Introduction to the New Professional Development

There is a phenomenon going on that is changing the educational landscape as we know it. While systemic change is almost always going to be slow and evolutionary in nature, there are distinct pockets where innovation and growth are occurring at an ever-increasing pace on both individual, classroom, school, and district levels.

Educators are taking control of their own learning and their own destinies; they are literally reshaping the way that professional development has always worked. Professional development for educators has traditionally consisted of a few elements: expensive conferences, professional journals which can also be expensive,  professional literature, and meetings with other members of their staffs. None of these things have gone away. In fact, in many places, these are still the de facto standards when it comes to professional development.

Educators are innately resourceful, though. A skill that runs throughout many educators is the ability to whatever tools are at our disposal and adapt them to meet both our needs and the needs of our students. It has been obvious to many for a long time that technological tools can help open up a world of learning to students. What about the teachers’ learning, though? If our children are really going to get a good education, then all of our teachers need to always continue learning as much as they can, about themselves, about their ideas, about teaching, about their students, about their content, etc… It is vital that educators remain plugged in where they can get refreshed and renewed on a regular basis.

Many educators have, as I said, reclaimed control over their own learning. They are learning at an incredible pace all the time while collaborating with people literally all over the world. They are using social media to discuss best practices and innovative ideas with some of the best minds in education. They are planning, hosting, and attending free conferences to improve what they are doing. They are organizing and sharing their own knowledge. It is making a significant difference in the lives of their students. Over the course of the next few weeks, these posts will delve deeply into the why and how of this new professional development, which will be referred to as professional development 2.0.

The fact that this is happening in today’s educational climate is nothing short of amazing. The heart of a teacher is something awe-inspiring. Budgets are continually being cut all over the country. Positions are being cut, technology is being reduced, and class sizes are ever increasing. There is often no money for traditional professional development such as sending educators to conferences or hiring speakers to come to the districts. Top-heavy control from both state and national government is increasing and is trying to shift the focus of education; a teacher’s value may now be reduced to their students’ performance of a test.

Maybe it is precisely this climate that has forced educators to be so resourceful in trying to improve on their own. Many educators are realizing that they are not going to get the help they need from their school or their government, so they seek elsewhere. Do you know what they find? Educators are caring people who want to help others to grow. The community of teachers worldwide who spend countless hours of their own time to help each other improve is immense, thriving, and ever growing. Professional development 2.0 is not a trend; it is the future of the way we learn.

  • http://noeltigers.com wmchamberlain

    My district has decreed that professional development money may only be spent on things having to do with math or comm arts/reading. This has happened because the state demands unrealistic outcomes from inane testing. As you said, it is precisely this climate that forces the rest of us to find our own professional development. Good thing I have friends like you to provide it.

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    That is one of the major problems. My last district got rid of all PD money except for bringing teachers to central office a few times a year for test prep training. When I ran a TeachMeet in Nashville, all of the teachers that came from my district had to take personal/sick days because the district had no money for substitutes. I learned to host free conferences on the weekend after that.

  • http://www.froggyval.com valerie mcintyre

    Hello from UK jason. I am getting into personal learning network idea and will be sharing my efforts shortly with my head of languages colleagues in our SW region of UK. It sounds as if you have an even tougher time than us, but our County is facing big cuts and education will be bearing some of the brunt. I will follow your posts with interest as we will need to begin to work out our own salvation more and more here. Regards
    Valerie McIntyre

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Valerie,
    It is unfortunate, but it seems like schools often bear the brunt of budget cuts.
    I do encourage you, though, to start building you personal learning network. If you get chance, sign up for Twitter. It really is an awesome tool and there is a great community of supportive educators. If you need any help, you can find me at http://twitter.com/jasontbedell.

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  • http://ilearntechnology.com ktenkely

    We need to pass the revolution on to our students. We need to be models of how to be a learner and talk about it often. I do believe education is headed for big changes in the near future. It will be exciting to watch!
    ktenkely´s last blog post ..Bloom’s Taxonomy Bloomin’ Pinwheel

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