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March 10, 2011

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TOOLS FOR LEARNING: Thirty-Three Excellent Professional Development Resources for Teachers

TOOLS FOR LEARNING: Thirty-Three Excellent Professional Development Resources for Teachers

Educators looking for professional development resources on the web have it much different than they did a decade ago. In 2000, resources such as the how-to, video-rich Atomic Learning were just beginning—started by a couple of guys editing helpful content out of a garage in Wisconsin who were forced to provide short snippets to combat universally low-bandwidth situations. Facebook wouldn’t even come online for another 4 years, and the majority of the resources listed on the next few pages just didn’t exist.

New in 2011, the professional development scene for teachers has advanced quite a bit, though we can’t really call it mature just yet. Consider it (somewhat arbitrarily) as you might a 10-year-old: sure signs of precociousness, lots of potential—but still not fully grown up.

Nonetheless, there are enough great resources out there to make the web a true gift to educators looking for help. Here are some excellent online professional development resources to help move you toward a true 21 st-century classroom.

Academic Merit. Founded by a high school English teacher, this subscription service for middle and high school English language arts teachers is tied to specific literature and offers formative assessment, summative assessments, and data collection and reporting. Aligned with the Common Core Standards, there’s also a writing assessment component. It definitely deserves a look. http://academicmerit.com

LearningFront. This is a free learning community that helps teachers to develop lessons, share best practices, build a network of colleagues and teams, and advance the frontier of learning. It’s unique because it integrates social media and online professional development tools to improve teaching and student learning. http://learningfront.com

Scholastic U. This is a new online program that is debuting in winter 2011 for Pre-K–12 teachers covering literacy, leadership, and instructional excellence. Scholastic U complements Read 180 and System 44 and includes model lessons, classroom management tools, videos, and assessments. Robust reporting will be a plus. You already know the company; reserve your “seat” now. http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/ScholasticU

Technology Integration in Education (TIE). This is a bustling community of tech-savvy educators (and those wanting to be) jampacked with all kinds of great resources including webinars, professional trade publications, and helpful discussions. Founded by Greg Limperis, an active teacher/technologist, TIE it all together. www.technologyintegrationineducation.com

SimpleK12. More than 500,000 teachers and 2 million students find help at SimpleK12 through a very straight­ forward learning program empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to build 21 st-century classroom experiences. It features an especially useful blog. http://simplek12.com and http://blog.simplek12.com

Twitter. I hadn’t really considered it, but Minneapolis teacher Dan McGuire emails: “Twitter is a powerful teacher professional development ‘App.’ It’s not a quick return, but things in life really long-lasting and valuable are rarely quick. Twitter requires teachers to put in some time to develop a network of colleagues with whom to share. That investment time—finding people to follow, jumping into a few conversations, or posting comments on blogs—I’ve found to pay real benefits.” He’s right. Read his blog, then tweet him. http://developingprofessionalstaff-mpls.blogspot.com/2010/09/twitter-moodle-and-history-of-us.html

LinkedIn. While we’re on it, LinkedIn is probably an even better place for teachers to go than Twitter. Greg Limperis, founder of the above-mentioned TIE community, emails: “Not only can they connect with fellow teachers but also with professionals in the education field.” Greg runs a school TV studio that broadcasts daily morning news to all the class­ ­ -rooms. Through his profile, his students linked in to U.S. Office of Educational Technology director Karen Cator as well as Michael Dell for an interview—both got back to him right away. www.linkedin.com

Dynamite Learning. This newcomer worth mentioning helps teachers pass credentialing requirements through district and teacher preparation program partnerships with focus in core concept areas (math, reading, writing). Self-paced, interactive, deeper learning, user-friendly, and yes, dyn-o-mite. http://dynamitelearning.com

LearnItIn5. Got questions like, “What’s Web 2.0?” LearnItIn5 never takes up more than 300 of your precious seconds, but, of course, that’s not completely true; it’s addicting! With digital classroom strategies and how-to videos—all produced by technology teachers to help other teachers and students—become an expert in blogs, social networks, podcasts, videos, wikis, slidesharing, and more. In less than, well ... http://learnitin5.com

2tor. This is a hot new site where teachers can earn a master’s degree in education. 2tor offers high-quality, large, online degree programs through partnerships with great research universities—including USC’s Rossier School of Education. This is a site to watch for tremendous growth in the coming months, for many reasons. Peruse it and you’ll see why. http://2tor.com

PBSTeacherLine. One of the more advanced professional development sites, PBS TeacherLine enables you to earn graduate credit, PDPs, or CEUs. It offers high-quality, standards-based graduate level courses in an accessible, fun, flexible, and collaborative format. Definitely one of the better sites out there. www.pbs.org/teacherline

Annenberg Learner. This website provides classroom resources across the curriculum and teacher professional development areas. Annenberg Learner uses video programs to promote excellent teaching; it’s also useful for students in the classroom. There are online texts, guides, activities, and even graduate credits. Access them for free. http://learner.org

PD 360. One of the more user-friendly professional development sites out there, PD 360 is very intuitive and fun to use. It caters directly to educators’ needs and wants and is continually improving and adding very rich content. Access messages, view your achievements, view your journal, search for content, and access help documents. Also, users can flag content to personalize the experience. It is a practical, measurable, and scalable part of the School Improvement Network; it’s an all-around highly recommended experience. www.pd360.com

