Review of the Best Online Professional Development for Educators and Teachers

Professional Development for Educators

Professional development is an essential way for teachers to refine their strategies, methods, and understanding of their work. In order to provide educators with the tools they need, a market in professional development (also known simply as “PD”) has developed around online and offline tools built for teacher training.

This list is a guide of the major and minor players in the PD field. Our analysis of each competitor shows PD 360 from School Improvement Network to have the most tools and training videos in the industry, and they are also one of the most inexpensive. Teachers can buy individual licenses to PD 360 for $125, but the most inexpensive method is to purchase a license for an entire school or district, which often drives the price well under $100 per license.

Each school and district must determine what their needs are and what is most effective. We hope to have been as open and objective as possible in the following analysis.

PD 360 – School Improvement Network

PD 360 has 1,500+ videos, training from 120 experts, 97 topics, a community of 700,000, new content added daily, and a year’s complete access costs around $100 or less per teacher. The platform also integrates with an observation tool equipped with prescriptive technology, Common Core Standards training, and a unique product for Title I schools. PD 360’s community is closed to the public.

Pros: You get the most bang for your buck. PD 360’s entire platform costs less per teacher than one course from any of the competitors.

Cons: The platform is currently built in Flash.

Bottom line: School Improvement Network provides a true tour de force that is unstoppably effective and cost efficient.

EdWeb

EdWeb has a K12 Educator Store that sells eBooks and teacher aid materials, but it is not presented as a focused resource for teacher improvement. The store and its products are open and available to anyone, though the main product seems to be the online teacher community. The number of users is unpublished.

Pros: EdWeb sends out weekly emails to help subscribers stay up-to-date.

Cons: The community is open access, meaning that one does not have to be a teacher to participate in the forums. The user interface is very difficult to navigate and participation in the community is small.

Bottom line: EdWeb’s site only provides forum capabilities-no professional development is connect to the community. EdWeb sends helpful emails, but the community is difficult to navigate.

Schoolnet

Schoolnet focuses on improving education through data analysis and positions itself as “the leader in data-driven education for K-12 school systems.” They have an open-access community, and their website seems to provide professional development solutions la carte. The number of experts, users, and community participants is unpublished. Pearson Education purchased Schoolnet in April 2011.

Pros: Pearson Education will likely be able to expand Schoolnet’s resources.

Cons: The community is open access. Their products are not one comprehensive whole.

Bottom line: Schoolnet provides free resources on their website to assist educators as much as possible. They have connected tools to their community, and Pearson Education will probably be able to expand Schoolnet’s resources.

Edutopia

Edutopia is backed by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Edutopia provides 150 free videos that average four minutes each, a community of over 100,000 members, and other free resources for educational professional development. The community is open access, so the public can and does participate in the forums.

Pros: The free materials are high quality and the community has good participation.

Cons: The materials and resources are limited, the community is open to the public, and the community is relatively small.

Bottom line: Edutopia may be one of the best free resources available to teachers, but the resources are very limited.

SimpleK12

SimpleK12 offers a community as the main professional development solution. The community does not have free registration as all other communities have in this competitive analysis; a registration fee of $297 per year will give a person access to the community. SimpleK12 claims to serve 500,000 worldwide and offer 500 hours of classroom technology how-to videos on the community.

Pros: If the community serves 500,000, then there could potentially be good participation.

Cons: There is no way to test the product without buying it, and it is quite expensive.

Bottom line: SimpleK12 is expensive and veiled.

Knowledge Delivery Systems

Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS) has eClassroom, mVal, eWalk, and custom PD programs for some of its main products. KDS does not provide a community, but it does provide a way for educators who are following the same course to communicate with each other. The product eClassroom is the platform on which educators follow courses which they buy one at a time. The mVal product is an evaluation tool, and eWalk is a classroom walkthrough tool. KDS offers approximately 760 hours of training videos from 55 experts.

Pros: Educators have up to 760 hours of content from which to choose and evaluation tools that work effectively.

Cons: The observation and evaluation tools are not integrated with a professional development platform, KDS offers no community, and districts and teachers buy one course at a time.

Bottom line: KDS offers primarily specialty courses from which educators can gain college credit, but they are not meant to be a district-wide solution.

Teachscape

Teachscape offers courses that a school or district must buy one at a time. They offer 108 courses from 12 experts as of July 2011. Teachscape’s tour de force is the 360-degree camera technology they employ with their classroom observation platform.

