Tag: online learning

The Educator’s Companion to Professional Development

The Educator’s Companion to Professional Development

Anyone who knows me realizes that I am ridiculously committed to my craft and am always looking at how I can improve teaching and learning. For the last year, I’ve been hemming and hawing about doing a podcast, partly as a challenge since it gets me to step out of my comfort zone and partly for a fun exploration experience so  I can bring this media format into classroom learning. It took me ages to come up with a topic, learn the basic skills, record and launch it. I didn’t want it to be some meaningless content that was clogging up the internet. I wanted it to be useful for fellow educators. As someone who easily spends $200 USD a month on professional development, I began looking for free and inexpensive ways to increase my professional learning. The resources and insights I have gained in my quest to uplevel my practice is the basis of the podcast.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the Educator’s Companion to PD podcast! Its whole purpose is to provide ideas for personalizing your professional development so that you can master the concepts and skills that can make the impact that you want to make in your school communities.  The resources are free and my commentary is my own. I have 5 episodes recorded and ready for your ears with much more on the way.

To help facilitate personalized professional development, I made an infographic to help people through the process. I am hoping that this will get people to consider how they might structure and begin a learning journey in pursuit of updating and expanding their skills.  I have nearly completed the ebook that expands upon personalizing your professional development but for now, consider this little cheat sheet a taste of what to come.



Your Cheat Sheet to Personalized Professional Learning. (2)

Also, I have created a guestbook for you to share your favorite professional learning resources. It’s incredibly helpful for fellow educators to learn more about these fantastic opportunities and it lifts up the whole profession when you do so. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience!

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Season 1, Episode 4 of The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast : Teachers First

Season 1, Episode 4 of The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast : Teachers First

I know that a lot of people enjoying reading and skimming through podcast show notes to get a gist of the highlights of the episode. This podcast was originally recorded back in June 2017. To listen to the podcast, please go here.

On February 16th, 2013, I signed up for a free membership at Teachers First and my life hasn’t been the same since. This is probably one of my favorite website for teachers. You can really get lost here in the generous amount of fabulous resources here, which has everything from Edtech reviewed resources to BYOD tools and tips, and tons upon tons of curriculum ideas to integrate subjects. It has other useful and timely resources for special education and But that’s really the tip of the iceberg, you have got to go check it out.

The best part of all of this is that it is completely free, including ads and politics. This site is interesting because it self-funds through its non-profit parent company, The Source for learning.   The Source for Learning (SFL), holds licenses for some special broadcast frequencies that date back to the 1970s that are now used by wireless communication companies. The royalties from these arrangements let SFL maintain Teachers First’s main operations as a free service for teachers. They see this website as their charitable way to help teachers enrich their practice with their online community for teachers by teachers. With thousands of lessons, units, and reviewed web resources for K-12 classroom teachers, you will be grateful that you have found this website, as it supports you in becoming a 21st-century educator.

There are literally thousands of resources here for classrooms K-12, but I’m going to focus mainly on the free professional development that they offer through their OK2Ask program. The OK2Ask program conducts virtual workshops that are designed to be interactive and practical. Since they are based in America, they offer these online workshops in the evening, eastern standard time, so it’s convenient as well. Even for me, who lives in China, I can catch these workshops before I go to school. These webinars are about 90-minutes long and you can ask all sorts of questions. The first 60-70 minutes is all about the topic, and then the rest of it is just answering a question.  That is what I love about these workshops is that you never have to feel idiotic. Sometimes you feel like you should know more about a topic but you don’t and are afraid to ask so you don’t look stupid. So I really appreciate how they create this context of authenticity, and they patiently and thoroughly answer questions. And, even though this is free, you can still get continuing education credits that you can use towards your licensing.  And those credits are not given with a fee attached–they are completely free.

