Why Webinar? They’re a great snack!

This post was originally written by Dierdre Shetler, Instructional Technology Instructor at Cartwright School District, Phoenix, AZ on her blog Lessons Learned. See the original post here.

medium_36595362Last year, before our professional development hours were due, I was short. I had been at plenty of PD sessions, I was just teaching them all, and you don’t get credit for that. (Strangely enough.) So, I scrambled and found a few cheap workshops in the area that I could attend, though I did end up having to take a personal day to attend one. I knew there had to be a better way.

Then, many thanks to my favorite source for professional knowledge, my Twitter feed brought up a tweet from someone referencing edWeb.net. I clicked the link, and discovered that edWeb is a relatively new website with many burgeoning teacher communities all putting on free webinars (with the help of generous sponsors of course, like Follett and ePals). You just have to log in and view the webinar (live, or to the archived version) and then you get an emailed PDF with the hours certificate. Not only that, but the topics were very up-to-date, relevant, and led by people in the know (classroom teachers, working administrators, well-respected librarians, content specialists, etc.) As a sample, some of this week’s topics include: Shakespeare from PBS, 21st Century Skills with 1:1 iPads, How Exercise Can Transform Skills, Expanding Fraction Understanding, Twitter in the Classroom, Flipped Learning Primer, etc.)

The more I participated in these webinars, live or archived, the more I realized that for a certain part of of teachers’ professional development needs, it is exactly what we need. Short, on-demand content, directly related to what we know we need (as opposed to whoever shows up in our weekly school PD session). I also love that the live webinars have a chat feature that allow teachers to discuss the topic, their own experiences with it, and questions and comments that benefit others. Not only that, it’s free and accessible anytime, anywhere. This alone is huge. Teachers don’t have the time or money to be paying for expensive workshops and conferences around the country. These fit the bill :-)

Professional development is an active, dynamic process that can take place anywhere, anytime through the Internet. With the Internet, we are no longer bound to four walls and a guest speaker in front of us to tell us what we should learn. In fact, the more actively you take part in designing your own PD, the more evident the results will be in your teaching practice. —Isaac Pineda

While I am a huge proponent of higher-quality, teacher-chosen, job-embedded professional development, I also believe that there are times for different kinds of PD. (My colleague John Spencer has written about this very eloquently.) One of those is the unconference model, or as it relates to education, Edcamp, which I can (and have) talked about this ad nauseum as the planner for the first Edcamp Phoenix. These annual meeting of the minds are a fantastic tool for sparking new innovation and collaboration. However, sometimes teachers need a little snack of PD, just enough to help them refine a particular practice, give them a boost of energy in a particular area, and keep their minds thinking about professional matters, not just the day to day craziness of being a teacher (gotta call his mom after I enter these grades, I forgot to turn in that form, what? an assembly today??) Generally, these little snacks help me stay focused on why I teach, and how to do it best.

As it turns out there are quite a few resources for free, online, on-demand PD. One of my Edcamp Phoenix co-planners, the venerable Dr. Peggy George, even put together an excellent Live Binder (collection of links) documenting these options. So I would highly encourage you all to go get a PD snack! Just open the proverbial fridge and look!