I had an opportunity recently to review an interesting new project of Teacher Magazine called the Professional Development Sourcebook. Essentially, Teacher Magazine is working to organize information about effective professional development for educators—and providing contact information to providers that many schools and districts will find valuable.
Here’s what I thought of the project:
1. I definitely like the online version far more than the print version: I think the link through navigation with embedded table of contents makes the online guide far more approachable than the print version—which seemed somewhat overwhelming to me. I found myself doing far more exploring online than I did in the print version.
2. I liked a section of the online guide called Websites to Know: This page appealed to me because it allowed me to explore other sites and to seek out PD on my own—-which I think is becoming more and more common for teachers.
3. I liked the background information provided to readers on the characteristics of effective professional development: Articles about quality professional development from the viewpoints of teachers and teacher trainers were very valuable as models for school and county decisionmakers.
Those articles were then supported with simple to understand research and graphics that made the case for effective professional development. I found myself thinking about all of the people I know who need to read that information—and feeling comfortable about sharing those articles with them directly.
4. I didn’t like the listing of resources in the print version: There are so many providers included in the Sourcebook that each is given only a brief space to elaborate on the services that they provide. As a result, I didn’t know enough about the providers to decide whether or not I was interested in pursuing further information. I also wasn’t sure that I liked the layout in the sense that many programs were listed multiple times under different subheadings. That was confusing to me.
The listings in the online directory were far more manageable—primarily because they are broken into individual categories that can be accessed quickly and easily through links on this page.
5. I’d love to see an online "star" rating system added to the Sourcebook: One of the great advantages of the online version of the Sourcebook is that it could become a central clearinghouse for teachers to vet professional development providers by leaving feedback on their experience with individual companies or services listed in the Sourcebook.
I know that I’d enjoy leaving reviews of services and providers that I’ve used before. Such a system would help users to identify services worth pursuing—and would make the sourcebook seem less like an advertisement and more like a location for giving and receiving advice on where school, district and state professional development dollars should be spent.
In the end, I’m jazzed that Teacher Magazine has decided to create a forum for outlining effective professional development. I trust their knowledge, experience and broad range of contacts in the education world far more than some of the decision-makers that have been defining "guaranteed, quality professional development" in the past year!