Successful professional development depends on the acquisition of information -- information that motivates, informs, challenges, or cautions. Yet, with print and online magazines, e-mail and e-newsletters, discussion boards, Web sites, and more flooding K-12 educators, how do they choose which resources to use? Teacher training expert Lorrie Jackson offers advice on how to select the professional development resources that will be most effective for you and your staff. Included: Tips for helping teachers "cull and consider" information.
Professional development resources are available in a variety of media formats, including:
It's okay to admit it; we all have preferences about how we want our information delivered. What matters, however, isn't which format each individual educator prefers, it's finding the format or formats that are most effective for all educators.
GETTING YOUR MESSAGE OUT
The easiest way to pinpoint the most effective delivery formats for your teachers is to try a number of methods, then survey teachers to find out which worked best for them. Haunting the teachers' workroom or mailbox area to see what sits uncollected and what gets tossed away also can shed light on the kinds of materials teachers keep, read, or ignore.
One way to help staff members organize and utilize their professional development materials is to create digital and/or bound repositories for those materials. Teachers who keep printed professional development materials in a three-ring binder or know they can find useful materials and information at a specific Web site or area of the server are more likely to use those resources than they would be if they have to sort through stacks of print-outs or lists of e-mails to find them.GETTING THE MESSAGE
If you're a teacher trying to create order out of the deluge of training possibilities, it's important for you to know what delivery method works best for you. Subscribing to too many educational materials, only to delete or throw them out for lack of time, makes little sense. Pick the formats that fit best with your learning and organizational style. Do you find it easier to browse listserv e-mails each morning or to participate in late afternoon online chats? Do you prefer stacking print magazines in a corner and reading them once a week at home, or would you rather read daily online newsmagazines to keep abreast of school reform initiatives, new software packages, or specific training topics The formats you choose aren't important; what matters is that you use the formats you choose.READING IS FUNDAMENTAL FOR TEACHERS TOO
Which sounds more important to you: calling a parent or reading a journal? Teaching involves so many "have-to's" -- from planning lessons, to managing students, to grading papers, to....It can seem almost impossible to get to the "would-be-nice-to's" -- such as reading journals, participating in listserv discussions, and networking with peers.
If all we do as educators is react to each day's events, however, without stopping to reflect upon and revise our educational practices, we simply are not doing our jobs. Scheduling time each week -- even just 30 minutes or an hour -- to read professional development materials gives teachers a chance to see how others have solved the same problems they face.
Staff developers often expect that staff members automatically utilize, understand, and apply all the professional development materials available to them. They fail to realize that scheduling time for professional development can be tough for busy teachers. Staff development personnel and administrators need to work together to create pockets of downtime for teachers; time for them to read and digest professional development resources; time for them to educate themselves so they can better educate their students.
Finally, if all else fails, if scheduling free time for reading is simply impossible despite everyone's best efforts, try toting the materials along with you and reading just one article, one column, one tip whenever you find the time -- in the doctor's office, waiting to pick up the kids after a game, while supper is simmering.Make those "spare" minutes work for you.REFLECT ON WHAT YOU READ
As educators, we expect our students to do more than just point their eyeballs at a printed page. We expect them to reflect upon and apply what they read. We should expect the same from ourselves.
We are bombarded with so much information, however, that we simply can't carefully read and reflect upon everything we're exposed to. To get the most from your professional development materials, you need to cull and consider each resource:
Whether you are an administrator, a staff developer, or a teacher, it's important to provide feedback to those who create the materials you use; let them know what worked for you and what didn't work. Don't be afraid to e-mail the staff at a national newsletter, Web site, or listserv; your input will help them better serve the thousands of teachers just like yourself.
Finally, what if you can't find the resources you need? Maybe you're an administrator who wants to network with other administrators who are using a math program you're considering. Maybe you're a teacher who wants to share worksheets you've created? Maybe you're a staff developer who wants to post online tutorials for your staff? You might want to consider creating your own mail list, e-newsletters, and/or Web site. It's easier than you think, even for the beginning tech user!
Finding focus among the mountains of professional development resources isn't easy. But choosing the formats that are right for you both in terms of content and media, reserving time to read and reflect, and taking the lead in creating effective materials can help make the task easier.MORE INFORMATION
Are you ready to find the resources that are right for you? The list below includes just a few of the many professional development resources available to K-12 educators and staff developers.
Professional Organizations and Special Interest Groups:
Print Magazines and Journals
Educator Web Sites
Mail Lists (listservs)
Real Time Chats/Discussions