Listen to the offerings for last month’s OK2Ask Program:
  • 3 Cool Tools for Student Response
  • Explore, compare, and contrast 3 free online student response tools for formative assessment in the classroom. 4/11
  • Digital Storytelling In the Classroom Pt. 3: Adding Tech Tools Join us to explore free options for creating digital storytelling projects with your students.
  • 4/25 Differentiating the K-8 Classroom Learn to use instructional technology strategies that invite differentiation and provide opportunities to tailor your teaching to reach all students.
  • 5/2 Meet Google Classroom Join us for a “Meet and Greet” with Google Classroom, an online tool that incorporates G-Suite apps into a dynamic classroom environment.
  • 5/9 Make the Most of Your TeachersFirst Membership Discover the benefits of the free membership offered by TeachersFirst.
  • 5/16 Microsoft Tools to Ignite Student Engagement and Increase Productivity! Enhance classroom instruction and connect your students to authentic classroom experiences with free tools from Microsoft
  • 5/23 Getting Started with Google Draw Explore the hidden treasure that is Google Draw. Don’t let its simplicity fool you; there are many things hidden in this versatile tool.
  • 5/30 Tech Integration Made Easy with Adobe Spark Engage your students with Adobe Spark, an integrated suite of FREE storytelling applications. Learn to use Adobe Spark, Post, and Page for classroom projects and personal productivity.
Personally, I have taken courses on everything from Daily 5 with a Technology Twist, to Digital Storytelling, to Tools for Flipped Learning, Student-friendly Search Engines.

3 Pros of the Resource

  1. The teachers who present these topics are really well versed and helpful, so you are getting quality PD. Oftentimes, there are multiple hosts so you are getting more than one perspective or advice from an expert in the area of interest.  I personally love that, and since they use Abode Connect, not only are there are little to none technical glitches, but it’s a great platform to interact and engage.
  2.  And they archive workshops so if you miss it, you watch it later. However, they do repeat certain popular workshops so there is a likelihood that you can catch it live another time.
  3. If you have a BYOD or 1:1 initiative at your school, they have a multitude of ideas and solutions to your challenges. You can use their archived workshops in your own school’s PD meetings, so your team can discuss and troubleshoot these challenges.

2 Cons of the Resource

I actually had to think hard about this since the Webinars are incredibly organized and are a well-oiled machine. but here are my 2 cons.
  1. You have to be live on the webinar in order to receive PD credit.
  2. They have almost too many resources. I know that sounds funny but sometimes you can get overwhelmed by it all. However, I do have to say that they have webinars on how to use the website and if you take it. And if all you ever do is engage in the OK2ASk offerings, the presenters do an amazing job with creating wikis on the content they share.

1 Idea for Success

Get a membership. It is free and be sure that you sign up for their newsletter. They don’t bombard you with a bunch of ads or annoying emails, it’s just straight up resources. I just want to share one more resource that you can avail yourself that is nestled in their professional resources area:

TeachersFirst’s Grant Sources and Contests

There they have over 30 listings of contests that educators can have their classroom compete in that award money as well as resources for educational grants. The only thing I love more than Free PD is free money for my classroom, so I highly recommend you avail yourself of these opportunities.
Season 1, Episode 3 of the Educator’s Companion to PD (Show Notes)–Taking a Byte Out of Apple

Season 1, Episode 3 of the Educator’s Companion to PD (Show Notes)–Taking a Byte Out of Apple

I know that a lot of people enjoying reading and skimming through podcast show notes to get a gist of the highlights of the episode. This podcast was originally recorded back in June 2017. To listen to the podcast, please go here.

Can you think back to your first experience with an Apple product?  Was it with an iPod, iPhone, Mac or iPad?
My “aha” Apple moment was several years ago when we went on a trip to India with my family and friends. My daughter was turning 1 year old at the time and she was eager to explore and crawl around. Now I don’t know if you have ever been to India, which is a fantastic country, but with over a billion people, there is a lot of humanity and it was really hard to contain my daughter’s eagerness to crawl all over the ground. My friend Eric, in his wisdom, had downloaded a few toddler apps on his iPhone, and I can’t begin to tell you how much this saved us during our adventures in India. Although she was barely 1, she could completely navigate and engage with the games on his device. It blew my mind away. Clearly, Apple had designed such a user-friendly interface that even a toddler could use it. After this trip, I was transformed and became a technology optimist and began an advocate for its use in classrooms.
Now let me just say that Steve Jobs, the well-known founder of Apple, had been conspiring to hook us educators on its products nearly since The company’s inception.  You see Apple has always been vying for its place in education ever since the Apple 2 was introduced into classrooms in 1978. Back in the early 80’s Jobs marched up and down the halls of Congress for weeks to actively lobby them with an initiative called Kids Can’t Wait. This allowed corporations to make it easier to get tax breaks for donating to schools, libraries, and museums. It was after this push that  Apple soon came to dominate the education PC market (for a while at least), and developed initiatives like the Apple Distinguished Educator program and research projects like Apple Classroom of Tomorrow. So you could say that educators have been taking a “byte” out of the Apple for quite some time now. With the advent of iPads, tablets have become a staple in schools around the world, with over 8 million iPads in schools across the globe.
What is it?
So now that you know this, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Apple has created an online Apple Teacher program. When Apple first started teaching teachers about computing, its focus was on programming with LOGO. Nowadays the Apple program is focused specifically on the features and tools of their products, allowing you to take 2 tracks–either on the MAC or iPads. And you can deep dive into the tools on applications such as Numbers, Garage Band, iMovie, and Keynote. You may think you know these apps well, but I guarantee that you will discover new things they can do with Apple Tools. Once you complete the training, you are provided Recognition with a special badge that you can put on your resume or CV, website or blog.
How does the program work?
  1. How you get the certification?
  2. What the certification means?
First of all, yuh need to head over to Appleteacher.apple.com and sign in using your Apple ID. Once you’ve logged in, you have to select your learning track, which will be with Mac or IPad. There you will review and study materials and pass the quiz for each app which will earn you a badge. Once you earn all 8 of the badges, you get the certification. For example, when I got my certificates, I had to get learning badges for the iPad, Pages, Numbers iMovie, GarageBand, keynote, creativity, And productivity with the iPad. Once I had all the badges, I was emailed my Apple Teacher logo and certification. It was a very straightforward and easy system.

