Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guest Contributor Sarah Fudin - PD for Educators: Becoming a Better Leader

This post was submitted by Sarah Fudin who currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California's Master of Arts in Teaching program, which provides aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn an online teaching degree which has proven very helpful in obtaining teaching fellowships.  Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.

Professional development for teachers can't take place in a vacuum. It requires the support of school leaders and administrators who support instructors and who have the ability to facilitate change. Principals, superintendents and other school administrators who are passionate about professional development create an environment that encourages growth and learning among their staff. Education leaders can also personally benefit from professional development. Creating a network of professional contacts keeps an educator current and opens the door to new opportunities. When education leaders seek out the work of experts in their field and exchange information with other professionals, both their teaching staff and students will benefit.  
Conferences, seminars and workshops have traditionally been one of the best ways for educators to build professional networks and increase their knowledge base. However, budget and travel often limit access to these live events. Fortunately, technology is now fundamental part of professional development. The Internet and social media applications allow educators to connect with like-minded professionals on a local and global level regardless of time and money constraints. Virtual online events and webinars support professional development with minimal disruption to an educator's personal and professional schedule.

One of the best ways for an education leader to plug into the online conversation about education is by reading some of the many blogs that their peers have established. The Amplify website has published a list of the Top 100 School Administrator Blogs. At the top of the list is the National School Boards Administration's Board Buzz. This blog is updated daily with news items, event announcements, article summaries and links to articles related to school administration. Connected Principals, which is hosted by a group of school administrators, is a popular source for thoughtful articles about educational practices, leadership and professional development. Another top blog is LeaderTalk, a blog for principals, superintendents and other school leaders that publishes a wide variety of authors and opinions on education issues.  
After browsing through Amplify's list of blogs and finding some favorites, educators can save time by setting up RSS feeds or subscribing through email so that blog updates are automatically sent to their browser or email account. These feeds and subscriptions allow a busy educator to stay up to date with minimum effort.

Edchat (or #edchat in Twitter) is another great resource. A community of educators, administrators, parents and students, edchat members collaborate, share resources and raise questions about how to improve the educational process, all through Twitter. Several hundred edchat members take part in live weekly Twitter discussions that cover topics that have been voted on by the community. These topics are relevant for both classroom teachers and school administrators; recent examples include whether mandatory homework policies are in the best interest of students and the impact of classroom design on student learning. The edchat website contains information about the edchat community, including a directory of members and their blog addresses, and edchat discussion transcripts.

The importance of the Internet as a tool for communication has required educational institutions to establish their own online presence in the form of school websites, blogs and Facebook and twitter accounts. At the same time, mobile devices on campus have created new challenges and opportunities for school leaders. Now more than ever, school leaders and administrators need an understanding of current technology and an awareness of the issues involved in order to best serve their learning community. Using technology for professional development will help educators become more familiar with the benefits and challenges that technology itself provides.

I want to thank Sarah for asking about being a guest contributor to The Art of Education.  If you are interested in also being a guest contributor, please go to my Guest Contributors Page for more information. 
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