Dauntless Launches

Best practices for implementing online professional development (PD) in your school. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Joseph Sanfilippo

CREDIT TeqProviding professional development for teachers is a key responsibility for school administrators. Choosing the appropriate resources to prepare your teachers to drive school initiatives that pertain to pedagogy, procedures, and technology can be a daunting task. Many schools have turned to online professional development to meet their PD needs for the following reasons:

  • Online PD is on-demand and fits easily into a teacher’s busy schedule
  • A plethora of options gives teachers the ability to learn what they want, based on their individual needs and skill levels

Establish a plan with clearly defined expectations and support it with a learning community comprised of in-person instruction and online resources.

Successfully deploying online professional development in a school is not always as easy as it seems. Here are four key steps to consider when launching online professional development in your school:

  1. Make a plan for onboarding – The first step to a successful online professional development program is making sure your teachers have created accounts and know how to use the online platform. Combining an online PD launch with a live training session can help get this started on the right foot. It is a small commitment that will drive long term utilization by your teachers, helping to get the most out of your professional development investment. Make sure there is a clear support system where teachers can find technical support and get any questions answered. Monitor use of the platform over the first few weeks to identify any roadblocks and ensure that your teachers are having a good experience.
  1. Set expectations – All successful professional development programs start with the end in mind. This is no different when using an online PD platform. Let your teachers know about your overall plans for technology, instruction, and professional development. Identify courses and resources that support these plans. While a big part of eLearning is the freedom teachers have to design their own curriculum, you should define specific courses that support the big-picture goals.
  1. Encourage a blended approach to professional development – eLearning platforms are a perfect complement to the onsite professional development plan you may already have in place, creating a blended learning model that supports the needs of your teachers. Online PD courses and content can serve as a resource for teachers attending similar in-person professional development sessions, both before and after the scheduled in-person training.

By utilizing the online PD platform before in-person PD sessions, teachers can bring a stronger baseline of knowledge on the subject to that session. This fosters a deeper level of professional learning, driving richer questions and reducing time spent introducing basics. To reinforce and expand on what was taught during the in-person session, the instructor can recommend additional online PD courses and resources that your teachers can use.

  1. Participate in the online community – Within your online PD platform, there can be several places for members to communicate with their peers to further discuss their newly learned skills. They can share lesson ideas or educational resources, and if they need help with a certain technology or technique, they can turn to the online community for assistance. This ongoing participation will strengthen a teacher’s ability to use the new technologies and strategies, making them more likely to put these new skills to use in the classroom.

In the end, teachers must be engaged in the professional development to be effective. If you establish a plan with clearly defined expectations and support it with a learning community comprised of in-person instruction and online resources, your teachers will receive a personalized professional learning experience that fosters growth and performance in the 21st century classroom.

Joseph Sanfilippo is Director of eLearning for Teq, a leading professional development and educational technology firm. During his three years at Teq, Joseph Sanfilippo has been instrumental in launching the Teq Online PD (professional development) platform. Before his promotion, Mr. Sanfilippo held several positions at Teq, including eLearning Specialist and Instructional Technologist. Prior to Teq, he was Vocation and Technology Coordinator for the Center for Developmental Disabilities. He holds a Masters in Special Education and Training and a B.A. from Wagner College, in Staten Island, NY.

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Curation and Assessment

A brief discussion of the two major challenges facing edtech.

GUEST COLUMN | by Alan Greenberg

CREDIT Career FoundryCuration, finding relevance  

With a billion downloads on iTunes U, even greater numbers on YouTube Education, then add TedED, Khan Academy, EDx, Coursera and a multitude of others and I would argue there is “too much noise” in online education currently. How do you find what’s relevant, what is good, what is required for my students? The teacher has been promoted into the role of librarian, editor and curator of what is relevant for their class; responsible for finding the right content, in the right place, at the right time.

Much of the learning assets online in almost all subjects are free, easily accessible and globally available. I would suggest that quality education should be increasingly monetized,

I would argue there is “too much noise” in online education currently.

with teachers and their schools receiving and benefitting from royalties for their contribution and IP. People of every age, diverse interests and international location have access to great teaching. Whether their interest is formal or informal, education is accessible and available. The difference between classroom teaching and digital engagement is that digital delivers; one-to-one learning, delivered one to many, with each student learning at their own pace. Private tuition if you will, from teacher/mentors. But relevance is key. Which is why both instant access and the contextual search of documents are so crucial to the online learning process. Not to mention the availability of audio and video files for all. At my company we believe that the disciplines of web development and UX design are important components of today’s rounded education, for teachers and for their students.

