Professional Development at Your Fingertips

Teachers today have unprecedented access to ideas and information to drive instructional decision-making. Innovation and the ability to reinvent oneself as an educator is literally a click away. But how can we support teachers who don’t take advantage of this ever-flowing river of ideas to improve/redefine practice? Or even yet – for one reason or another (time, unfamiliarity, apathy, or otherwise) – won’t?

As a Staff Development Trainer, my role is to support educators with both instructional strategies and educational technologies to augment the learning experience in our district’s classrooms. Our department, comprised of my partner, Kristen Tsaoys, and myself, supports over 1,400 staff members across 19 different buildings. The challenge for our department over the last several years has been trying to figure out ways to consistently connect with all of our colleagues and bring these high-quality resources to already overburdened and under-appreciated educators in a way that is non-threatening, collegial, and inspiring…

Enter Remind and My PLN.

I am very active on Twitter. It has provided some of the best professional development experiences of my career and, unlike traditional workshops and classes, I have access to it at all times. One Sunday morning, I was reading through my feed and came upon a tweet by Kristen Mattson that opened the door to a world that I had not yet been able to see. Kristen’s tweet linked to her blog post that shared how she was leveraging Remind in her school to bring teaching tips to staff at the building level.

Her story and success inspired me. If this type of program had been well received at the school level, consider the power it could have if implemented with a wider scope from the district level. And that is where our initiative was born. That week, our department crafted a program and called it Professional Development @ Your Fingertips. Our mission was to provide teachers with resources, links, and inspiration – daily!

Utilizing Remind, our office sends out a text message or email to folks who subscribe. In these text/email alerts, we share:

  • Innovative instructional strategies
  • Articles on current educational research
  • Inspirational quotes
  • Thought-provoking questions and videos
  • Technology tips (websites, apps, ideas for collaboration, etc.)

The goal of our program is twofold:

1. To reinvigorate an already dedicated bunch of teachers with new ideas, fresh resources, and positivity. We hope that by delivering these resources to our staff, we excite them, inspire them, and encourage them to take risks, create, innovate, and, most importantly, engage students authentically!

2. To make connections with teachers and bring the power of people to them each day. Let’s face it: there are amazing ideas out there on social media platforms like Twitter and Pinterest, but unfortunately, a good majority of our colleagues never see them. What this initiative allows us to do is bring these techniques, strategies, and resources to them in a truly non-invasive manner. Truth is, in a district of over 1,400 staff, a two-person department can’t connect to everyone on a daily basis – despite our best intentions. The technology affords us a presence in their classrooms every day at 9am!

It’s been about five weeks since we launched PD @ Your Fingertips and already the feedback for the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive! Our subscriber list has been consistently growing since inception. Teachers stop us in the hallways, at trainings, or even contact us after hours to share how much they look forward to receiving the alerts, how they have been inspired, how they have taken a risk and tried something new, or just how the program has reignited their passion for our profession.

As we move forward, whether these educators are implementing new strategies, infusing new technologies, or simply absorbing ideas they hadn’t previously considered, the bottom line is that we are reaching and connecting with teachers in ways we hadn’t been able to previously. This is only the beginning.