Professional Development: 21st Century Models

Never before has the pressure been so high to find ways to support successful teaching and learning through effective professional development. With the U.S. education community, driven by No Child Left Behind, focusing on standards, accountability, and pledges to see that every child is taught by a certified and qualified teacher, the National Staff Development Council has proposed an additional goal: That all teachers in all schools should experience high-quality professional learning by 2007.

In its January 2003 report, No Dream Denied: A Pledge to America's Children, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future contends that, contrary to popular belief, the main challenge facing schools in their quest for qualified teachers is not recruiting, but retention.

And the key to retaining good teachers, according to NCTAF, is-you guessed it-effective professional development. "We have concluded that the nation cannot achieve quality teaching for every child unless those teachers can be kept in the classroom," say the report's authors. "The missing ingredient is finding a way for school systems to organize the work of qualified teachers so they can collaborate with their colleagues in developing strong learning communities that will sustain them as they become more accomplished teachers."

What do successful professional development communities look like? And what role does technology play in supporting them? To answer these questions we interviewed several education leaders from forward-thinking, technology-savvy schools and organizations. Here's what we learned.

Workshops That Focus on Real Needs...

Face-to-face presentations, some of them including hands-on lab sessions, are still at the core of most professional development programs involving technology. However, in recent years these professional development offerings have evolved in several key ways.

According to Sheryl Abshire, district administrative coordinator of technology for the Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La., "Professional development used to be all about the 'how to' of technology, but we've moved beyond that. The focus now is on instructional strategies and needs. How do you use technology to improve student achievement? What does it look like to teach a standards-based lesson infused with technology? Only when teachers see the impact on elevating student learning do they 'buy in' and integrate the technology-enhanced teaching strategies into their classroom practices."

Don't Forget the Administrators

Well-trained leaders are key to the success of any staff development effort.

It is easy to think of professional development as training for teachers. But in a growing number of states and districts attention has shifted to supporting and teaching principals and other school administrators.

Read the full version here.

Topics for key staff development sessions in Calcasieu Parish, therefore, center on academic goals. This year the district will focus much of its professional development efforts on the fourth grade and on middle and high school math. Two other groups of teachers will be the target audience next year, in a rotation that has each group receiving focused support one year out of four. In addition, site-based teams play a big role in determining professional development needs for their own school building.

...And Real Uses of Technology

This is not to say that schools in Lake Charles or elsewhere have turned away from "how to" instruction altogether. If you look at course catalogs for summer technology workshops in Calcasieu Parish or in the Richmond Community Schools in Richmond, Ind., for example, you will find plenty of sessions introducing teachers to new software programs or helping them brush up on their spreadsheet skills or video editing techniques. These learning experiences are still in high demand, but there's a new twist: An increasing number of districts now offer such lessons in a "just in time" fashion-frequently with help from technology.

Increasingly, school administrators are being targeted in technology-based professional development initiatives. Here, two elementary school principals celebrate completing a "Laptops for Leaders" course, which the Calcasieu Parish Public Schools provides for all of its principals.

Sometimes the technology used is as simple as a PowerPoint presentation or a PDF file with textual instructions and diagrams. In Richmond, however, a new technology tool-one customized for the district by Sonic Foundry, the maker of Mediasite Live-is helping professional development instructors turn live presentations into online multimedia workshops for just-in-time learning.

Richmond's WebCast Academy grew out of concerns about scheduling and release-time problems that made it difficult for teachers to attend workshops at times convenient to them. Since January 2003, the district has been offering its most popular presentations in a lab where the voice and computer displays are recorded digitally. Usually, the sessions are live, with some audience members in the lab and others at remote sites from where they can submit questions via e-mail or use polling software to respond to queries sent by the instructor to their computer screens. Afterward, the session, along with optional extras such as classroom video footage, serves as raw material for the WebCast Academy version of the class.

According to staff development coordinator Valerie Biggs, the creation process can be time consuming.

"We are lucky to have great technical staff to help out, because it really requires two people-the instructor and a technician who sets up the technology, manages the recording, and then publishes the presentation to the Web afterwards. However, once it's done it's a great resource that can be used over and over. And I've resolved never again to cancel an important workshop because of low enrollment due to scheduling problems."

At Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Ga., software from Tegrity plays a similar role. According to principal Mike Hall, the school's two Tegrity systems are used to tape lessons for a variety of purposes, including access for students who are hospitalized or ill. "We can tape a PowerPoint presentation or something that the teacher is doing at the board and post the presentation on the Web in streaming video, with the teacher talking in a small window while the display is shown on the larger screen. Staff development is another important use. When we implement new software, we can tape the live session and post it to the Web so teachers can go in and review the training whenever they wish."

Learning That Is Sustained and Collegial

Can We Afford It?

Find some creative solutions to offering high-quality staff development during a budget crunch.

Everybody knows that initiatives and technology tools such as the ones described in "Professional Development: 21st Century Models" cost money. In spite of growing evidence that effective professional development is essential to school improvement, tight budgets in many states threaten to undo much of the progress that has been made in this arena.

Read the full version here.

Perhaps the biggest thing that has changed about technology-related professional development over the years is the recognition that it needs to be ongoing. In fact, federal No Child Left Behind funds earmarked for professional development come with a stipulation: they cannot be used for one-day or short-term learning experiences.

Monica Beglau, instructional program leader for Missouri's statewide eMINTS (Enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) program, agrees strongly with the need for sustained professional development. "Our research has shown that sessions must be followed up with regular classroom visits to provide support and mentoring," she says. The classroom visits help teachers translate what they learn in professional development sessions into actual classroom practice; this is the piece that is usually missing in most professional development programs." First-year teachers in the two-year eMINTS program receive four release days and 100 hours of mentoring and instruction. Second-year teachers get two release days and 75 hours.

According to experts, another key element of sustained professional development is teamwork. In the Summer 2003 issue of the Journal of Staff Development, Stephanie Hirsh writes, "To meet [the NSDC goal of having all teachers experience high-quality professional learning by the year 2007], every teacher must be a part of a learning team-a team of teachers who meet almost every day about practical ways to improve teaching and learning."

eMINTS Cluster Instructional Specialists are professional development experts who work with teachers in their classrooms to help them translates lengthy instruction hours into practice.

This is the approach taken at Montefiore School, a special education school in Chicago, where teams of teachers and learning specialists meet at least once a week to plan curriculum and discuss individual students. Each team consists of approximately nine faculty members, including two technology integration specialists who support the other teachers in their daily use of technology.

Says Eileen Gallagher, who heads up Montefiore's professional development program, "You must have a team to design, implement, and follow up on professional development. It cannot be a one-person job. It is essential to provide opportunities for ongoing training and teacher collaboration."

Building Online Communities

Technology can be an important tool to help with collegiality and sustained learning. As the NCTAF authors of No Dream Denied put it, "Technology is perhaps the most important-and most underutilized-tool for providing teachers access to the targeted professional development they need, when and how they need it. Online courses, informal support groups, and other network-supported resources open the door to professional development opportunities far beyond what any school or district might be able to offer."

In many school districts across the country, virtual course delivery systems are used for both online instruction and ongoing collaboration among teachers. In Calcasieu Parish, for example, a number of face-to-face professional development activities are supplemented with follow-up discussions and lesson sharing using Blackboard.

Technology & Learning contributing editor Kim Carter is a fan of the online community Tapped In for ongoing professional development. "Some people use it for meetings," she explains, "especially when they work with people from different geographical locations. I've used it to hold a virtual class discussion-clarifying conceptual understandings and having educators share their specific experiences and applications. You can post URLs for participants so they can see examples of what you're talking about. But quite honestly, what I use Tapped In for most frequently is keeping my own professional development going. I love the afternoon sessions and the opportunities to talk with other practitioners."

Carter also uses other technology tools to support the faculty at the community-based school she founded. They include Centrinity's FirstClass, with which teachers create and post electronic portfolios, and LiveText, used for collaborative instructional design work. (See the directory starting on page 40 for more on these and other tools.)

Although Monica Beglau is convinced that it would be difficult to offer all eMINTS professional development online-she believes that "most teachers need more assistance and actual in-classroom coaching before they can take off and learn on their own in an online environment"-she has some interesting stories to tell about online collaborations involving eMINTS teachers. Using an open source tool known as Shadow netWorkspace, a number of teachers collaborated recently to develop participatory instructional units that they then used with their students. One of these units, focusing on how to improve a heavily traveled local highway, caught the attention of the Missouri Department of Transportation, which was impressed by the advice it received from the eMINTS students.

