6 Free Professional Development Web Tools Worth Trying

learn-buttonProfessional 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.


  1. Michael J Graham

    December 20, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Great article. The fact that the author brought up about principals having different ideas about PD is alarming. They are supposed to be the instructional leaders and often times they are out of touch with what their teachers really need. Another great point that the author stated is the need for PD that helps teachers understand the Common Core, not just be given a link to read. Take your PD into your own hands.

    For more on education technology and Common Core integration read my upcoming book from Corwin: Google Apps Meets Common Core http://goo.gl/1DXNW or visit http://www.21learning.net

  2. Jonathan Downing

    January 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Lindsey great article! I’m so proud of you being able to speak from a teacher’s heart and make it clear. Great job for listing some ideas and resources for other educators to seek. I would also like to comment on the above statement from Mr. Graham . I agree with you that she did a great job and that principals should be the instructional leaders. I think you misunderstood her statement that administrators don’t have the funding and various opportunities to provide for teachers doesn’t mean they don’t care or know their teachers and what they need. Lindsey is one of my outstanding teachers and is very motivated. She is one of the few in our large district to be chosen to have an IPad classroom, what a remarkable challenge to take on and she does a great job and students enjoy every minute of her classroom. I think you misunderstand principals, we are strapped by a budget that is set by a district and then set by a state. I would love to provide a mass majority of PD for my staff but with a mass majority, unfortunately you need time and money. It takes a collaborative effort from the staff (teachers and administration) to come up with innovative ideas and best instructional practices at times if we are not able to provide out sources. Our district as a whole provides what PD we can for our teachers but we all know or we should all know that with a hurting economy it has hurt our educational system the worst and when we look towards the future it doesn’t look better. I applaud Lindsey for not just sitting around and waiting, but doing her research and expounding her resources. Shouldn’t we all have that mindset?