ASCD’s PD in Focus. From a familiar source, PD in Focus is content-rich, interactive and ongoing—educators can search for content and sharpen their views with online videos, create learning communities, and monitor their own progress. www.ascd.org/professional-development/pd-in-focus.aspx

Sublime Learning. This site helps educators realize the full teaching potential of their software, online resources and assistive technology. Sublime Learning delves into thinking, reading, writing, and other areas. One definition of sublime (transitive verb) is “to convert into something of higher worth,” which this site does with technology. Among many other things, it acts as an excellent tech integration tool. http://sublimelearning.com

NCTM’s PD pages. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics brings e-seminars, e-workshops, training guides, themes, news, and more into the equation for an excellent result. http://nctm.org/profdev

NCTE. The National Council of Teachers of English speaks clearly with a comprehensive and easy-to-navigate space for teachers seeking help on elementary, middle, secondary, and college levels. A professional association site, it’s a great read. www.ncte.org

CILC. The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration is one of the more mature kids on the block, around since ancient times (1994). The Indiana-based organization specializes in two-way interactive videoconferencing and offers consulting services, curriculum packages, workshops, and a premium service. It is a content hub for thousands of schools in all 50 states and 166 countries. http://cilc.org

BrainX. BrainX combines intelligent-agent learning technology with mastery-based learning strategies. What’s that mean? It accepts any type of content, then molds the teaching of that content to learner needs, and it focuses on mastery of the content. Put simply, it’s a Learning Management System focused on the learner. Ease your mind with a 2-minute how-it-works video. www.brainx.com

MyLearningPlan. MyLearningPlan’s PDMES (Professional Development Management and Evaluation System) offers fast and easy planning, management and reporting options, featuring “OASYS”—a comprehensive online system for streamlining and managing the educator evaluation and appraisal process. It’s very user-friendly, with personalized customer support. www.mylearningplan.com

ETS Keeping Learning on Track. This program helps superintendents, principals, and teachers with formative assessments, strategies, tools, learning communities, and frameworks connecting theory and practice. It satisfies more than 45 professional development hours per year, keeping everyone moving forward. Not free, but worth ordering a free DVD for a look. www.ets.org

SMART Tech­ nologies. This is a smart company offering even smarter professional development. These are convenient, cost-effective and accessible in-depth sessions for mastering the SMART Board interactive whiteboard, SMART Notebook software, and its interactive response system. http://smarttech.com/trainingevents

MathSolutions. Founded by Marilyn Burns, a veteran math educator, this site speaks from experience and is great for blended professional development (face to face with online) courses, coaching, webinars, ask-me-now services, and video. http://mathsolutions.com/

NEA web learning. As you might expect, the National Education Association site provides quite a number of great resources for teachers, whether it’s issues and actions, tools and ideas for better classroom management, or grants and events. Stay abreast of all the latest, and join its online community. www.nea.org

Edvantia. Offering in-person and online professional development, development of teacher leaders, customized training, consulting, and coaching for your school district, this nonprofit is committed to helping client-partners improve to meet state and federal mandates. There are lots of research-based resources on its site. http://edvantia.org

Atomic Learning. With online, on-demand training from the pros, this site is especially helpful for school district and even college and university technology teams that need to focus on current implementations and don’t have time to train thousands of staff members with one available trainer. Offering expert knowledge in an easy-to-use format, there’s a reason Atomic Learning is exploding with users. www.atomiclearning.com

Adobe. The company also offers some great professional development. Whether it’s e-seminars, on-demand seminars, live events, curriculum-integrated faculty workshops, or online training, teachers are never alone in trying to figure out how to take advantage of Adobe tools. It’s a pretty magical feeling when you’re competent with some of these tools. www.adobe.com/education/resources/

Elluminate and Wimba. These are now part of Blackboard’s Collaborate platform. This means you get web, audio, video, and social networking solutions for classroom and professional development use all in one deal. These guys know what they’re doing, and they’re ahead of anyone else in using all available technology to shine a light on what works for educators. www.elluminate.com

TANDBERG. This leading telepresence provider, now a part of CISCO, teams up with previosuly mentioned CILC on occasion and offers high-definition, reliable staff development without the costs and time of travel. And it provides superior training to do so. www.tandberg.com

Discovery Education. More than half of all schools in America have access to Discovery Education’s digital and assessment services. There’s a reason for that: the superb professional development offerings, plus a 125,000-member strong learning community, one of the nation’s largest. www.discoveryeducation.com/professional-development

TeachHub. “By teachers, for teachers” says it all. Lessons and teaching tools, teacher recommendations, education news, graduate programs, contests, and community links—all in one place. Highly recommended. www.teachhub.com

KnackforTeachers. Finally, this little teacher tool may strike a chord with educators wanting to take matters into their own hands. After all of your professional development, here’s a way to bring hard evidence to performance evaluations and prove your effectiveness. Make graphs, organize notes, and protect your career. For less than the cost of, say, a Netflix subscription, you can go ahead and keep your own score—and win! http://knackforteachers.com

Contact Victor at victor@VictorRivero.com.

Talk to these guys.

If your school district needs more than a web-based video clip can provide, contact one of these professional development consultants.

Lucy Caulkins is a New York City-based elementary-level reading and writing instructor for teachers.

Richard DuFour is a Bloomington, Ind.-based consultant for professional learning community strategies with Solution Tree.

Ruby K. Payne provides education and poverty materials and workshops from Highlands, Texas.

Grant Wiggins is known for his curriculum-reform workshops and materials. Grant is based out of Hopewell, N.J.

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