Classroom Technology

Painless Professional Development

By Laura Donnelly — September 29, 2006 2 min read

For too many teachers, “professional development” means irrelevant group workshops or mandatory attendance at uninspiring weekend seminars. So how do you make PD more effective—and less painful? The people who operate the online community Tapped In believe the answer is to put teachers in charge.

Tapped In, a professional development network for educators, went live in June 1997, when online communities were still in infancy. Nine years later, the Web site has more than 20,000 members—teachers, technology coordinators, librarians, and teacher-education professionals. Tapped In provides a place for members to connect with one another and share ideas and advice to enrich their work. It also links PD providers, such as cyber-universities, with teachers, and includes discussion boards, live chats, and a calendar of free events covering everything from using technology in special ed classrooms to teaching creative writing.

Tapped In aims to put teachers in charge of professional development.

“TI is all about what [teachers] need. We don’t have an agenda that says, ‘You have to do this.’ We say, ‘What are you doing that’s working?’” explains the site’s community director, Judi Fusco. “We want others to come in and take ownership of it themselves.”

Some teachers use TI for a fixed time period, while working on a PD project or collaborating with a colleague in another state. Others return regularly for topical chats and the camaraderie that develops when teachers converse in a professional but relaxed environment.

“I know people here who I consider friends,” says David Weksler, a math and technology education consultant from Tenafly, New Jersey, who hosts discussions and chats informally with other members. “I think teachers often find themselves the only person teaching a particular topic in a small school, especially, or they don’t always find things in common with people they work with—that can be tough. [TI] is a virtual teachers’ lounge.”

Tapped In is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and by PD companies that rent space on the Web site. The nonprofit research organization SRI International’s Center For Technology in Learning runs TI, and teacher-volunteers coordinate online discussions, lead interest groups, and organize resources. Gayle Britt, a 7th grade teacher in San Carlos, California, moderates a National Board certification discussion and provides advice about the process through personal e-mails with interested members. “The reason I stay involved is because I always learn from other teachers,” she says.

Although the commercial tenants on Tapped In offer teachers professional development credits, the nonprofit part of the site does not. But project director Mark Schlager wants to help educators persuade their districts to take the TI online work seriously. His team is developing a “participation tracker” that will enable teachers to show administrators evidence of their activities. “I think the key,” he says, “will be to educate the districts about the authenticity and value of these activities, so that they can change policies that sometimes seem to value ‘seat time’ over quality of experience.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as Painless Professional Development

Events

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology From Our Research Center Most Students Now Have Home Internet Access. But What About the Ones Who Don't?
Here's what school districts, states, and the federal government are doing to improve at-home access to devices and the internet.
8 min read
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advance placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays a wifi hot spot that are being handed out to students in Dallas on April 9, 2020. Dallas I.S.D. is handing out the devices along with wifi hotspots to students in need so that they can connect online for their continued education amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advanced placement World History teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays one of the Wi-Fi hotspots that were handed out to students in Dallas in April of 2020. The Dallas school district gave the devices to students who needed them to do schoolwork at home during the pandemic.
Tony Gutierrez/AP
Classroom Technology From Our Research Center 'A Year of Tremendous Growth.' How the Pandemic Forced Teachers to Master Technology
Educators nationwide say their ability to use technology for instruction improved significantly during the pandemic.
6 min read
Fifth grade teacher April Whipp welcomes back her students virtually during the first day of school at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School on Aug.13, 2020 in Louisa County, Va.
Fifth grade teacher April Whipp welcomes back her students virtually in August during the first day of school at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School in Louisa County, Va.
Erin Edgerton/The Daily Progress via AP
Classroom Technology Opinion How Teachers and Curriculum Will Shape Ed Tech's Future: A CEO Makes the Case
The increased use of ed tech during the pandemic has teachers examining which tools have earned a permanent place in their practice.
Larry Berger
6 min read
Illustration shows three people--two males and one female. There is a male standing on a laptop holding a large pencil and pointing to the laptop screen and the woman who is also standing on the open laptop is holding a folder and also pointing to the laptop screen. A third person (male) is sitting near the open laptop reading a book.
Irina_Streinikova/iStock/Getty Images Plus
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Whitepaper
5 Strategies for Hybrid Learning Success
This new guide for IT Administrators offers insight into 5 key strategies—from becoming a data-driven district to standardizing tools for...
Content provided by Securly