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Your Professional Development:
Let Your Fingers Do the Walking!

Voice of ExperienceMany teachers are taking ownership of their own professional development. They have found innovative and cost-efficient ways to stay current and improve their practices. This week, educator Brenda Dyck uncovers a number of exciting online resources that assist and support teachers as they work towards teaching excellence. Included: Links to mostly free resources for learning from experts and colleagues.

I've just spent the afternoon listening to Thomas Armstrong, a popular conference speaker and the author of Words Come Alive: The Multiple Intelligences of Reading and Writing.

Yesterday, I sat mesmerized by Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe, and Carol Ann Tomlinson's Understanding by Design and Differentiated Instruction presentation.

For a Canadian teacher who can sometimes feel a little removed from the education-reform hothouse, listening to those experts share their ideas and best practices was very exciting. The best part was that my sessions with Armstrong and Wiggins didn't cost me a dime -- they took place as I sat at my computer in the comfort of my home study!


Those free online sessions are one example of a restructuring of professional development that is occurring within our profession. Realizing that improving student learning is dependent on teachers continuing to learn and improve, an abundance of free or low-cost professional development opportunities are springing up on the Internet. No longer can I complain that relevant professional development is too far away, or too costly. It is as close as my fingertips. I've discovered the PD of my dreams -- opportunities that meet my PD needs and fit into my hectic schedule, budget limitations, interests, and learning style.

Gone are the days when PD was something done to teachers, not with them!


For "wired" teachers, online professional development opportunities are abundant. Most teachers can find great learning options. Educators can find resources, in fact, even if they aren't sure what their professional development needs are!

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has created a Professional Development Survey to help teachers identify their strengths and pinpoint areas that might benefit from a PD improvement plan.

Don't let the price of professional reading material get in the way of keeping up with the latest developments in our profession. Many magazines post large portions of their content online, and publishers are anxious to have readers to browse through online versions of their books. Although most of us don't want to read complete books online, having the opportunity to read key chapters will help us decide whether the book is worth buying -- and nobody said you can't learn while browsing!

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The following list offer just a handful of the professional development periodicals you can browse or read online:

The opportunity to browse before you buy can help educators select those books that will be most practical to purchase as desktop references. The following are among the growing list of publishers who offer excerpts or complete texts online:


As schools try to make shrinking funds go farther, budgets for teacher travel to conferences is often trimmed, sometimes eliminated. Just in the nick of time, technology has come to the rescue. Online videos, audio files, and Webcasts enable educators to hear prominent education speakers like Grant Wiggins, Robert Marzano, and Annette Lamb.

The following list offers a small selection of conferences that have employed technology to make conference offerings available beyond the walls of the conference:


The Annenburg/CPB Channel is a free satellite channel that airs a range of teacher professional development and instructional programming. Their diverse courses also can be accessed online, and a number of them can be taken for graduate credit. You can view sessions such as Making Civics Real: A Workshop For Teachers, In Search of the Novel, and Mathematics: What's the big Idea? at the link below:


Building collaboration and reflection among colleagues is "on the grow" thanks to a well thought-out program called Critical Friends Groups. Working together to improve their teaching practices has given the close-knit groups of educators a support system and a wealth of experience to draw on. Professional isolation is close to being extinct! You can learn more about Critical Friends Groups in an Education World article, Critical Friends Groups: Catalysts for School Change.

Participating in a focused, vibrant listserv is one of the best PD tools available to teachers today. The following teacher listserv resources prove that looking for guidance, ideas, and insightful conversations was never so easy.

Brenda Dyck teaches at Master's Academy and College in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching sixth grade math, Brenda works with her staff in the area of technology integration. Her "Electronic Thread" column is a regular feature in the National Middle School Association's Journal, Middle Ground. Brenda is a teacher-editor for Midlink magazine.

Article by Brenda Dyck
Education World®
Copyright © 2003 Education World


Links Updated 02/06/2008