Models and Mentors

Steve Phelps, who oversees professional development at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco, offers the following advice to staff developers: "Work with the strongest people first. Build their capacities. You only need about 20 percent to 25 percent of a faculty to make a change." Starting with the most energetic, enthusiastic, early adopters and allowing them to inspire others is a popular strategy today. The eMINTS program, with participating schools selected through a competitive application process, is based on this approach.

A similar approach is taken in Calcasieu Parish, where specially selected "I-TEC" classrooms serve as models for other teachers and schools. Even in districts and states where no funding is available for model classrooms, many professional development programs rely heavily on identifying internal experts and leaders to serve as mentors to others.

In some cases, the mentors are students rather than adult teachers or administrators. This approach is strongly advocated by Dennis Harper of Generation Yes, which trains students to support technology in their schools: "Our philosophy is that if the K-12 students are not involved in the reform process, little will happen. After all, kids make up 92 percent of the school population and have lots of energy and technology expertise." In the Gen Y model, one teacher in the school teaches a group of students to mentor and support the remaining teaching staff. Teachers spend an average of three hours per semester working with their certified Gen Y student, who then provides in-classroom support and training for teachers.

A number of the online professional development programs described in the included directory have a mentoring component to them. One of the newest programs of this sort is My eCoach, developed by a team headed by Technology & Learning author Barbara Bray. This new resource is based on a "coach the mentors" approach, in which teachers collaborate online to develop inquiry-based units and curriculum tools supported by virtual coaches who are, themselves, mentored by the My eCoach team.

As T&L contributing editor David Warlick puts it, "I believe the best professional development is that which happens casually as teachers share with teachers what they are learning on an ongoing basis. I am very excited about the My eCoach approach in which coaches have access to their team members' work and can give tips, point them to tutorials, pat them on their virtual shoulders, and actually pay a visit when necessary. The outcomes are rich projects with assessment tools, interactive and collaborative work spaces, and many other resources that may be published for other teachers to clone for their own students."

Learning from Case Studies

Another collegial approach that focuses on mentorship and best practices is the type of "lesson study" used effectively for professional development in Japan. The lesson study process, popularized in this country by James W. Stigler and James Hiebert, involves extended observations of individual lessons by groups of educators who then meet to analyze the approaches and outcomes observed.

A high school student mentors an elementary student during the Summer Technology Camp at the Technology Training Center in Calcasieu Parish, La.

Lesson study and other sorts of best-practice observations benefit greatly from videotaping and viewing. Increasingly the video is digital and finding its way onto the World Wide Web.

A prototype for this approach was developed in 1999 by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, in collaboration with the Orange County Department of Education, Apple Computer, and several other universities and colleges. Located online at, the project features videos of exemplary teachers involved in standards-based math instruction, accompanied by commentary that helps practicing and preservice educators understand the reasoning behind each lesson. According to UCI's Joan Bissell, the site has been used "on an experimental basis in preparing new teachers. Preliminary research shows positive impacts of experience with the California Learning Interchange video cases on the teachers' ability to teach mathematical concepts in the elementary grades."

Commercial producers such as Lesson Lab and eSchool Online are also currently making headway in this area, offering a growing database of streaming video case studies that educators can view and listen to online. At the Lesson Lab Web site, the process is described as follows: "Video and other artifacts of practice . . . enable teachers and other professionals to study both their own and others' practice in context, slowed down. The tools also facilitate collaborative discussions of practice, both in live groups and virtually, over the Internet. The results of these activities are stored in scalable multimedia databases, which provide means of accumulating and sharing professional knowledge over time."

NEXT: At-a-Glance

20 Tips for Effective Professional Development

Don't Forget the Administrators

Can We Afford It?

Tools for Building Online Professional Development Offerings

Tapping into Existing Online Professional Development Courses

Other Resources

At Technology & Learning's own Web site, look for the following recently updated articles and resources focusing on professional development.

Educator's Outlook

The Professional Development Page

PDQ (Professional Development Quick Tips)

T&L Magazine Archives

Online Course Building Tools, February 2002

Build and Teach a Successful online Course, April 2003

Trend Watch: Video Lessons From Abroad, May 2003

Are Your Teachers "Highly Qualified"? June 2003


For a quick look at the three programs profiled in this article, go here.

Judy Salpeter, an experienced educator, freelance writer, and education technology specialist, is program chair for Technology & Learning Events and consulting editor for Technology & Learning magazine.

