In an age of budget cuts several schools are cutting access to funds for professional development, my state of Kentucky included. There are several other ways for teachers to receive professional development. The thing is, most teachers steer away from other forms of professional development because "if I don't get hours or paid for it, I don't want to take the time to do it."
Stepping outside of the classroom has allowed me to examine my own teaching strategies and abilities. I have realized that all the professional development I went to while still in the classroom has not been near as beneficial to the alternative "professional development" that I have been participating in since becoming a technology integration specialist. Some of the alternatives listed below I have done and am doing, others I have been thinking about doing. I firmly believe that if I go back to the classroom I will be a better teacher for these methods of professional development.
1.) Write a Blog - This has been one of the most beneficial changes to my professional growth. It allows me to share and reflect. For teachers, it is something that is simple and provides a way to share what is going on in their classroom and reflect on what is working and what is not. The majority of educators spend very little time actually reflecting on their learning. Encourage teachers to blog as a form of professional development. Encourage Administration to provide a certain number of hours if teachers keep a blog.
2.) Connect to Twitter and Build a PLN - Just the other night during #edchat when the topic was professional development I commented that it was the most beneficial form of professional development I have ever had. It allows a connection with other professionals and discussing topics related to education and developing a network of educators who teach similar subjects and have a passion for kids.
3.) Join Various Social Networks - The Educators PLN, Classroom 2.0, Technology Integration in Education, or several other Ning type networks are a great starting point. This is how I originally got started. This is the first step towards professional development that I took. I encourage the same.
4.) Attend and Present at Conferences - In 6 years of teaching I never attended a conference. I might have attended some Professional Development, but never a conference. Attending 3 separate conferences in the past year and a half has been very beneficial. I also never presented at a conference, I have done that twice. This has opened up so many more thoughts about what I do and what other teachers are doing. The great thing is that there are several free conferences as well to help with costs.
5.) Create a Mini Conference at Your School or in Your District - The standard PD is losing steam. In every school there are teachers doing great things with their students, and not all necessarily using technology, that could be shared with other teachers. The idea here is to convince those teachers to share what they are doing with the rest of the staff.
6.) Have a Student Led Professional Development - Students are doing great things, sometimes without the teacher asking them to as part of a project. Allow opportunities for students to teach teachers how they use technology. Open teachers eyes to what our students are doing. Some might be a great artist, or good with a camera, or build creative things, or use technology in a creative way. Provide time for students to lead Professional Development.
7.) Start a Google Reader Account - Another great aspect of my own professional development. I have connected with other great bloggers and it has allowed me to read some great educational material. Another great aspect is the commenting on blogs that can occur which only increases the effectiveness of a Google Reader Account.
8.) Create a Professional Facebook Account - Everyone is on Facebook. Other educators, educational professionals, education companies and software. The other great feature is following blogs on Facebook. With a separate Professional account it would allow you to also connect with parents, current and former students.
9.) Subscribe to Journals - There are several free educational and EdTech journals available for educators. They are also available in eJournal form as well. They can be emailed to you for easy reading. Journals share great thoughts and ideas, as well as links to resources. Remember they are free, and a previous post will provide links to several.
10.) Peer Observations - A great way to reflect on teaching is to see other teachers teach. Talk to your principal about shadowing them when they are doing their observations. Another option is to email principals at other schools and ask about going to observe those teachers. The only cost will be a substitute unless the teacher is willing to use their own days and then possibly get hours.
Here is another great post on Professional Development from The Educational Technology Guy
So what other methods of professional development have you engaged in?