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Professional Development: Resources for a New Frontier

The field of education is constantly evolving. In fact, right now, public education systems across the world are undergoing a fundamental paradigm shift based on emerging technology, changing economies and requirement modifications. This is truly a pivotal time for educators to focus on ongoing professional development.

Just as you instill a love of learning in your students, you must also cultivate the same in yourself. Continued professional development allows you to stay up to date with the latest research on how kids learn and introduces you to new and emerging tools for the classroom. It also helps you find new resources for creating stronger curricula that better connect students to today’s content and show how that content can connect them to future career opportunities.

That’s the why. But when it comes to the how, that can be more challenging. These days, there’s no need to wait for a formal school-sanctioned workshop to gain new insights and skills. There are now lots of places to go for professional development self-study. Please note that the AICPA does not endorse any specific resources. However, the list below provides several online destinations for your consideration:

1. Coursera – An education platform that offers you free online courses in partnership with top universities and organizations worldwide.

2. Professional Development Institute – This collection of online courses and programs offers semester-long courses as well as flex courses (with up to a year to complete) that can provide you with graduate credit from the University of California San Diego.

3. EdTechTeacher – A variety of workshops, webinars and online professional development courses created by teachers for teachers like you who are dedicated to creating innovative learning opportunities for students.

4. Virtual Education Software – These convenient, relevant and affordable online continuing education courses provide expert instruction for teachers at a pace that fits your schedule.

5. Online Teaching Degrees – A database of online continuing education programs for education bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees or professional development designed to help you find the program that meets your needs.

6. PBS Teacherline – Standards- and research-based graduate-level courses crafted to advance your career and enhance your skills within a supportive online environment that makes learning flexible and accessible.

7. Annenberg Learner – A collection of teacher resources and professional development tools focusing on learning areas across the curriculum designed to help you “advance excellent teaching in American schools.”

8. Education Week – A complete interactive directory of professional development resources that you can browse based on category, subject matter, grade, state, product or service type.

9. ASCD – A variety of on-site, online and blended solutions that are customizable, aligned and differentiated to meet your individual professional development needs and goals.

10. Lynda – An online destination where you can discover and master classroom technologies and practices and the latest techniques to help your students increase engagement and maximize their potential.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some of these resources aren’t free, but a lot of them are. Some are quick and simple while others require a longer time investment. Regardless, they’re all out there, among countless others, just waiting to be used. So, how do you choose?

First, consider your goals. What do you hope to gain from your training? Because there are so many options online, it’s best to have an idea of what you’re looking for before you delve in. If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, think about your past week or two in the classroom and choose two or three things you think could have worked out better. Next, look for training specific to the goals you’ve created for yourself.

After you’ve completed your training, make a list of the goals you’ve set for yourself, along with a few top-level notes pertaining to each of them. Put the list on your desktop and use it as a touch point to make sure you’re actually incorporating what you’ve learned into your daily teaching. Then, after you’ve mastered those skills and using them becomes second nature, you can set new goals to tackle.

As you know, the most important thing to remember is that when it comes to learning, you’re never done. After all, the more professional development opportunities you take advantage of, the more you can grow as a teacher. And the more tools you have to teach with, the more connections you’ll be able to make with your students – helping them to grow and experience more educational successes down the road.