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Here's a look at the three programs profiled in this feature.

Richmond Community Schools
Richmond, Ind.

Thirteen schools, 6,000 students
Main components of this professional development program

  • Live workshops and a "WebCast Academy" that allows educators to participate in the same workshops and presentations online at a time of their choosing.
  • Teachers get six half-days of release time to attend workshops and have 24-hour access to WebCast Academy classes.
  • Individual sites focus on goals of school improvement with help from full-time literacy consultants as well as on-site "tech consultants"‹teachers who receive a small stipend to devote nine hours of non-release time yearly to helping colleagues with technology integration.
  • Administrators and others are able to take graduate-level courses in cooperation with Indiana University and Ball State University via distance-learning labs located on Richmond Schools campuses.

Delivered by
In addition to a professional development coordinator for the district, there are two "teacher leaders" at the high school with half-time professional development responsibilities, one full-time teacher leader serving the two middle schools, and two full-time literacy consultants for the elementary schools. The district technology staff includes a director and assistant director of technology and seven full-time technicians.

Funding sources
A $10 million technology bond covers the new equipment and some staffing. Additional funds come from the general fund and a technology grant.

Technology used

  • Through bond money, all schools have new computers, fast Internet connections, "Smart Board" projectors, and a computer-to-student ratio of 6 to 1 or better. This equipment is used for teacher as well as student learning.
  • WebCast Academy, a customized version of Sonic Foundry's Mediasite Live Web presentation system, is used to create online workshops that are similar to the face-to-face version.
  • Videoconferencing and other distance-learning tools are now available through labs at central offices, high schools, and middle schools. Plans are in place to add distance-learning labs at the elementary schools next year.

Lessons learned
"The biggest lesson we've learned," says staff development coordinator Valerie Biggs, "is to start small and then constantly tweak the program. Our first [WebCast Academy] presentations were very rough, but you really stop and think about how you can improve your next presentation when everything you say is being recorded for posterity and published on the World Wide Web. We always ask teachers to fill out an evaluation after each presentation and then use their input to change future presentations. Teachers want to come away from a workshop with the information they need to be better at their jobs. What have we learned about building a professional development program from the ground up? If you build it, they will come."

Learn more at

eMINTS (Enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies

Statewide project administered by MOREnet (Missouri Research and Education Network) in partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Over 675 eMINTS classrooms serving more than 15,000 students. The project trains 250 to 260 teachers each year, some in year one and others in year two of the program. A new initiative has 40 classrooms in Utah replicating the eMINTS program.

Main components of this professional development program

  • Schools apply to establish two eMINTS classrooms in grades 3, 4, or 5. Accepted eMINTS teachers receive two years of professional development.
  • Cluster Instructional Specialists, living in different parts of the state, work with eMINTS teachers in person several times a month through workshops, cluster meetings, and classroom visits. Technology is used to supplement these face-to-face learning experiences.
  • Established eMINTS classrooms serve as models for others. New eMINTS teachers visit established sites once a year; experienced eMINTS teachers serve as mentors and specialists for others in the district; and a number of resources and online modules developed by and for eMINTS teachers are available to all MOREnet participants.

Delivered by

  • Thirteen Cluster Instructional Specialists (CIS)
  • Three Area Instructional Specialists who create the professional development materials, train the CIS, and provide overall support.
  • Some districts enroll in train-the-trainer programs where their own specialists learn to play the CIS role.

Funding sources
Districts must cover the cost of equipment and pay MOREnet or eMINTS a per-teacher fee for professional development. The district can apply to the state for federal Enhancing Education Through Technology money to cover the costs; these are competitive grants with extra points awarded for financial need. Districts also use local dollars, foundation money, and PTA funds to set up classrooms.

Technology used

  • eMINTS classrooms have teacher laptops and workstations, one computer for every two students, multimedia peripherals (e.g., scanners, digital cameras, whiteboards), high-speed Internet connections and networks, and a variety of tools to promote inquiry-based learning.
  • Online discussion lists and e-mail are used to foster dialogue between eMINTS teachers and mentors.
  • As part of MOREnet's Internet 2 project, some eMINTS teachers have participated in online collaborations using such tools as Tapped In and Shadow netWorkspace.

