Published on 2012/06/29

Credit for Online Professional Development Not on the Horizon for Teachers

Non-traditional learning has made great strides over the past decade, and today teachers are looking to expand its influence even further. Educators are seeking credits for making use of the vast array of technology-based professional development options that are available online.

Teachers often have to earn a certain number of professional development credits to earn recertification or to fulfill evaluation requirements. However, according to Michelle David of Education Week’s Digital Directions, the array of options is causing problems. According to David, experts have warned that the more targeted learning provided by non-traditional professional development is not designed to replace conventional workshops and courses that teachers need to enhance or learn skills.

“The expansion of good online materials and easy access has put the control of this type of learning back into teachers’ hands,” Barry Fishman, an associate professor of learning technologies at the University of Michigan, told David. “The caution is that a lot of people are confused about online professional development, as if it were a thing or a particular way of interacting. It’s not. It’s a medium.”

Bara Treacy, the director of EdTech Leaders Online at the Education Development Center, told David that she wants to see the professional development system altered to reflect particular competencies and skills rather than “time in seat”.

“Badges … are one way to show your credentials or document your skills and knowledge,” she said. “If there gets to be some acceptance of it, there could be some criteria for certain generally recognized badges.”

The major difficulty in moving to such a system is verifying the quality of particular online offerings and, moreover, assessing whether the specific option is the best way to master potentially complex skills and material.

“Just because something’s in demand, it doesn’t mean it’s pedagogically sound,” Tim Taylor, the director of business planning and operations at PBS education, told David. “Somebody might want a one-hour thing, but if the concept can’t be taught in an hour, we’re not going to do it.”

Segun C Eubanks, the director of teacher quality for the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, agreed.

“As much as we want our teachers to continuously learn… the idea of randomly taking professional development because you need the credits or because it’s interesting, but isn’t applicable, is not something we want,” he told David.

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