The 3/2/1: 3 Pros, 2 Cons, and 1 Tip
The Pros: 
  1. The program is constantly evolving and expanding. Since the program launched in the summer of 2016, Apple has already added badges for teaching coding with Swift Playgrounds. I expect more apps will be launched and the training will go with it.  Also, earning badges in education is a trend that teachers need to pay attention to. I think in the future, our degree programs will be either augmented or replaced by badge systems. My opinion, but I think earning these symbols of recognition will be an important aspect of determining whether a teacher is “highly qualified” when it comes to 21st-century learning. Apple means to be a mover and a shaker in education, so I believe that their badges are going to carrying more clout as the program continues to evolve. After becoming an Apple Teacher, be sure to get the little badge/graphic so you can advertise your expertise either on your classroom door, blog, or website.
  2. There is a growing community of Apple Teachers. You can get your geek on and join Follow #appleteacher on Twitter to connect with other like-minded educators.The resources are fantastic. It’s not just about the badges. There are some fantastic resources here. Stories of technology being used in the classroom, starter guides for the most often used apps, teacher-created iBooks and much, much more.
  3. You can go deeper and apply to become an Apple Distinguished Educator. As per the 2017 guidelines, you must be employed in an academic capacity and submit a 2-minute video that demonstrates how you transforming the learning environment and creating success in the learning as well as extending your reach in education beyond your classroom walls. All applicants must attend an in-person ADE Academy event, which would cost a chunk of change, but you could imagine what an inspiring and life-changing event this could be. Perhaps something to look forward to doing some time in the future if you’re an Apple Geek.
The Cons:
  1. Learning through iBooks:  Currently, the program’s content is offered through ebooks, which I personally found a bit bland and I really wanted more of a multimedia approach with the How To’s, especially when I worked through the module on Garage Band and iMovie. I ended up going onto YouTube to watch videos, which was a bit confusing since there are different ways to navigate features on the iPad vs. the Mac, and there are different versions of the apps.
  2. It’s easy to Cheat: Meaning that you can take the quiz over and over again without really demonstrating true expertise in an app. Once you know the questions, it’s easy to go back and find the answers in the ebook without really developing the skill. I have a confession, I totally did that with the Numbers module. I am not a spreadsheet person so the least amount of effort I could put into that module, I did, but I didn’t feel that I really mastered the nuances of the app because the quizzes didn’t demand it from me.
So head on over to appleteacher.apple.com
Season 1, Episode 2: Getting a Harvard Education with MOOCs on The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast (Show Notes)

Season 1, Episode 2: Getting a Harvard Education with MOOCs on The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast (Show Notes)