Lessons learned
According to eMINTS instructional program leader Dr. Monica Beglau, "We have found that the most important thing is getting teachers to reflect on their practice in terms of student performance. When they really look at what they are doing, they are often willing to make changes and move toward a more constructivist or project-based approach to learning that involves technology. The constant contact with a mentor who is coaching them and providing personal support seems to make a big difference in their willingness to examine and change their teaching practices."

Learn more at

Calcasieu Parish Public School System
Lake Charles, La.

Scope Fifty-nine schools, 33,000 students. Calcasieu Parish Public School System also serves as a professional development resource for other parishes through its regional Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center.

Main components of this professional development program

  • "I-TEC" classrooms, chosen through competitive grants, receive technology and three years of professional development. In turn, these classrooms serve as models for others, with I-TEC teachers mentoring colleagues.
  • Principal training program, now in its fifth year, combines half-day workshops, online courses, observation of I-TEC classrooms, and collegial support.
  • A classroom-based technology group works with teachers across the district on a rotating basis so that every teacher has a professional development focus every four years.
  • Optional proficiency classes offered year-round through the district Technology Training Center.
  • Collaborative program with the College of Education at McNeese State University supports preservice education as well as bringing professors into the district as resources for in-service educators.

Delivered by

  • Internal professional development staff of four for the district.
  • Four trainers for Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center, funded with federal Enhancing Education Through Technology funds (part of NCLB).
  • Teachers and administrators who have gone through the programs and now mentor and help train others.

Funding sources

  • Initial funding for several professional development initiatives came from the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund and statewide classroom-based technology funding.
  • Current support comes from district funds, state programs earmarked for professional development, federal Enhancing Education Through Technology funds, and a Bill and Melinda Gates grant to support professional development for principals.

Technology used

  • Principals have been issued their own laptops and, this year, tablet PCs with productivity tools and customized software for making classroom observations.
  • I-TEC classrooms are equipped with five Internet-connected multimedia computers, an LCD projector, scanner, network printer, digital cameras, and various productivity and curriculum-specific software programs.
  • In the year that classroom based technology team focuses on their area, teachers receive a new computer, printer, digital camera, and software for professional use.
  • Blackboard and e-mail supplement face-to-face meetings for course delivery and networking.

Lessons learned
Sheryl Abshire, the district's administrative coordinator of technology, shares the following advice: "We have learned that in order to truly impact student learning you must have all the stakeholders on board‹from the superintendent, to the district curriculum department, to the building level principals and the classroom teachers. We also have learned that this process does not happen in a year or even two years. It takes time for teachers to learn new teaching strategies and field-test them. It takes time for in-depth planning and collaboration, and it takes time for principals to learn how to use technology for their own professional practice and then begin to understand the power and importance for investing in technology for every student in their school."

Learn more at

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1. Be aware of your reluctant learners. Be sensitive to each learner and listen carefully to his or her beliefs and needs. Try to refrain from judgment. Realize that change takes time and is different for everyone.

2. Keep it real. Develop all learning opportunities around projects, standards, and goals. Technology becomes more personal and real to teachers if they can see it in context and as part of their curriculum.

3. Get your administrators on board. Don't limit professional growth opportunities to the teachers in your schools. Successful programs have supportive administrators.

4. Don't touch the mouse. Explain the processes and act as a "guide on the side" when new or reluctant learners are trying out technology skills. Resist the temptation to step in and show them how to do it.

5. Form study groups. Follow up professional development sessions with small study groups that meet weekly, allowing participants to develop the shared language and common understanding necessary for acquiring new knowledge and skills. Larger study groups from different schools can hold monthly meetings-face-to-face or virtually-focusing on shared interests or projects.

6. Provide other opportunities for team work. Teachers tend to be isolated in their classrooms, unaware of what is happening even in the classroom next door. Encourage teachers of the same grade level or subject area to develop curriculum collaboratively.

7. Establish mentors. Identify teachers, students, and curriculum specialists who can mentor faculty in their classrooms, during prep times, or after school, thus helping to model good technology-supported instruction and offering feedback and advice on a variety of topics.

8. Support the mentors. Provide each mentor with a coach who can observe, plan, model, and provide feedback on his or her projects and leadership skills-both on-site and online.

9. Use technology to nurture the learning community. A variety of online discussions, activities, and resources can be used to encourage ongoing conversation about issues raised during professional development sessions.

