edison Ventures earlier this year, and is partnered with the National Education Association and University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education.
CEO Alvin Crawford has made scaling deep, effective PD across the board — whether it be Common Core, diverse learners, or 1:1 deployments — a priority for KDS since joining the company in 2009. "What we need to see as a trend is a deeper level of professional development," he told us at ISTE. "That's probably more of a frustration that we have. People are rolling out 1:1 laptop initiatives and then giving teachers 6 1/2 hours of training, and that's it. Those are things that we'd like to see changed just because, in order to have an impact on practice, you're going to have to go much deeper."
"This platform that we're launching this week is an extension of that. So that strategic PD covers more formal professional development, and this is more informal, collaborative work that teachers do together."
Some Education Dive readers may already be familiar with LearnZillion. We've previously reported on the 97-teacher "Dream Team" they helped assemble in Connecticut this April, they're an ed tech startup investors love, and they were one of our 15 cool tech tools from the Education Industry Association's Ed Tech Demo Fair in February.
If this is the first time you've heard of the company, though, here's the deal: LearnZillion was founded by a former principal and a former teacher as a professional development and lesson planning resource for educators in grades 2-12. Among its offerings: More than 3,600 Common Core-aligned math and English language arts lessons designed by top teachers from around the country (i.e., the aforementioned "Dream Team").
At ISTE, the company announced the launch of LearnZillion Premium. Prior to the announcement, almost all of the company's content was free. "Up until now, we've provided thousands of primarily video lessons, but also resources that go with those lessons," said Co-founder and CEO Eric Westendort, also a former principal at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. "What we've learned is that teachers are also really interested in the whole lesson plan, and so LearnZillion Premium provides the full set of lesson plans that model high-quality instruction, and then also provides the means for developing your own high-quality lesson plans."
Are there plans to expand the PD offerings beyond Common Core to, say, the Next Generation Science Standards?
"We will get to that," said Westendorf. "As a relatively small organization, there's capacity constraints, so we need to do things really, really well and then we'll move in that direction. We also want to do pre-K through first grade, which we don't right now have, so we're excited about those things."
3. Pearson Review360
Review360, meanwhile, is a student behavior management platform. Acquired by Pearson two years ago, the platform was developed by University of Houston child psychologists who wanted to develop best practices allowing teachers and administrators to be more proactive in improving student behavior.
Review 360's Dr. Rosemarie Allen, a psychologist and former associate superintendent of student services and special education in Dallas Independent School District, told us that the whole focus is on making sure that technology is used effectively to put "what we know are great practices — evidence-based, research-based practices to improve student behavior" in the hands of educators.
One aspect of the platform includes professional development content for behavior management. Administrators can assign this content to teachers and can view how far they have progressed. Principals also have their own PD content and can track office referrals through the platform — which can additionally be broken down by student ethnicity and even which teacher is sending the most kids to the office. Additionally, there's a universal screening assessment that teachers can give to students, as well as an intervention plan development tool for those who are struggling with behavior.
Founded in 1995 by husband-and-wife duo Lynda Weinman (a teacher and author) and Bruce Heavin, Lynda.com's video course library was taken online in 2002. Membership is $25.00 a month for single users and grants access to over 2,700 videos, with 10-12 new courses released each week. The company has sold and packaged to multi-user groups for five years now, initially targeting the higher ed market (they're in 40% of U.S. universities, including eight of the nine Ivy League schools), though it is now developing and selling courses in the K-12 market, as well.
To facilitate professional development uses, the site has also implemented new features: Learning matrixes that present courses taken or in progress in an easy-to-view manner, text transcripts, and the ability to search for content specifically in an earmarked "education" category. If it's rolled out for staff development, administrators can curate course playlists for faculty and staff.
"When a software migration happens, like when people adopt a new software program in a school district like Office 365, they've spent X dollars getting the software and now they need the training in place to make sure they can maximize on the investment they've already made," said Syed.
This can also hold true for deployments of devices like iPads. "It's really great to get the technology, but there's not a tool as easily well-used to actually teach them how to use it. We have specific courses that show teachers how to use an iPad in the classroom, how to set up training with a course, different things like that," said Sr. Manager of Global Events Lauren Lochtefeld. "That's kind of where we're a great fit, to help them with that aspect."
The videos can also be used for "just-in-time" training, when faculty or staff need a quick lesson or refresher on presentation software or other tools.