Blended Professional Development Just Might Have Some Answers

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twitter-hashtags-social-mediaBlended Professional Development Just Might Have Some Answers

by Paul Moss, edmerger.com, and Terry Heick

Curating new and relevant content and tailoring it to their own, unique needs will become a key skill required by future teachers.

Why? Professional development becomes attractively cost effective in such a process, and money and budgets are powerful influencers for change.

Soon enough, large institutions will realize that the most effective professional development (PD) happens through networks, networks accessed through social media. More PD happens on Twitter for example in one night than a teacher is likely to get in a year through formal conferences and staff meetings.

Presently, departments of education around the world spend phenomenal amounts of money of professional development, yet many teachers for whom such development is “designed” for gain little from it, and are often left to their own device to self-direct their own improvement. To be clear, self-directed “training” is fine, provided it doesn’t occur while struggling against school and district-led training, one pulling in one direction, the other in another.

No matter the presenter, all teacher professional development must provide teachers with authentic and personalized opportunities to satisfy current theoretical understandings about their practice. It’s a logical sequence that when budgets are looking to be cut, expensive PD, when it can be gained elsewhere, will suffer the chop.

There are key questions for professional development moving forward in the 21st century:

1. What resources are considered acceptable, and why?

2. Are time requirements the ideal way to measure and credit training?

3. What role should teacher choice play in school training?

4. How can schools better leverage the social networks and curated resources teachers already have to direct school and district-wide PD?

5. How can we offer better teacher training in less time, for less money?

Blended Professional Development may have some answers.

The Definition Of Blended Professional Development

Blended Professional Development combines both physical and virtual interaction with content and networks.

Not all face to face conference style professional development is irrelevant. In fact, attending conferences can be incredibly inspiring and invigorating, not to mention oftentimes more in-depth. Face-to-face conferences and in-school training offer a level–or style–of interaction impossible to mimic through social media, or on blogs like TeachThought, Edutopia, and others.

But spending a day at a smaller scale workshop and taking in information over 7 hours that you could have received in 15 minutes from your couch at home just isn’t efficient, and when organisations configure a method to monitor personal, social media-based teacher improvement, we may never see such waste again.

Like personalized learning in classrooms, teacher training is also now accessible through, among other epiphanies, technology. In many ways, the future is about access. Whoever has access to the best networks, content, and technology wins. And the answer here isn’t always the school district or school itself.

As these institutions learn to give up control, they may see more training–more consistently–with less urging and direction on their part. But, like self-directed learning and project-based learning in the classroom, this means letting go, something schools seem increasingly hesitant to do as pressure increases, budgets are slashed, and technology evolves nearly out of control.