skip to main content

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

Administrators' Digest

August 2018(Vol. 9, No.8)

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?


16 Tools to Promote Inventiveness in the Classroom

Invention is the creation of a product or the introduction of a process for the first time, while innovation occurs if someone improves on an existing product or process. The link between those two, educational technologist Kathy Schrock says, is inventiveness–the ability to brainstorm, to be flexible, to elaborate, and to see original ideas come to fruition. Inventiveness–the bridge between inventions and innovations–gives students license to use their creative imagination. And today’s classrooms need more of it.

A few questions can pinpoint whether a classroom is conducive to creativity and inventiveness:

  1. The classroom’s physical environment offers flexible resources
  2. The classroom’s learning climate has students actively participating in discussions, allows for collaboration, and values different points of view
  3. Students are engaged, seek different viewpoints, take risks, reflect on learning, and have time to think creatively and develop ideas

“Something might need to be done in the classroom to help students,” Schrock says. Educators might consider “giving students freedom to create assessments and allowing varying formats, setting aside creativity time, using technology to broaden assignments, or using unconventional learning methods such as having students create a TED Talk to review a chapter in a textbook.” Approaches like these encourage students to use empathy, collaboration, and creative imagination skills, she adds.

For instance, teachers could:

  • Tell students stories about situations that accidentally led to new products such as the Slinky or the Post-It Note. Talking about interesting failures or epic fails, such as Bic for Her pens, can get students engaged and talking about all kinds of ideas.
  • Ask students to write headlines for a news article focusing on inventions in the year 2050 and see what they can imagine.
  • Pick a well-known object or tool and ask students how they might improve it or change it for the better.

Among Schrock’s many resources is this Tallyfy guide  to design thinking, which helps students think about innovation as it relates to helping different consumer audiences with real-world problems. Educators can use it to guide students through the design thinking process. The six steps in the process focus on understanding, exploring, and materializing: Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement. Schrock suggested adding a seventh step for reflection.

There are many strategies and tools aligned to those seven steps that educators can use to encourage inventiveness and design thinking in schools. During ISTE 2018, Schrock presented a variety of tools and strategies to help boost inventiveness in the classroom. Access Schrock’s extensive inventiveness resources, including the 16 listed below.

  • Empathize (including polling tools, social media, and experts): 
    1. Poll Everywhere, and 2. Google Forms
  • Define: 
    3. Wufoo, and 4. Airtable
  • Ideate (including mapping tools, real-time collaboration tools, and curation tools): 
    5. Popplet, 6. Stormboard, and 7. Feedly
  • Prototype: 
    8. Padlet, 9. Animation Desk, and 10. Google Slides
  • Test: 
    11. Twitter, and 12. Polling tools
  • Implement: 
    13. Adobe Spark tools, and 14. Weebly
  • Reflect: 
    15. Blogger, and 16. Evernote


Back-to-School Series: Create an OTAN Account

This is the first 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.

We encourage adult educators to create an account on the OTAN website. Creating an account is the easiest way to stay connected to the latest developments throughout the school year. (If you already have an OTAN account, take a minute to log in and make sure that all your information is correct.)

To create an OTAN account, first go to the OTAN website:

At the top of the page, click on Preferences.

On the next page, create your OTAN account by clicking on Register Here!

You will enter your contact and agency information on the next page. At the bottom of the page, indicate your preferences for receiving OTAN Publications and Notifications. One note – if you check Professional Development under OTAN Notifications, you will receive email notices when there is an open training in your area, even if it is not at your agency.

Make sure to save your changes once you have entered all your information.

You’re all set to stay in touch with OTAN! Look for email notices throughout the school year and we look forward to seeing you at a future OTAN event!