Pros: Teachscape boasts a 360-degree camera for their observation technology.

Cons: Teachscape’s professional development, much like many other companies in the industry, is only available one course at a time from only twelve experts. They also do not offer an online professional learning community.

Bottom line: Teachscape provides extensive training, and any training must be universally applied.

ASCD

ASCD is a nonprofit organization that serves 160,000 educators in 148 countries with myriad products. ASCD offers several levels of membership, from a $25 student membership to a $219 premium membership (as of July 2011). ASCD offers several professional development solutions, including PD in Focus, a professional development platform with 90 hours of video and 49 experts. The community is theoretically open to all, but the group facilitator must approve each member.

Pros: ASCD has many resources at their disposal, meaning that users have the opportunity to access many resources in one place.

Cons: The resources are spread thin, and the actual PD training is minimal at only 90 hours, 55 hours, and a small community.

Bottom line: ASCD is affordable due to their membership breakdown. There are good resources, but those resources are spread thin.

PBS Teacherline

PBS Teacherline provides 130 graduate-level courses for teachers. They have recently added Peer Connection, their own online community. The courses and trainings are available one at a time, and separate licenses are purchased for each user.

Pros: The number of graduate courses available is tempting for anyone looking to advance in school while in his or her career.

Cons: The community is not free, and educators must pay for each resource that they use rather than having an open library. The licenses make providing specific training to multiple educators a logistical challenge.

Bottom line: PBS Teacherline is a good option if educators want to work toward a higher degree.

Learner.org

Annenberg Foundation has created Learner.org to provide free educational resources online. Learner.org has great resources for the average learner, but the site is not built for professional development on a district- or school-wide scale.

Pros: It’s all quality, and it’s all free.

Cons: Learner.org is not a viable resource for specific training as its PD content is limited.

Bottom line: Learner.org is the professional learner’s dream, but it is not a source of training for classroom management or teaching techniques.

Staff Development for Educators

Staff Development for Educators (SDE) coordinates both traditional and online professional development. SDE does not provide a community on which to collaborate, and online courses are only available with individual licenses. Educators can choose any one of 54 courses to buy and follow online.

Pros: It is simple and straight-forward: each teacher buys a course and finishes it.

Cons: SDE does not provide a library, a community, or a true PD platform.

Bottom line: SDE started as a traditional PD company, and they have retained that model even in their online endeavors.

Please feel free to leave comments about aspects we may have missed, companies you have seen or used, and your honest-and respectful-opinion about what has worked for you.

5 Questions To Ask A Potential Online Tutor

The education systems are evolving across the world. An increasing number of people are hiring tutors in order to help their kids study more easily. Irrespective of the objective that you may have, we suggest that you look for a tutor who can teach your kids in the right style. Given below are a few questions that you may want to ask the tutor before hiring him.

What is your teaching style?

Not all students learn the same way. Therefore, it’s important for a teacher to structure the lessons based on the learning style of the student. So, before you hire a tutor, we suggest that you find out if they can format the lessons according to the learning style of your kid.

Do you have a plan?

Answering this question will be difficult, especially if the tutor has not taken a look at the schoolwork of a kid. Once the tutor goes through a kid’s schoolwork, they can have a pretty good idea of the needs of the kid and then they can put together a plan for the achievement of desired results. Actually, the tutor should have specific methods and strategies in order to identify the problems and understand the learning behavior of the kid.

Why do you tutor?

The purpose of tutoring is to develop a productive relationship between a student and a tutor. As a matter of fact, good tutors are passionate and want their students succeed. As a matter of fact, best tutors have a keen interest in the progress of the student. Moreover, they do whatever they can in order to help their student get the highest score.

Do you have any references?

Although reliable references are a source of information, you will find it hard to get them. On good online tutoring sites, you can find written reviews and lesson ratings from students who worked with good tutors. As a matter of fact, reading reviews from students and parents can give you a great insight into the personality and subject proficiency of the tutor. So, if you are going to hire a tutor, it’s a good idea to get references. Aside from this, make sure that the references are genuine.

Can the tutor help your kid become an independent learner?

Actually, there should be a valuable and effective relationship between a student and a teacher. As a matter of fact, mastering and memorizing specific skills and topics may give results, but this won’t be a long-term solution to your kid’s educational needs. Some lessons may revolve around a certain topic, but it’s important that the tutor understands and likes the logic and theory behind the concepts. The reason is that it will help the student deal with the obstacles and avoid frustration down the road.

