Learning is evolving right before our eyes. In order for our schools to keep up with new technology and our teachers to stay ahead of learning trends, K-12 districts everywhere need to implement professional development programs.

But not just any professional development – digital professional development.

Chalkboards and textbooks are evolving into smartboards and ebooks. Front of the classroom style instruction is evolving into online web conferencing and video instruction. And whole group instruction is transforming into personalized, differentiated learning. All of this growth allows students to connect to their studies using the devices and tools they prefer while simultaneously giving them the flexibility to learn class content at their own pace.

What do these classroom changes have to do with professional development? Teachers have to know how to facilitate pedagogical change and digital professional development allows them to build the skills to do just that. Experiencing digital tools themselves in a learning environment will give them the knowledge they need to integrate those techniques into their own classrooms.

The 2015 Digital Trends Report notes that one-third of school principals say the lack of teacher training on how to use digital content within their classroom instruction is halting their schools’ blended and innovative classroom initiatives.

So what’s the hold up? One of the biggest deterrents for districts that want to implement professional development is the cost. Going digital allows districts to battle against limited time, scarce resources, and budget cuts because it can be facilitated online. Not only is travel eliminated, but teachers can absorb materials at their own pace, be flexible with their own learning schedule, experience blended and online synchronous learning styles, and become familiar with digital tools.

Sarasota saves on professional development

Sarasota County Schools in Florida is a geographically expansive district with a central office that is a 30-40 minute drive away for some teachers. So, holding face-to-face professional development at the district office proved to be costly for their large staff of nearly 4,500. Pulling teachers out of their classrooms or away from their families to attend professional development meant paying for substitutes, extra work hours, and travel expenses.

Their solution was to use Blackboard to facilitate online courses for their staff. Their trainings cover everything from Gifted and ESOL certifications for teachers, to safety materials and videos for their skilled tradespeople.

Metro Nashville meets many needs

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) in Tennessee uses their LMS to meet the professional development and common core needs of their schools. Their graduation rate was at 50% just a few years ago and they needed a way to refresh their teachers’ skills and provide students with digital learning options.

Their comprehensive Blackboard digital learning environment (their LMS and video web-conferencing with Blackboard Collaborate) allows them to create their own digital professional development courses for more than 5,000 teachers. This in-house approach allows teachers to become familiar with the technology they use in their classrooms and saved the district $1.3 million dollars in the first year alone. Better yet, a whopping 83% of those teachers reported greater comfort integrating technology into their own classrooms after completing the program. They then used the same tools to implement blended learning and develop an online school – increasing their graduation rate up to 82%.

Kecia Ray, former Executive Director of Learning Technology and Library Services at MNPS, described what their district was looking to accomplish when they implemented their program. “What we needed was a platform that would allow us to support a virtual school, to implement blended learning through the district, to support our teachers in professional development, and something that would prepare our students to take assessments online. Our solution was the Blackboard innovative classroom.”

To learn more about MNPS’ story and the power of digital and synchronous learning, download our guide: Five Ways Synchronous Collaboration Transforms Learning. 

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