Coming up next: Information on OTAN training

11 Online Education Trends Institutions Should Track

According to a report tracking online learning trends, career aspirations continue to drive students’ decisions to enroll in online programs. The report surveyed 295 online program administrators and 1,500 students, including prospective, current, and past students, to gauge their experiences in online education programs. Trends identified in the survey can guide institutions as they tailor their online learning programs to best suit students’ needs:

  1. Seventy-three percent of online students say career and employment goals were a major motivation for enrolling in their online learning program.
  2. Online students are getting younger, and 34 percent of surveyed institutions reported an increase in students ages 18-25.
  3. Demand is increasing. Ninety-nine percent of online education program administrators say demand has increased or stayed the same over the past few years, and nearly 40 percent of respondents say they plan to increase their online program budgets in the next year.
  4. Online programs are considering enrollment growth and hiring trends—73 percent of schools say they decided to offer online education programs based on the growth potential for overall student enrollment, while 68 percent also considered employment demand.
  5. Prospective students use a variety of methods to research online education programs, including reading online reviews from students (23 percent), researching school websites (18 percent), contacting schools directly (17 percent), researching ranking websites (17 percent), visiting campuses (13 percent), and talking to students or graduates (10 percent).
  6. The majority of students in online education programs (79 percent) and the majority of past students (76 percent) think online education is better than or equal to on-campus education.
  7. Cost remains students’ biggest obstacle as they choose as online education program.
  8. Students struggle to find the right online education program. This might be due to the increase in younger students who may not have identified goals or chosen a career path.
  9. Business and related subjects such as logistics and accounting, healthcare and medical subjects, and computer science are predicted to experience the most enrollment growth over the next five years.
  10. Schools are offering a new online education program as a growth opportunity to increase overall student enrollment (73 percent), because there is employment demand for the knowledge or skills (68 percent), and because there is a demand from students who are interested in the subject area or degree level (64 percent).
  11. Challenges when it comes to offering online education programs include marketing new online programs to prospective students, meeting recruitment goals (74 percent), and meeting cost and management demands required by new online programs (54 percent).

Source: eCampus News

Education Group Fights Misinformation Via Wiki

Newspapers may have their own printing presses, but at a time when credibility of online information is increasingly questioned, it’s important for hometown publications to have a Wikipedia page, too.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), in partnership with a Washington state college professor, is helping to fight misinformation and teach digital literacy through its Digital Polarization Initiative  by having college students create or beef up Wikipedia pages for local newspapers. Organizations are not supposed to write about themselves on Wikipedia due to conflict-of-interest rules, so the initiative solves a problem for small papers that do not already have a Wikipedia page.

The idea, according to Washington State University Vancouver’s Mike Caulfield, is to make accurate information about the newspapers easily available and to put a focus on neutral messaging.

“When you say ‘the media’ as this sort of noun, it’s very easy to see this as something distant, run by shady people with their own agendas,” Caulfield, the university’s director of blended and networked learning, told Poynter . “When you go through newspapers and their history, figure out how many staffers are in a local newsroom, it kind of deconstructs that noun ‘the media’ into something that’s more composed of people who, for the most part, are trying to do the right thing.”

Caulfield is working with AASCU to recruit students to work on the project. The program aims to create Wikipedia pages and infoboxes for 1,000 local newspapers by December 15, 2018. “If this goes well, we hope it can serve as a model for future projects for newspapers from other parts of the world, or [for] other topics,” the Wikipedia page states .

The Digital Polarization Initiative’s own wiki  houses student analyses of claims that have been made online, noting the original sources and reporting on their own research into the claims. The site “allows university students to investigate questions of truth and authority on the web and publish their results,” according to the initiative. Questions explored on the site include whether basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal believes the Earth is flat, whether there is a hiring bias against women in the technology industry, and how many seats in Congress political parties lost when a president of their party was in office.

In comments to Nieman Lab, Caulfield noted that the concept easily translates to a number of different subjects, allowing students in a variety of majors to improve their digital literacy. “It’s an idea that fits well into a lot of different classes. You can drop it in a public policy class, you can drop it in a writing class,” he said.


Scroll To Top

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.