Professional development isn’t as easy as it used to be. Although districts often have days set aside for professional development or school improvement, these are not enough to meet the requirements for certificate renewal, nor are they enough to provide teachers with the opportunities they need to excel. Not to mention that the topics and agendas of these PD days are generally not self-selected, but rather assigned by administrators whose priorities may be very different from those of the teachers attending.
It used to be that individual opportunities existed for teachers to engage in PD of their choosing. But as districts feel the pressure of decreased funding and shrinking budgets, fewer opportunities may be offered for professional development. There may not be enough money to pay the costs of attending a conference, or to pay a substitute teacher while the regular teacher is out of the building.
This decrease in funding and opportunities comes at the worst possible time. As technology is rapidly infiltrating schools and new standards for teaching and learning are being implemented, teachers need professional development more than ever. We not only need technology tools in our classrooms, but we need training on how to use them effectively. We don’t just need a web link to read the Common Core standards, but information on how to implement them and where to find the curriculum resources that are still lacking in our classrooms.
We can’t just sit back and wait for our administrators to provide solutions – we may be waiting for a very, very long time. And during that time, we will not be doing our students justice. We will not be using best practices if we aren’t up to date on what those are. We will not be using technology effectively if we aren’t trained on how to implement it. So what are teachers supposed to do?
Take your professional development into your own hands. There are free, online resources for engaging in PD in your own home and on your own time. Many of these issue certificates for PD credits, others do not. Even if you aren’t able to earn credit for your activities, you will be able to gain valuable skills and resources to help you stay up to speed.
Not sure where to start? Here are six sites offering free online professional development:
Teachers First – completely free online PD on just about any topic you can think of. Browse for sessions of interest and register to attend a chat room based conference. Moderators are available for all sessions to help you with any tech issues you might encounter.
Concept to Classroom – A series of self-paced workshops covering a variety of topics from methods to philosophy. Technology skills are not required for these workshops, which mainly consist of reading through presentations and exploring resources.
Intel Teach Elements – Free online courses that cover topics such as data collection, assessment, collaboration, leadership, classroom inquiry, and more.
The Center for Learning – This website has a free resources page with webinars and articles for educators. Topics currently include personal learning networks, differentiation, implementing Common Core, and teaching kids who live in poverty. The site also offers a grant for public schools who are interested in access to other resources they offer.
ASCD – ASCD offers a free webinar series that covers a range of topics including Common Core, RTI, Academic Vocabulary, classroom technology, and more.
EdWeb – This is a free social network for educators. It has many benefits – connecting with other teachers, sharing ideas, mentoring, etc. But it also is a great site for finding free online PD. Following them on Twitter will keep you up to date on new PD offerings.