As technology in the K-12 classroom continues to grow exponentially, educators are challenged to stay up-to-date with EdTech and harness its potential.
However, according to Carrie Fruin, a Minnesota public high school teacher of 25 years and leader in educational technology, there has never been a better time to be a classroom teacher.
“With the technology and tools at our disposal, we can grade faster, self grade, flip assignments, and focus on interactions with the student,” she says. “In fact, the whole reason we became a teacher—to teach learners!—is now what we can spend the majority of our time on. And we have the tools at our disposal to help learners who need interventions.”
“But still teachers often don’t get the training they need on new technology,” Fruin recognizes. Many are left to find (and fund) professional development courses that will further their competency in the classroom. Time and money are often limited—so how do teachers know how to choose just the right courses?
Fruin shares eight tips teachers should consider when selecting professional development courses.
1. Ensure maximum flexibility so you can learn on your time. Look for the self-paced, anytime, any device, use-it-wherever-you-are-standing sort of flexibility that’s inherent in online courses. A bonus? Fewer excuses available for not finishing.
2. Keep it affordable. A self-paced online course can cost a third of what an in-service, conference, or class at a university can cost.
3. Choose curriculum that will allow you to use what you’re learning immediately. Take a lesson one day and try it in your classroom the next. The coursework or training should be:
- Innovative and interesting enough that your reaction is: “Yes, of course I want to use this.”
- Authentic. Expert classroom practitioners should be demonstrating how you can use the information immediately.
4. Evaluate the medium. Video tutorials are the way to go. You can watch the expert model what you should be doing. If you understand the platform and tools, you can immediately turn around and use it in your classroom.
5. Take advantage of free trials. Look for a free test drive or trial of courses so you can see what the curriculum is about and how the software looks and feels.
6. Make sure the curriculum is up to date. Look for programs that are current and founded in research-based best practices.
7. The course should have follow through. Choose a professional development course that will help you evaluate the effectiveness of what you’ve just learned and are now teaching. Without this important assessment feature, you might never know if your new skills are helping you meet your goals.
8. The course should acknowledge your strengths. Professional development should start with empowering you and playing to your strengths as you master new skills. Search out professional development opportunities that create a collaborative environment that makes you feel like you are contributing as well as learning something new.
These eight tips will help you find professional development courses that grow your skills and increase your effectiveness in the classroom.