So, if you have been looking for an online tutor for your kid, we suggest that you ask the above questions to a potential tutor. This way it will be easier for you to choose the best tutor based on the needs of your kid.

Tips For Keeping Kids Safe Online

The proliferation of social media, online gaming, online forums and cell phone usage have given today’s children technological access never dreamed of just a generation ago. Children now have access to a staggering amount of online content, people and information. With these advances, parents now have even more challenges when it comes to keeping their children safe and happy. They want them safe from predators and happy in the sense that they are free from online bullying. Both of these concerns are foremost in the minds of parents as their kids create Facebook pages, play online games, and text incessantly.

Here is a rundown of some of the top threats to your children’s well-being. In a constantly connected world, knowing where the danger lies is the first step in prevention and safety.

Predatory Adults

According to enough.org, there are currently over 600,000 Registered Sex Offenders in the US and more than four percent of all children, while online, will be exposed to some form of suggestive solicitation from an adult. Naïve or rebellious children could fall prey to these online predators.

Peer Bullying

The media has covered some high-profile cases of teen suicide and online bullying in the last couple of years. According to some statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 52% of students report being cyber bullied at some time, while 25% report repeated bullying via their cell phones or social media profiles (statisticbrain.com).

Inappropriate Content

Pornography and inappropriate content is everywhere on the internet. According to Alexa.com, four of the top twenty sites with the highest web traffic are pornographic in nature. When you consider what often comes up in a search engine when entering a seemingly innocuous search, or the amount of inappropriate spam emails you receive, it’s not hard to see why this is such an issue with keeping kids insulated from inappropriate content.

Narcissism and Compulsion

Children, and especially teens, are hyper-aware of social status and image. This mindset can lead to unhealthy amounts of time on such social media sites as Twitter or Facebook. Kids get caught up in trying to be constantly aware, connected and interacting online in the hopes that they will gain acceptance or be more popular.

Secrecy

Further data from the US Department of Health states that only 52% of teens exposed to bullying or inappropriate solicitation, report the incidents to their parents. There are no numbers on exposure to inappropriate content but it is probably a safe bet that a lot of those incidents go unreported as well.

All of these threats are very real and, considering the amount of time children spend online, could present themselves on a daily basis. Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe, while bridging the gap between parental monitoring and proper education for your children.

• Kids must “friend” their parents on Facebook and allow them to be “followed” on Twitter. As teens get older, parents are certain to receive pushback but this is a surefire way to see what your kids are posting and what is being said about them. It is a fine line between monitoring and interference, so caution is advised.

• Do not let kids create their own personal email addresses until they reach a more mature, responsible age. Any account being created online, should be linked to the parents email. This will not only let you monitor what sites your children are registering for but will usually require that you authorize usage and provide you with time to either discuss any concerns with your children or deny the request.

• Make sure that your kids are educated on what’s appropriate to post online and that they never provide contact information or post inappropriate or suggestive pictures of themselves. In today’s world of social media, kids can be their own worst enemy. They shouldn’t post anything online that they wouldn’t want on a billboard, as this is essentially what online posts are. And removing or controlling content on the internet once it’s out there, is not a simple matter.

• Young adults tend to want to add as many other peers as possible to their social media circles. But the reality is that many of these “friends” are not vested in your child’s best interest and oftentimes become a source for ridicule or cyber bullying. Make sure your kids only accept requests from friends they know and trust.

• Strict rules and guidelines need to be set forth and agreed upon prior to allowing kids to go online. These rules and guidelines should also be revisited often as your children’s online experience grows. You should set limits on what’s acceptable, limit the amount of time spent online and make them understand what you will and will not accept in terms of behavior.

• Children are by nature naïve, curious and trusting. This is dangerous. So monitor your children’s activities. Review their browsing history through the browser tools. You can also purchase programs that will enhance your monitoring capabilities.

• Set your parental controls on your computer. Every operating system and browser has a set of parental controls. You should be certain to set the appropriate limits or settings for each. You can also adjust the settings on Google and the other search engines to be strict, ensuring that only appropriate content is returned regardless of the search.

Educating yourselves and your children is ultimately the most important step you can take. Sit down with your kids and set ground rules. Revisit those ground rules every time your kids get a new device, create a social media account, or register for an online gaming. Parents have the unenviable task of walking the fine line between building trust and keeping kids safe. Applying a combination of education, guidance and monitoring should help.