10. Vary the tools for online professional development. Asynchronous tools such as threaded discussions, e-mail forums, and Web archives are easy for most learners to use and offer the scheduling flexibility busy educators need for "anytime anywhere" learning. On the other hand, synchronous exchanges-including online chat, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and collaborative workspaces-work well for certain group assignments or virtual meetings such as debates, town hall events, and "meet the expert" interviews.

11. Don't rush online learning. Working entirely online is new and uncomfortable for most of us. Online communities will dissolve if there is nobody to facilitate them and to help build the feeling of community. Combine online learning and face-to-face meetings, especially at first, so that people can get to know one another and build a mutual set of goals.

12. Market your professional development. Teachers are so busy, they may not realize that what you are offering is exactly what they need. Create "FYI" memos that you send by e-mail, put flyers in their inboxes, create an electronic mailing list to promote upcoming events, and follow up with a phone call to confirm your coaching sessions.

13. Say cheese. Videotape all staff development activities for assessment and feedback. Videos can also be used as automatic portfolios. Individual frames can be captured digitally to use in teacher portfolios or on a Web site.

14. Show what's available. Make sure teachers are aware of available and emerging technologies that could support them in the classroom or for personal productivity. Include "Technology Moments" at staff meetings where a device, a program, or a project can be demonstrated to the staff.

15. Build a library of resources. Develop a technology binder, Web site, or video collection with sample lessons, support materials, tips, and practical ideas.

16. Offer just-in-time tutorials. So that your teachers can have what they need at their fingertips when they need it, create or use existing step-by-step how-to tutorials in print, videotape, or online.

17. Make yourself available. Use e-mail and personal visits to check in with the educators you coach or mentor.

18. Create summer learning experiences. Provide summer institutes, when teachers have the time for hands-on experiences, and encourage sharing, playing, experimenting, and learning.

19. Aim for the right ratios. Coaching teachers works best if the ratio is 1-to-1 or, at the most, 3-to-1. The smaller the group, the easier it is for the mentor or coach to focus in on the learner's needs. Workshops work best if the ratio is no more than 15 learners per trainer, preferably under 12-to-1.

20. Share what works. Have teachers create electronic portfolios of work, ideas, and reflections to share in study groups. Help them show off their most successful projects and approaches. Put on a showcase and post it to a Web site for everyone to see.

Barbara Bray (, president of My eCoach, a division of Computer Strategies, LLC, writes about professional development in a regular column for the OnCUE Journal. She is the moderator of techstaffdevelop, an e-mail forum, and the coordinator of the Professional Development QuickTips for

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Well-trained leaders are key to the success of any staff development effort.

It is easy to think of professional development as training for teachers. But in a growing number of states and districts attention has shifted to supporting and teaching principals and other school administrators.

Sheryl Abshire, administrative coordinator of technology for the Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La., explains, "You can invest a lot of money in building capacity or training the teachers, but it will all be for naught unless the principals are on board. They have to really 'see' what it looks like when students are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge, using technology as a tool for learning‹not just sitting in front of a computer working on a math game or watching vocabulary words flashing on the screen. Only when they can observe the difference will they invest in the professional development and technology needed to transform today's classrooms into 21st century learning centers."

As part of a multiyear professional development program designed especially for them, the Calcasieu Parish principals visit the I-TEC model classrooms in teams so they can network with their colleagues and discuss their observations. They design their own standards-based professional development activities on the Blackboard platform and then use this tool to share their work and reflect on one another's ideas.

Peter Reilly, director of administration for the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center in New York, describes how his center has changed its approach to staff development for the districts it serves: "Trying to work with each teacher, classroom by classroom, was taking too long and was a job more suited to the individual districts. We looked at places we could make the most difference." The result has been a new emphasis on leadership development programs for district technology leaders as well as technology institutes "to frame the important educational technology issues for superintendents and their cabinets to support the work of technology directors."

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Everybody knows that initiatives and technology tools such as the ones described in "Professional Development: 21st Century Models" cost money. In spite of growing evidence that effective professional development is essential to school improvement, tight budgets in many states threaten to undo much of the progress that has been made in this arena.

Creative ways of responding to the fiscal crisis without compromising professional development efforts include judicious use of outsourcing and of student leadership teams, partnerships with universities (often supported by Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology grants from the federal government) to improve both pre- and in-service education, and the pooling of resources to form regional professional development consortia.