With mandates in the US and the UK demanding that every child learns to code, there is significant pressure on educators to absorb this knowledge and pass it on to their students in the classroom. For the average English Literature or History teacher these are skills that they are unlikely to have learned themselves as students and would need to take on as total beginners. The popularity of learning to program (due, in large part, to the increasing tech skills gap, which is leaving many job positions open to those with the right skills) has meant that there is an abundance of online opportunities to learn these skills. But how to learn is the question. Not everybody is comfortable with MOOC’s and digital courseware, which has led us to believe increasingly that a blended learning model online adds significantly more value than simply online, recorded tutorials. Digital access, personalized with a mentor, an online tutor to support the individual through their experience and learning engagement, is the key.

We are developing a ‘teach the teacher to teach code’ program for schools; supporting the international movement to improve the teaching of code in schools. We shall be empowering teachers with a courseware that they can dip in and dip out of throughout the year, as their students demand and their interests dictate. We believe these skills are becoming essential; helping manage, support and deliver the disciplines required for curation and in finding relevance in the classroom and beyond.

Assessment, the next generation

Is gaining a degree from a credible university still the benchmark for a good education? Or, is this the start of a new learning journey? A university degree equips you with a certificate and a qualification, but few would deny that many people continue to learn when they are in the workplace. Traditional assessment is broken. My degree may get me an interview, possibly employment, but is it not then that the learning really starts? Is not Life-Long-Learning and CPD (Continuous Professional Development) just as important as any degree to the individual, to the knowledge economy, individual career progression and vocation? How do we benchmark this learning and subsequent assessment in a digital world of resources and experience?

The Mozilla Foundation has done some remarkable work around ‘badging’, and this is becoming increasingly deployed in assessment, particularly in the emerging markets. Companies like Degreed are changing and evolving the next generation of assessment. Degreed measures all learning, from the personal, to the professional; finding, tracking, measuring and recognizing all the different ways people can and do learn. Providing personalized accreditation disciplines for CPD, for experience and for achievement, post-graduate engagement and within vocation. At CareerFoundry we have adopted OBE (Outcome-Based Education) supporting a ‘learning-by-doing’ methodology, highlighting achievement milestones, mentor interaction, peer-to-peer collaboration, and by doing so building a foundation for learning technology skills.

But these are not exclusive disruptions and advantages in the next generation of assessment. Online educators have increasing amounts of data and analytics that they can use to map pedagogy, greater access to information on digital learning successes and failure rates of what is being taught, the levels of engagement from individual students, and how students respond to different educational tools. Online and offline educators are able to accumulate this data on students’ capabilities and interactions, effectively mapping their experiences and responding to them as individuals, better meeting individual needs and learning outcomes. All of this within schools, and beyond into the workplace.

A conversation that is growing at pace within enterprise appears to be about finding the right ‘fit’ for the individual in the workplace. Be that through the interview process, the job offer, on-boarding and induction, or through maximizing individual skills within the workforce, matching these skills to others with complimentary capabilities, and in building team-work: all contribute to this ‘fit’. The next generation of assessment is with us, and everywhere.

A Business Development and Marketing specialist, Alan Greenberg headed up the EMEA Higher Education before moving on to becoming Apple’s Head of Education in Asia. While with Apple, Greenberg developed the rollout of iTunes Universities in Europe allowing teachers to give each class a customized learning experience through iTunes U on the iPad. Now working to change how coding is perceived and taught on a global scale, Greenberg has teamed up with Europe’s #1 online training platform CareerFoundry to deliver this in-demand product.


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Cool Tool | Snapshot

CREDIT Edmodo SnapshotAs a Computer Technology Instructor and Teacher for third and fourth grades at Beatrice Gilmore Elementary in New Jersey, Billy Krakower integrates a variety of technologies into his instruction. “It makes my life easier and ultimately helps my students learn better, which is what really counts,” he says. His latest favorite is Edmodo Snapshot. “Snapshot gives me a complete picture into how my students are performing against Common Core State Standards. And a major perk — it’s free!” He uses Snapshot as both a pre- and post-assessment tool. For example, to quiz his students on Fractions NF.1 for fourth grade, all he has to do is select the standard and Snapshot automatically generates a quiz with Common Core-aligned questions that he sends to his students. Once completed, he gets a visual report showing which students understand the material and which students need more assistance. “I was even able to view which specific quiz questions each student struggled with, so I could address learning gaps more effectively,” he says. “What’s more is that the tool houses content recommendations that I can assign to each student following a Snapshot quiz to help them master the subject matter. All in all, it’s a Common Core life saver,” he says. Check it out.

