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 The number of users is unpublished.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.

Generation Dead Review

Background on the Author

Daniel Waters is the author of three books that are all in the same series. The books are called Generation Dead, Kiss of Life, and Passing Strange.

Setting

The book is set in an average size town. The plot mainly takes place in a high school, in a haunted house where the differently biotic live, and the woods where the differently biotic kids hang out, and the football field.

Conflict

The conflict is that teenagers are rising from the dead throughout the United States. Not everyone likes this. The undead teenagers moves to a town where Karen, her friend Adam, and the later antagonist Pete lives. The differently biotic go there because the school has more oppurtunities for them. The undead people face discrimination such as being bullied and even killed. The antagonist Pete doesn’t like, what he calls names such as wormburgers, moving into the school.

Suspense

The suspense is what the anatagonist Pete will try to do next to the undead kids. Will he just bully them…hurt them…or kill them?

Protagonist

The two main protagonists are Karen and her friend Adam. They support the undead teenagers moving into their school and even befriend some of them.

Antagonist

The main antagonist is Pete who would love nothing more than for all of the zombies to die again.

Theme

The theme of the novel is discrimination. The discrimination is like what groups of people have faced and still faced. The differently biotic are taunted, joked about, and even killed.

Symbols

The symbol in this book is the undead. They are going through what real life people have went through because of discrimination.

Plot Structure

The exposition is the first few chapters that explain the main plot. The rising action is when the differently biotic teenager Tommy joins the football team and no one except for two people on the team are happy about it. The climax is when Pete and his friends attack Karen, Adam, and the differently biotic kid Tommy. The falling action is Adam jumping in front of Karen to protect her from being shot. The resolution is Adam dying and then coming back to life as a differently biotic person.

Reaction

I enjoyed this book and I liked how it wasn’t even close to the typical zombie story. I also liked that the differently biotic people faced types of discrimination that real life miniorities have faced.

Your Baby Can Read Review

Every parent wants their baby to be the best baby there is in the world. It is natural that one wants their baby to be the one everybody else admires and want their own babies to be like, no matter where they live in this world. A growing baby needs to pass through a number of natural development stages. These developmental stages ensure the proper growth of an infant or baby. Different developments such as cognitive development, motor skill development as well as biological development come under the concept of developmental changes.

Everyone knows that there is a baseline at which babies learn things as they grow up i.e. there is a certain average age at which a baby takes his or her first steps. There is an average certain age at which a baby boy or a girl says their fist word etc. Parents worry when their own baby reaches the specified certain age and is unable to demonstrate these abilities while other children of the same age have done so. Parents whose babies do not pass these developmental milestones while other babies have, makes them think that something is wrong with their infant and try to decide whether they should get their baby checked. On the other hand, the babies who reach these developmental milestones earlier than the average age most babies pass them consider their babies to be more intelligent and brag about their baby’s achievements to others.

Researchers studying the developmental stages of babies have always tried to figure out and see if there is any way the speed of such developments can be increased or not. One such infant researcher, Robert C. Titzer founded the Infant Learning Company, a company that produces various learning products to enable infants to learn as they develop. One of their products is the “Your Baby Can Read”. This product is an early language development system that enables infants to develop the ability to recognize words as well as enable them to read these words. This product uses a variety of flashcards, card games, sound recordings as well as videos that teaches a baby to recognize words and be able to read these recognized words.

The various tools used in this product have been designed and made, keeping one important fact in mind. According to the company, an infant brain needs stimulation. Even a little stimulation is enough for the brain to learn and to grow. During the first five years, 90% of the brain develops at a very fast rate. This is the time an infant or a toddler is able to learn any language. As the brain is developing, it means that the brain is constantly creating thousands of synapses to enable it to retain more knowledge. The said product “Your Baby Can Read” utilizes this time of brain development through the use of various tools and thus, enabling an infant to read.

This product has taken the world by storm and a lot of parents are satisfied with the product and say that it has actually helped their infants to read words that they were able to recognize. All of these tools jointly help an infant be able to stimulate their brains to the fullest and easily learn the skill of reading the words that they see.