Fortunately, one of the key trends in technology-related professional development‹the coming together of the techies and the non-techies to focus on common goals‹also promises financial savings. In the Summer 2003 issue of the Journal of Staff Development, Matthew Hornbeck analyzed professional development spending by seven urban school districts and found that the use of a multitude of funding sources‹including Title I, Eisenhower, and federal technology funds as well as various state initiatives‹often resulted in fragmented goals and approaches. Cost savings can be realized, he suggests, as districts "move away from organizing activities around funding sources and combine funding streams to support integrated efforts aimed at school needs."

Out of necessity, and because they're seeing that it works, schools are indeed consolidating their technology and standards efforts, spending less time on technology training in isolation and more on bringing all resources to bear on student achievement. One can expect that the success of these efforts will translate into additional savings‹most notably, a decrease in the "huge financial, institutional, and human costs" that the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future warns are associated with schools that fail to support, educate, and retain good teachers. Can we afford not to focus our attention on this important national endeavor?

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Here is a sampling of the many professional development platforms for creating Web-based meetings, presentations, classes, and virtual schools.

Blackboard ( The Blackboard Web site profiles a number of ways districts are using this well-known virtual course delivery system for professional development presentations and collaborations.

eSchool Online ( Like Lesson Lab, ACTV HyperTV's eSchool Online was specially created for schools interested in case study-based professional development. The company typically works with states, districts, and companies to develop (and remarket) online professional development that integrates video, interactive activity pages, reflection questions, and management tools for tracking teacher participation.

FirstClass ( Centrinity's FirstClass, with its customizable tools for facilitating collaborative meetings and shared workspaces, is used by a number of K-12 schools for everything from student instruction to professional development.

Lesson Lab ( Specializing in case studies, Lesson Lab offers digital libraries of teaching practices as well as tools and consultants to help educators create their own video-based lesson studies.

LiveText ( LiveText offers teachers templates for creating and sharing Web-based lessons.

It can be used for collaborative instructional design, lesson plan exchanges between educators, or posting the components of a professional development session for others to replicate.

Mediasite Live ( While Sonic Foundry's Mediasite Live product is more widely used in higher education than K-12, districts such as Richmond (Ind.) Community Schools have recently begun using it to capture live professional development presentations (complete with audience polling and Q&A) for "anytime, anywhere" replay.

My eCoach ( This new resource from Computer Strategies, LLC, provides coaching and mentoring services and products in a collaborative networked learning community.

Shadow netWorkspace ( This open source tool for online collaboration is available free to schools interested in installing, maintaining, and customizing it for their own use. Organizations such as eMINTS and the University of Missouri have piloted it for use as a preservice and in-service professional development tool.

Tapped In ( This grassroots online community, now available in a new version at the SRI site listed here, offers a meeting place for educators, complete with virtual offices and classrooms, conference rooms, a help desk, and more.

TaskStream ( TaskStream's online environment is designed to be a professional development resource. The site offers Web-based instructional design tools, tools for creating electronic portfolios, discussion boards, mentoring tools, a "cybrary," and a management tool that administrators can use to monitor and assess teachers' work.

Tegrity WebLearner ( Another powerful tool for live and recorded e-learning presentations, Tegrity's solution is tailored to presenters who want to incorporate video, PowerPoint, and whiteboards into their online sessions.

See Also

The companies below offer additional tools and services for the creation of online courses and learning environments. Creative staff developers should be able to repurpose most of them for K-12 professional development.

Active Worlds ( (

eClassroom (

IBM Lotus Learning Management System (

IntraLearn (

Jones e-education (

LearnCenter (

Manhattan Virtual Classroom (

Metacourse (

NetMeeting (

PLATO Learning (

ReadyGo (

Trivantis Lectora (

WebCT (

WebEx (

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Looking for a ready-made course? Check out the following.

Connected University ( Classroom Connect, in addition to featuring a variety of online learning resources and in-person conferences and workshops, offers Connected University, an online professional development community with courses, software tutorials, and instructional support. CU boasts more than 80,000 subscribers and over 65 classes, ranging from guided courses on educational leadership to self-paced "how to" lessons on Internet searching. Participants can earn continuing education units or graduate credit.

eTeaching Institute ( Offering tools for building virtual classes and schools, eClassroom also has some ready-made classes in designing and managing online courses, providing an opportunity for instructors to "learn by doing" as they use the online environment to explore effective approaches to teaching online.