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Fuel Your Passion

Empower your interests through technology and online learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Chris Waldron

CREDIT TakeLessonsThe inherent nature of school curriculums encourage teachers to instruct their students by adhering to strict lessons plans in order to achieve milestones and success on standardized tests. Though necessary, the restrictions this imposes on teachers often limits their abilities to both encourage their students to think outside of the box, and pursue personal interests.

Fortunately, technology and online learning has enabled teachers and students alike to follow their passions outside of classroom, revving the creative engine of both instructors and students alike.

Many children find fascination in subjects that aren’t taught in the classroom.

For Teachers

Pursue: Many pursue teaching because of a fervent interest in a particular subject– whether it be math, science, or the arts. More often than not, however, teachers are not able to actually instruct students on the topics that they are most passionate about. Through online resources, teachers can find students who need instruction on their topics of passion. This relatively new teaching opportunity allows instructors to stay connected to their favorite subjects, leading students to success both inside and outside of the classroom. 

Grow: All professionals risk falling into a routine, doing the same thing day in and day out because it’s easier than stepping outside the box. Defaulting to the same lesson plan year after year may save time, but it won’t challenge instructors to improve their skills. Through alternative experiences made possible by technology, teachers can expand their teaching abilities by connecting with students who are a world away. Educating students from different backgrounds can help teachers to gain new perspective on different and creative ways to teach a topic, generating new ideas for formal school courses.

Enlighten: Just as teachers have a responsibility to challenge themselves, they are equally responsible for continuing to challenge their students. Whether a student needs help in catching up to the class, or is accelerating faster than his or her peers, it’s an instructor’s job to point them towards the right resources. Online learning platforms are an excellent solution for both the remedial learner and the bright, bored student– both can connect to an outside instructor to fit their exact needs, allowing instructors stay on track with their syllabus while also ensuring that all students’ needs are being met.

For Students

Find A Niche: Technology has created near limitless possibilities for children to find and explore their passions, and many children find fascination in subjects that aren’t taught in the classroom. Encouraging a student’s abilities in an area of their choosing helps to tap into academic curiosity, which ultimately leads to more success in traditional subjects. Exposing children to a wide variety of activities, books, and online learning sites will help them to identify their interests early on.

Build Confidence: At one point or another, every child and young adult faces challenges when it comes to confidence. By finding and pursuing a passion they can deem as their own, children begin to come into their own skin. This not only bodes well for them on a personal level, but also directly translates into classroom success. Without success outside of the classroom, students may question their broader abilities. With confidence gained by finding their niche, students know they can be successful in what they set their mind to and this empowers them in the classroom.

Chris Waldron is the Co-Founder of TakeLessons, a trusted online marketplace for finding highly qualified and well-vetted instructors. Students can follow their dreams and fuel personal growth by connecting with the perfect instructor in areas ranging from music, dance and acting to foreign languages, math and photography, professional skills and athletics. Serving K-12 with offerings for lifelong learners of all ages, the platform allows students and teachers to schedule lessons, manage accounts and invoices, as well as process payments across desktop and mobile devices. 

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Cool Tool | ABC-CLIO Solutions

CREDIT ABC-CLIOA comprehensive online textbook that integrates social studies, science and language arts instruction, ABC-CLIO Solutions comprise 15 online databases updated daily with vetted content that can be accessed at any time. With databases built from the Common Core and more than 1 million primary sources and images, the content guides students in inquiry and analysis. The textbook also includes scholarly perspectives to expose students to intellectual argument, persuasive writing and primary source analysis. The digital textbook facilitates flipped and blended learning modules with multimedia and online content, and differentiated instruction with its customizable instructional activities. For teacher support, ABC-CLIO Solutions features an Educator Support Center complete with standards-aligned lesson plans, customizable activities, tutors and wizards. Check it out.

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