I know that a lot of people enjoying reading and skimming through podcast show notes to get a gist of the highlights of the episode. This podcast was originally recorded back in May 2017. To listen to the podcast, please go here.
Today we are going to talk about one of my favorite free learning resources: MOOCs. Spelled M. O. O. C.  Perhaps you have heard of them. But otherwise, you might be thinking, Huh what’s a MOOC? Yep, it’s a real word and it stands for Massive Open Online Course.
Massive means there’s a ton of choice of courses and the opportunity for many people to sign up. In a typical course, maybe 30 students sign up, but here you could literally have hundreds, if not thousands.
Open means that anyone can sign up and take the course, anytime and from anywhere. Its content is unlicensed and is free if you choose to audit it. Otherwise, certification can cost you upwards to 100 USD. In some cases, there are micro-credentials programs, which would cost beyond that, but today we are just focusing on one-off courses.
Online means that all of the learning content happens via the internet. Most of the interaction happens on one platform and in the online forums. Participants sign up and work through the modules, which can be done at any time of the day. The learning is asynchronized and so you needn’t complete work on specific time deadlines and can be very much self-paced.
Course means that it is structured with the intent to develop knowledge and skills. There is a curriculum to work through, complete with class outlines or syllabi that  a participant works through during the class. Oftentimes you can get college credit or certification by completing the course and paying a fee.
Sounds pretty good, right! Yes, it is! And MOOCs are really making it possible for people to be lifelong learners because there is no shortage of courses or programs that one can explore. In fact, they are poised to really disrupt higher education with the focus on competency-based education that emphasizes what students know and are able to do, rather than on how long it takes them to do it. Although I don’t want to really go into how MOOCs are challenging the status quo when it comes to getting degrees, let’s just say that  MOOCs are evolving and creating “micro Masters” programs so that one can really uplevel their knowledge and skills. So this is really a fantastic time to get on board the MOOC train because you have some fabulous professional development from high-quality universities.

So although there are many MOOC providers, I want to explore a few of them that have relevant courses for educators.
1. EdX: Courses are offered by well-known universities like MIT, Harvard University, Boston University, UC Berkeley, Kyoto University, Australian National University, University of Adelaide, University of Queensland, IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, Dartmouth College, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Curtin University.  You can learn anything from Design thinking to strategies for inquiry-based learning to Big Data and education. There’s no shortage of interesting and relevant courses that you can take so that you can become more informed and innovative in your classroom.
2. The next one is Cousera. Courses here are offered by universities such as Stanford University, Princeton University, Arizona State University, University of Maryland College Park, Yale and Duke Universities. Here you can learn about topics such as emerging trends and technology for virtual classrooms, music in the 21st-century classroom, autism spectrum disorder, digital storytelling, copyright for teachers and librarians. The list goes on.
3. My 3rd favorite MOOC provider is FutureLearn and most of these universities hail from the UK such as the University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, University of Leicester, University of Reading, Open University, University of Southampton.  There you can explore topics such as Assessment for Learning in STEM teaching, Mindfulness, Dyslexia and foreign language teaching, science writing, Getting a grip on mathematical symbolism, learning how to code, and social well-being. Again, a plethora of choices.
4. Another great MOOC provider is Open2Study which offers courses from a mulititude of Australian universities such as James Cook University, Griffith University, University of Wollongong, Flinders University, RMIT University, Central Institute of Technology, Sydney Institute, University of Western Sydney, Polytechnic West, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Newcastle, Jordan University of Science and Technology, University of Tasmania, International College of Management, Sydney, Massey University. There you can explore topics such as Early Childhood teaching, Sports and recreation management, the Human Body as a Machine, Education in a Changing World, Foundations in Psychology, the Art of Photography, and World Music. Again, a multitude of topics to pique your interest.
5. Lastly, I want to speak about the Canvas Network whose courses are made from a network of American universities based in Utah. You can take courses about digital tools for K-12 educators, art appreciation, chemistry, grammar, educating girls, digital citizenship. and economics. One of my favorite courses I’ve ever taken, and probably the one that hooked me into taking MOOCs was offered by then. It was about becoming more creative.
There are more MOOC providers but these are my top picks for educators. Since you have figured out your learning goal already and know what topics you want to explore, you can easily browse on any of these sites to find courses that would match your professional interest. Complete one course at a time. It’s tempting to sign up for 10, but stay focused. Most courses will tell you how long it will take to complete, with roughly 2-4 hours a week being an average.
 Now I’d like to do a segment that I am calling the 3/2/1. 3 pros of this of the resource. 2 Cons and 1 idea to help you succeed.
3 pros of this resource:
  1. These are high-quality courses, nearly the equivalent of a college class.
  2. You can participate at any time or as much or as little as you want, so your level of engagement is defined by you.
  3. You can explore a variety of perspectives on an educational topic, or gain timely content knowledge that you can use in your lesson plans.
2 Cons
  1. Since these classes aren’t going toward a degree, courses aren’t usually offered over and over again as they might in a traditional college with its semesters. If you missed the sign-up date, there’s a chance you can still access an archived version of the course, but it just depends on how it was set up.
  2. On some MOOC sites, they are really pushing that you pay for the courses. For example, on Cousera, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the sign-up page before you see an “audit this class for free” button.  If you need continuing education credits for your teaching license certification, then you have to pay for it. So that’s the caveat on this, however, if you want to enroll in the class for free, you can always upgrade and pay for it later to get credits towards your certification and the price is rarely more than 50 USD. So I might suggest that you sign up and see your willing to see this class to the end before I make the investment in it if you need professional development certification credits.
1-Idea for success
  1. There are a ton of interesting subjects being explored via MOOCs. Before signing up for a MOOC, look back at your goal–is this course really in alignment with what you’re trying to accomplish? Read through the syllabi to ensure that it’s covering topics that will move you towards accomplishing your goal. Looking through the syllabus carefully will also help you to make sure that you have the prerequisite skills for completing it. For example, I signed up for a Robotics MOOC and then later I found out that I had to take a pre-test that tested my knowledge of Linear Algebra. Since it’s been ages since I took higher math, I went over to Khan Academy to reteach myself. When I did that, I realized that I would really need to invest more time in getting the prerequisite skills to do the MOOC. So I re-examined why I wanted to take the course and decided that my time invested in this course wouldn’t really help me become a better teacher, hence I dropped the course.