Educational Impact ( In addition to working with districts and states to create customized programs, Educational Impact delivers a variety of online professional development classes on topics such as safe schools, brain-based research, and educational leadership. The courses integrate streaming video case studies, live chats, discussions, handouts, transcripts, and assessments that determine whether participants have completed a lesson successfully.

Holt, Rinehart and Winston ( HRW currently offers two online courses on reading instruction (grades 6-8) and literacy (grades 6-12).

McGraw-Hill ( McGraw-Hill's online class for K-6 educators, "Mathematics, YES!" can be taken for university credit.

Metacourse ( Like eClassroom, Metacourse is supplementing its primary business-developing tools for designing online learning experiences-with online classes on facilitating and creating such learning experiences. ( Part of the Online Higher Education division of Sylvan Learning Systems, offers more than 1,700 online courses for accreditation and graduate level credit.

PBS TeacherLine ( PBS TeacherLine helps lead visitors to online professional development opportunities, including facilitated modules by local PBS stations as well as chats, resource links, portfolio tools, and a virtual math academy with self-paced lessons.

TC Innovations ( A Columbia Teachers College initiative, TC Innovations offers the New Teacher Academy, five online seminars that blend facilitated group meetings and online coursework to help new teachers enhance classroom effectiveness and improve student performance. TC Innovations trains local district facilitators to manage the academy and works closely with the district to tailor the curriculum.

Teachscape ( Built around videotaped teaching cases, Teachscape offers professional development opportunities with both in-person and online learning activities in several curriculum areas. The first of these is mathematics, for which Teachscape has collaborated with the Concord Consortium to develop multimedia case studies that show real teachers implementing standards-based mathematics instruction in their classrooms. Additional courses in science and language arts are under development.

TeachStream ( The Video Journal of Education is in the process of revising and relaunching its TeachStream Web site, featuring bite-sized videotaped case studies, commentary, and assessments. Schools purchase a customized set of videos, choosing either online delivery or CD-ROMs.

Thirteen Online ( Thirteen Ed Online's "Concept to Classroom" is a series of free workshops on such topics as inquiry-based learning, teaching to academic standards, WebQuests, using the Internet for teaching, and making family connections. Each class has text, a discussion area, and mini case studies presented in both video and text format. Letters and information for administrators in a teacher's own district are designed to help local districts award their own CEU credits for completion.

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Edutopia Online ( With its overall focus on sharing best practices in the education world, the George Lucas Educational Foundation's Edutopia site offers articles and video clips on a variety of topics, including successful approaches to mentoring, teacher preparation, and technology professional development.

Generation Yes ( Subscribers to one of this organization's student-driven programs (including the best-known Gen Y as well as newer projects focusing on girls in technology and infrastructure building) have access to online tools, training materials, and consulting.

John Edward Porter Professional Development Center ( This new center, created jointly by NCREL and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, promises customized retreats and institutes, on-site and online coaching, and a range of tools for planning effective professional development.

National Commission on Teaching and America's Future ( This Web site houses numerous reports (including the new No Dream Denied: A Pledge to America's Children), electronic newsletters, case studies, and other resources related to "providing every child with competent, caring, qualified teachers in schools organized for success."

NCREL Professional Development ( The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, one of 10 government-supported regional education labs, has a new professional development Web site featuring a comprehensive collection of publications, video examples based on winners of a 1999 national professional development awards program, and other resources for schools.

National Staff Development Council ( NSDC is a nonprofit organization focusing on staff development and school improvement. NSDC's national standards for professional development are widely accepted as guidelines for schools. Its Journal of Staff Development contains many relevant articles that can be viewed from the Web site. A special section on No Child Left Behind helps school leaders and staff developers understand the act and its implications.

REL Network ( While NCREL is the only one of the 10 regional education labs with a central focus on professional development for technology integration, many of the other labs offer great resources in their areas of expertise (ranging from standards-based instruction to family and community connections). The REL Network site offers information about and links to the different labs. ( Educator and author Jamie McKenzie, editor of From Now On (, has assembled this site with links to his own books, articles, workshops, and videos on professional development, as well as some recommended publications and Web resources from others in the field.

NOTE: The majority of K-12 service and software providers offer some form of professional development for their customers; check out their Web sites to learn more. In addition, although we cannot attempt to list them all here, a large number of online resources for schools provide high-quality lesson plans, teaching ideas, and articles that can be used to support professional development.

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