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A 21st century platform for professional development

One highlight of being an educator is the professional development. So many teachers enjoy going to workshops, getting free stuff, learning new things, and making new connections that help build our network. Teachers love learning — that is why we teach — and professional development does just that! Continuing Education Units (CEUs), typically earned by attending trainings and workshops, are a requirement to maintain a licensure. This makes professional develop a vital part of an educator’s career.

I can think back through my career and the workshops I have been to and pull memories, lessons, and classroom techniques that I have gained from them. I can think of great workshops and some that could use some improvement. I have been to content based workshops, technology based workshops, socioemotional based workshops, data collection workshops, every kind of workshop.

One thing all these workshops have had in common, though, is how I heard of them and ended up attending.  The only way I was connected to these workshops was either from: direct recommendation, being informed I was attending by an administrator, by stumbling upon them on a website, or by being on a random email list I did not remember signing up for.  These are sad ways to get to participate or not in learning that you need. This has led me to a thought: “What incredible workshops am I missing out on because I am simply not in the right network? Have I stumbled upon them yet? Are they a priority for my school to send someone to attend?”

So instead, what if a listserv could be created for state and national workshop opportunities that was free for all educators? It would be:

  • A place that educators could go and search for workshops that they want to attend
  • A place that organizations and groups could list workshops to advertise for attendance
  • A chance for workshops to advertise with keywords to obtain the target audience
  • Searchable by filter criteria: date, length, location, content, cost, and target audience
  • A place to advertise scholarship and grant opportunities with direct links to the workshops’ websites and registration
  • A place to find state and national fellowships sponsored by organizations and universities
  • A place to host a schedule of professional development from Twitter chats, podcasts, webinars, micro-credential opportunities, and “sit and get” style workshops

Enlisting the use of a content management system like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla would allow the creation of a website similar to Indeed, the career search website, to be designed to advertise professional development. Systems like these would allow for a simple process to post PD opportunities, a simplified PD management system, and user-friendly filtering options. The listserv could be accompanied by efforts from DPI to make teachers aware of its presence and solicit PD-related content from organizations and schools. With this it would not take long to create an organized and valuable resources for teachers in all levels of their career.

I believe this platform has the potential to eventually turn into a teacher mecca for resources and support. The options are limitless. I know that if it was built, they would come! The number one thing that needs to be addressed is how professional development is available to all teachers so every teacher has the opportunity to improve and grow for their students. The stumble upon/ checking the box for the school system method needs to be retired. A new better way for teachers to find the professional development they need to grow as teachers needs to be adopted. What I am suggesting would elevate our professional development world to the 21st century that we live in and are expected to teach in. It is time our PD matches our expectations and works for us.

Jessica Stockham
Jessica Stockham is a high school teacher in McDowell County and a North Carolina Hope Street Fellow, working in North Carolina to activate and elevate teacher voice in the state by making connections between teachers and policymakers.