Hopefully, this overview was helpful and got you thinking about how you can deepen your knowledge of current and important pedagogy without spending loads of money. If you have any other MOOC providers that you also feel are worthy of notice, then comment below. Thanks!

Teacher 3.0

Teacher 3.0

Teacher 3.0–keeping our practice current and relevant.

You know the difference between something alive and something dead?–Something alive is growing, while something dead is NOT!  With that in mind, it’s really important to continue to develop our understanding of how our student’s learn best and update our teaching practice. For many of us, we need to take a certain number of training courses or attend conferences in order to stay abreast of what is happening and maintain our credentials. But the good news is that nowadays we don’t have to go to bricks and mortar schools or centers in order to learn something new. There are a lot of great online professional development available right in the comfort of your home.

Here is a smattering of some high quality resources and many of them offer certificated courses. Some are for a fee, but most are completely FREE.

Teachers First

What a great resource this is!  Not only does it have frequent professional development that is FREE, if you attend a live online event, you can get a certificate for it. Lovely, isn’t it! Also, it has a ton of lesson plans and activities that are designed for 21st century learning.  Just can’t beat this one!

Intel Teach Elements

I have taken Intel’s professional development and it was easy to implement in my intermediate grade’s classroom. The topics are very much geared toward blending technology in the classroom and is a terrific resource that is absolutely FREE. (Gosh, I just love that word). The e-learning material generally take more than sitting to complete and you might want to have some of your fellow grade-level/subject team members join you–The content’s that fabulous!

Arizona State University’s Learning Forever!

I have taken very low cost courses through ASU for my teaching license, but they  constantly have FREE webinars on topics such as the Common Core and Gifted Education. It doesn’t cost you a thing to join, which makes this very economical.

Other Colleges and Universities with Free Online Courses

I can’t speak directly for these all of these courses but there is an amazing number of colleges and universities that are offering FREE e-learning courses. From MIT to Stanford, the list of reputable universities is substantial, and it covers many topics outside of just education. Many of them will even offer college credit for participating. Very cool, indeed!


You have to register (free) in order to attend a web course, but it’s great because the guest presenters are experts and have a range of topics that are offered weekly. Even though this website is from the “South Eastern European Teachers”, the topics are relevant no matter where you teach. It’s great to get a global perspective on best practices, and you are sure to learn something.

Association for School Curriculum and Development 

If you don’t have a membership to this, then sign up today. I can’t recommend this enough. It is covers all sorts of topics about American policy and practice, and reports on the latest research. It’s an invaluable resource. As a member, you have numerous free webinars that you can enjoy, and they also offer more substantial online professional development.


Most educators are interested in blogging, so this link is simply for a very cool how to on using blogs for personal use and in your classroom.

Electronic Open Village

This is a yearly event offered through TESOL CALL-IS. They (TESOL) have in-person conferences in America, which focus on Teaching English as a Second Language, but the Electronic Open Village (EVO) has a “Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section, which exists to define issues and standards in the field of computer-mediated language instruction, promote research and development in the area of computer-based language learning and disseminate information about CALL to ESL/EFL educators worldwide.” What does that mean for you?–some really cool and FREE e-learning that is focused on helping our English Language Learners. Who doesn’t need more help in this area?  And the best part is that it is geared toward obtaining more technology skills as educators. Yep, check another box. It’s pretty terrific!

Please let me know if you found any of these resources useful for you. Also, feel free to add some other quality lo professional development that you know of–we are all here to learn!

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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