The "Baby Mama Syndrome": Book Review

Robert Doyel is worried about the babies born to single mothers – so worried, in fact, that he’s written a book about the problem. His perspective is an unusual one: He spent 16 years as a Florida judge, mostly in family court, where he was involved in more than 15,000 restraining order cases, as well as thousands of dependency, custody, and paternity cases.

What worries him so much, he says, is that “there is no concerted effort anywhere even to report on the issue, let alone try to do something about it.” His concerns about “the prevalence of unwed births and identifying the problems they cause” led him to write The Baby Mama Syndrome (Lake Cannon Press).

This book is an eye-opener, exploring the problem of these “fragile families” from multiple angles, including the problems of abuse, neglect, and violence. Social workers, teachers, physicians, nurses, and other professionals who deal with these children and their parents will be interested in the sheer size of the problem (1.6 million babies each year) and the demographic data in this book.

Doyel notes that the birthrate for teenagers has been creeping down for several years, but the numbers are still daunting: In 2014, just over a quarter of a million babies were born to girls 19 and under. There were 2771 births to girls under 15, and most of these young mothers were unmarried.

Despite the widespread assumption that most of these single mothers are black, statistics show that unmarried white mothers have the most babies, followed by Hispanics and then blacks.

His thoughtful and well-researched book makes an important contribution to the national discussion about these babies, their mothers, and what happens as the children grow up and – all too-often – repeat the syndrome. Three features of the book are especially impressive.

Case Studies

This book offers many cases studies grouped in patterns: female rivals, fathers married to another woman, mothers married to another man, lesbian couples, and more – to name a few. There are also triangles, rectangles, and serial troublemakers. One chapter deals with a complex pattern that Doyel calls “Baby Mama and Boyfriend vs. Baby Daddy and Husband.”

Reading through the permutations and complications creates a picture of the problem that mere data cannot provide – and also opens a window into the causes. “Baby mamas” threaten and attack rival women who have had multiple babies by the same “baby daddy.” Married women and “baby mamas” battle over a “baby daddy” who has fathered their children.

Readers gradually become familiar with the reasons why these women keep having babies by men who won’t marry or support them: Jealousy, poor impulse control, unrestrained sexuality, and an inability to get a grip on their lives and their futures. The real victims, of course, are their children.

Legal Issues

Doyel’s second contribution to the “baby mama” discussion is his perspective as a judge. Laymen often think it’s easy to make a judgment in cases of violence and abuse: Issue a restraining order. Put him (or her, or everyone involved) in jail.

Writing from years of experience on the bench, he exposes some of the legal complexities a judge must deal with. “As far as the law is concerned,” he writes, “violence between two baby mamas or between two baby daddies is no different from violence between two strangers in a barroom brawl. That needs to change.”

Restraining orders have complexities of their own. According to Doyel, “Too many times when there is mutual aggression, one of the aggressors seeks an injunction and then uses it as a sword, not a shield.”

Mutual restraining orders seem to be called for, but they’re prohibited in Florida (where he served as a judge) because of another potential problem: Judges might be tempted to employ them as a way to avoid having to making a judgment in a complicated domestic violence case. Result: A conundrum for a judge dealing with rival “baby mamas” fighting over the man who fathered their children.

One feature of these “baby mama” hearings is especially poignant: In his experience, Doyel says, the fathers rarely show up for hearings. Staying away from court, he says, keeps the women focused on each other rather than on their baby daddy’s betrayal of both of them.

And then there are petitions, ex parte temporary injunctions, and other legal complexities – and the thinking processes judges use to hand down decisions in these “baby mama” cases. Doyel’s jargon-free explanations of various legal issues make this book especially valuable for professionals who intervene in crises involving “baby mamas” and their children.

Taxpayers

The subtitle to Doyel’s book makes it clear that the baby mama syndrome affects everyone: “Unwed Parents, Intimate Partners, Romantic Rivals, and the Rest of Us.” Taxpayers pay medical bills, court costs, and other expenses for baby mamas and their children.

The most important victims, of course, are the children, who may be subjected to neglect, abuse, and violence. Even when there are no physical dangers, many of these children witness violent behavior between the adults who are supposed to serve as their role models.

