Professional Development

· Atomic Learning [Atomic Learning]
· Clarity for Schools [BrightBytes]
· Lesson Planet [Lesson Planet]
· Teachscape Effectiveness Platform [Teachscape]

         Professional development sessions can be somewhat perplexing. Most vocations require either recertification classes, workshops, or conferences - some of which are well-structured, some haphazard, and a good many expensive and overly time-consuming. 
         Education's professional development requirements vary from state to state, district to district, even school to school.  Professional development planning can be a drain on both district budgets and teacher time, sometimes wasting both, rarely meeting the actual needs of all the stakeholders.
         Professional development serves several purposes, all of which do not coincide with each other.  The first year teacher may need help with classroom control; the seasoned veteran may have trouble with technology management; and everyone in-between may have needs just as diverse. The question, then, is how to address all of those needs and improve the overall quality of professional development. The answer starts with finding the right tools, and some of this year's
BESSIE Awards winners are in the toolbox:
         Atomic Learning (see full review) is the most user-friendly professional development website we've seen. Elegantly designed and easy to navigate, it allows teachers and administrators to customize classes or use self-paced EdTech courses provided by the program. Atomic Learning is useful for 'just-in-time' instruction for almost any technology question a teacher might have: Need to start a blog in your English Language Arts class? How about a digital gallery in your Art class...or an animation for Biology?
         At the other end of the technology professional development scale,
Clarity for Schools is an online data-driven analysis tool.  With Clarity for Schools, districts can analyze classroom technology use and skills, generate reports, and suggest professional development strategies to improve practice.  The objective is to enhance learning with the use of technology while gaining a 'big picture' overview without having to resort to intuitive decision-making.  The Assistant Superintendent in charge of technology will love Clarity for Schools.
         A new entrant in the EdTech professional development arena,
Lesson Planet has, this year, started offering video courses (18 to date) intended to help teachers integrate educational technology into their classrooms.  With such diverse courses as Digital Citizenship, Using iPads in the Classroom, or Google's Spreadsheet App, teachers can return again and again to review the tips and tricks, and download numerous materials, handouts, and PDF files, all packed with helpful supplemental information.  In addition to the courses, Lesson Planet features EdTech Tuesdays which highlight educational apps and techniques for classroom use. The website is expertly produced and highly-motivating, and we think Lesson Planet is one to watch.
         Finally, offering a more general, but comprehensive, approach is
Teachscape Effectiveness Platform. A video-based online professional development website, Teachscape Effectiveness Platform integrates professional development with observation and review, offers practical application of best practices, and demonstrates those practices.  Even better, its in-depth training for observers and evaluators completes the professional development 'circle' and will induce confidence in all those involved in the process.  From new teacher preparedness to Common Core Standards implementation, Teachscape Effectiveness Platform is an all-purpose professional development tool.

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