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Leading adult education through support for and the effective application of technology.

Administrators' Digest

September 2018 (Vol. 9, No.9)

Can Online Courses Help Fix Teacher Professional Development?

Back-to-school for teachers usually means back-to-school meetings, meant to rally and inspire the staff for the start of a new school year and the return of the students to campus.

The response to back-to-school meetings, though, is sometimes mixed. Many back-to-school professional development workshops that teachers attend are one-and-done affairs, and there is a high probability that whatever was covered in one of those workshops will not be implemented in the classroom or the teacher’s instruction. Laura Fleming, a former classroom teacher and current library media specialist, writes: “If we have heard it said once, we have heard it said 1,000 times: Professional Development is Broken.” So, is there a way to fix teacher professional development?

Fleming writes that online courses may provide a solution to broken professional development or even situations where schools do not provide professional development training for their staff. She suggested that, even though on the surface it does not appear to be the best course of action, having individual teachers manage their own professional development via online courses is possibly better than a one-size-fits-all approach. There are numerous online courses readily available on a wide variety of topics that should appeal to most educators. Educators can take courses at their own pace and on a schedule that works for them on topics that they feel are personally relevant to their own professional development. Teachers often times will go ahead and sign up for online courses and pay for those courses out-of-pocket without their schools even knowing about it.

Schools can compare the costs of these courses with other types of professional development events (for example, one-day or longer conferences) and consider building in these online offerings to the professional development menu available during the school year. Schools can also help move this process forward by partnering with the agencies that offer these trainings. It helps both teachers and schools know what courses will be offered to teachers and ensuring that schools are getting the most bang for their buck.

Ultimately, what Fleming envisions is professional learning that is tailored to the needs of teachers. It’s something similar to learning paths that many schools have in place for their students. If it’s good enough for the students, why not the teachers as well?


Four Ways Augmented and Virtual Reality Can Transform Your Lesson Plan

Our personal and professional lives are becoming intertwined with the digital environment that is evolving around us. So, it makes sense that educators are working to bring technology into classrooms and schools that mirrors our everyday lives. The latest technology focus is on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications for the classroom, immersive technology that can engages students more with the educational content. Here are some ways that AR and VR can transform the learning that goes on in your classroom with your students.

A class without borders 
Imagine being able to walk in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong on the moon, or walk through the battlefield trenches of World War I with other soldiers. Students can expand their physical world with immersive technology that can, for example, transport them to a different time and place. Teachers can then create a much deeper and enhanced learning experience that can help the content rise off the page.

Textbooks brought to life 
VR and AR can take what were once abstract textbook concepts and explain these ideas in new and exciting ways. Immersive technology, for example, can take students inside the human body and show scientific processes at work. VR can also give students practice using virtual materials (for example, car parts to build an engine) that are expensive and/or dangerous that they might only be able to read about or watch in a video.

The impact of gamification 
Gamification has had a big impact in educational technology. It helps all students, even those who are struggling, get excited about the content to be covered. Gamification is used in many VR apps and can be used to increase engagement, provide feedback, encourage students to think differently about the content, and accelerate learning.

What about cost? 
There are certain costs associated with immersive technology that is used in the classroom, whether it’s smartphones, tablets, and head-mounted displays that are the basic equipment teachers and students use, or gloves and other accessories that enhance the experience even further. Vendors are working on providing educators with low-cost options to introduce immersive technology in the classroom, and prices are likely to fall as the technology gets more sophisticated and people understand the value of VR and AR in schools.

Source: sSchoolNews

Back-to-School Series: OTAN Trainings

This is the second in a series of news items that will provide information about essential features of OTAN for you to know as you and your colleagues begin the new school year.

OTAN offers trainings in both face-to-face and online formats on a variety of educational technology topics throughout the school year. The workshops fit a wide variety of skill levels and can even be customized to meet the respective needs of a program or site. All workshops are free for California adult educators and staff.

To learn more about OTAN trainings, first go to the OTAN website:

At the bottom of the page, click on About OTAN Training in the Training box to begin.

On the next page, you can learn more about the trainings that OTAN provides and training requirements. You can also click on links to the face-to-face and online training descriptions.

If you have questions about any workshop or would like to schedule a training, you can call our office at 916-228-2580 or email us at

Another way to learn about OTAN and other trainings (from CASAS, CALPRO, and other agencies) is to visit the California Adult Education Professional Development training calendar. The link to the calendar is or click on the link in the Calendar box next to the Training box on the bottom of the OTAN homepage. You can register for open trainings that are listed on the calendar – use your OTAN account email address to sign up. (See the previous news item for information on how to create an OTAN account.)

One additional training opportunity to be aware of is our newest addition, OTAN Tech Talks, a quick look at the technology tools, techniques, and tips specifically created for busy adult education teachers. Each month, a new topic will be covered during a one-hour webinar where participants get tips, videos, articles, and individual questions answered. You can listen to previous OTAN Tech Talk recordings on our OTAN Tech Talk YouTube playlist. Look for upcoming OTAN Tech Talks on the California Adult Education Professional Development training calendar.

Please consider joining us at an OTAN training! We look forward to seeing you face-to-face or online!

Coming up next: Information on OTAN news items and social media sites

Back-to-School Series: OTAN Teaching Tools and Resources

This is the fifth and final in a series of news items that will provide information about essential features of OTAN for you to know as you and your colleagues begin the new school year.

OTAN has a number of teaching tools and resources that adult ed educators can utilize in their instruction. Here are some resources that you should consider as the new year begins:

  • Teaching with Technology is a searchable database that teachers can use to locate websites and other tech tools related to specific lesson plan topics. You can filter your search by level, subject, and standards. Visit the Teaching with Technology database.
  • Web-based class activities are web-based activities organized around instructional themes or tech tools, with ideas on how to get started and how to use in the classroom. You can also see the last ten web-based class activities posted and search the list of activities by program. Visit the web-based class activities.
  • Curriculum offers are free or reduced-cost special offers for online curriculum licenses and professional development resources that OTAN has negotiated. List of current curriculum offers .
  • California Adult Education Courses are listed on our hosted and supported Moodle site. OTAN has developed and procured a number of courses which are offered to WIOA-funded adult ed agencies which can be administered and adapted to meet the needs of learners. An educator can also request an empty course shell to build their own online course. Visit the California Adult Education Courses website .

Please let us know if you have any questions about these teaching tools and resources. We look forward to providing you additional resources throughout the school year!

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.