“Cut off the money” is the battle cry of taxpayers who want single parents to take responsibility for the choices they have made. But two chapters in Doyel’s book argue that the problem is not solved so easily.

In “Generations,” he discusses what happens when children in “fragile families” grow up. “It is well documented,” he says, “that sons of fathers who commit acts of domestic violence are likely to be batterers too.” But the syndrome does not stop there. Studies show that child abuse, neglect, and baby mama rivalries also pass from generation to generation.

In his final chapter, “The Baby Mama Syndrome and the Rest of Us,” Doyel discusses remedies, including prevention, sex education, and contraception. He has promised two more books that will expand upon these topics. Book two will focus on violence, and book three will discuss the fate of the children who grow up in these “fragile families.”

The Baby Mama Syndrome is a readable and thought-provoking book. It will be particularly useful to professionals who deal with these “fragile families.”

Book Review: Rich Dad, Poor Dad

For this review, I discuss another great book on financial education. The first book Robert Kiyosaki wrote, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, presents simple, but powerful lessons on managing personal financial affairs using simple stories and easy to follow concepts.

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money-That the Poor and the Middle Class Do Not!

This book does the wonderful task of explaining such dry accounting concepts of income statements and balance sheets in a very readable and understandable format. It shows the cash flow patterns of poor people, middle class people and rich people. It also shows how from a strictly financial standpoint that it is the middle class cash flow pattern that is the absolute worst one to have.

But more than the accounting concepts, it discusses that rich people just think differently about money, how to use it, the powers of it and virtues of it. I have long observed that the United States is a country which craves success, but hates successful people. Too often, I have seen people vilified whose only crime is that they worked hard and achieved success and wealth. When I was younger, I, too, shared many of these opinions.

Granted, there are a few people, who act as leeches and make a living sucking the financial marrow out of the lives of others (pay day loan people and many sellers of financial product come to mind), but by and large, most people who have achieved wealth have done so through hard work and being of service to others.

One of the most powerful concepts is the fact that you will only earn so much by working for a paycheck. It is possible to get rich working for others if you start early and manage your cash flow well. However, if you open your own business on the side, the potential for reward is much higher as a business owner. In addition, as an employee, you serve the employer in a designed role. This means that, most likely, the role was not designed specifically for you and consequently, wasn’t designed to take advantage of your unique gifts and talents. It is only when you have the opportunity to craft a role just for you, will you have the best opportunity for success. Finally, when you work for a paycheck instead of profit and you can count on a safe and steady stream of income, you often subconsciously turn off part of your creative centers of your brain. When your financial well-being is tied to generating new ideas, you will be surprised how much more you can dream up and give life to. Unless you are trained to look for opportunities, you will pass them by.

The most vital learning to gain from this book is a realization that the employee mindset is a limiting one. The employee as is largely understood today is a relic from the industrial era and the factory culture. Prior to the industrial era, money was generally earned by farmers and tradespeople buying and selling the fruits of their labor. In effect, everyone was self-employed. In the 1800’s and much of the 1900’s, roles were designed for people to act as cogs in the manufacturing process. Tasks were developed by managers into established procedures and the last thing the managers wanted was for an employee to use their brains to redesign the system or dream up ways to change things. In exchange for doing things exactly the way the managers told you to do them, the employee was paid a wage. The belief in the infallibility of management decision making has thankfully gone away in most workplaces, modern management thinking is moving much more in the employee designed workplace that is paid based on performance and production. But the factory/employee mindset is still alive and well. It is very dangerous to have in economic climate of the 2000’s. To remain competitive in a global economy, you need to be able to leverage the talents and creativity of your people and the employee mindset is a real obstacle businesses need to overcome.

By rejecting the employee mindset and adopting a self-employed mindset (even if you are an employee) you are not only going to distinguish yourself to your employer, you are also going to continue to exercise and grow your creative muscles and your ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a great book that brings you several great lessons.

If I have inspired you to pick up Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I encourage you to click on the links in this post or on my page. YouthFinancialEducation.com is not only a great place to learn how to succeed financially, it is also a place that I am constantly leveraging my creativity and skills to bring you value. By clicking on links from here, you help reward me for bringing that value to you.