“Support for Teachers: Simulated Classrooms, Online Networking and More” by Stephanie Hirsh was first seen on Impatient Optimists by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A teacher at Ridgeway Middle School in Memphis, TN watches a video of herself teaching.

The key to ensuring all students graduate high school college and career ready is effective teaching.  And the key to ensuring effective teaching for all students is effective professional development for educators.  Professional development is the most powerful strategy that school systems have to help all educators acquire the knowledge and skills they need to effectively reach all students.

Some educators and policymakers alike are disillusioned with the current state of professional development.   They have a right to be disappointed.  Not all professional development is created equal.  And too little professional development is consistently designed and executed according to standards that define what is necessary if it is to produce its intended outcomes. (See Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning).

And while we know what is necessary to increase the effectiveness of professional development, there isn’t widespread understanding of how to scale effective professional development to give all educators access to it. Fortunately, this second challenge has been embraced by an increasing number of people dedicated to using technology to extend the reach and impact of the most effective professional development practices.

Here’s one example of how technology is advancing the possibilities for professional development: Imagine an unobtrusive panoramic camera available in every classroom so that teachers may record what happens during a lesson. The opportunity to view, reflect, discuss, and ultimately improve their own specific teaching moves gives teachers unprecedented opportunities to understand their impact on students and quickly make changes to improve that impact. Such technology, combined with the support of a skilled coach and the ongoing collaboration of a team of teachers who are jointly responsible for the students in a building adds up to a powerful – and sustainable – improvement strategy.

This is one example of how innovative professional development tools can increase the effectiveness of traditional professional development.  Here are a few more:

  • Experts can now deliver coaching unobtrusively and just in time to new teachers through cutting-edge ear bud technology.
  • Simulated classrooms allow educators to practice and refine their skills in a safe environment.
  • Web-based learning systems provide immediate access to resources, explanations, and examples to support student content standards and outcomes.
  • Online platforms support networking and professional learning community building across schools, districts, states, and nations.

It is exciting to have new partners interested in helping to strengthen a field that merits their attention.  The important conversations and explorations that will take place over the next several years between the technology experts, the professional development experts, and the teachers will lead to exciting outcomes.

Ultimately, this collaboration will model the best of professional development, engaging all stakeholders in examining the data, determining the problems to be solved, looking for new solutions, piloting the solutions, and taking to scale what is most effective.  Merging professional development and technology will accelerate better outcomes for educators and the students they serve.

2 COMMENTS

  1. An unobtrusive panoramic camera? Not many bargaining units would see it that way. I just attended a seminar for business trainers, and they really advocate small group instruction (as part of the work day) or tutoring to support employees who are not working up to performance standards. I think that might be more workable for members of a bargaining unit, but I do get the point of how video taping can be a powerful way to deal with the time factor for observing teachers or collecting data. If the teachers were the only ones to have the collected images, it might be effective. If anyone could see it, it would be difficult to deploy, large-scale. Have you considered videotaped role plays to use as case studies for teachers to discuss?

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