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14 online professional development resources for educators in 2021
Although educators experienced a demanding year of intensive work and training in 2020 and 2021, many are still looking to undergo additional professional training this summer to help their students in the upcoming school year. The reality is the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many students to fall behind and experience learning loss.
“Learning loss”, however, may be a bit of a misnomer—the correct term should be “not enough learning gain”—it’s clear that distance learning resulted in significant declines in student engagement, as we outline in our 2021 Distance Learning Review. Getting students back on schedule in curricular content and personal development presents a host of challenges. And, according to EdWeek, professional development training ranks near the top among the top five solutions administrators and principals plan to use next year.
To help, LanSchool has put together a list of the best free virtual continuing education resources available to teachers, administrators, ESPs, and parents for 2021. Some are completely free, while others are only partly so. Together they offer a rich and comprehensive source of professional education to help educators prepare for the challenges the new year will bring.
Share My Lesson
Offered by the American Federation of Teachers, Share My Lesson offers a rich series of free professional teacher development webinars from their 2019 AFT Virtual Conference. Subjects span all grades and include anti-bias education, diversity, technology, social and emotional learning (SEL), lesson plan development, controversial issues, and teaching across the curriculum. Continuing education credit is available for all webinars. Access to all webinars will require an initial, free registration that asks for only minimal personal information.
In addition to for-pay professional development courses marketed to school districts, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development offers a diverse set of free webinars covering a range of K-12 education topics for teachers, administrators, education support professionals, and education students. Each video webinar includes handouts, resources, and free certificates of participation. Registration is required for each course taken, but there are no fees for registering.
A select number of webinars, however, are available to ASCD members only. Basic yearly membership will cost $59 annually and allows unlimited access to member-only webinars. A premium membership, at $239 for a year, also offers a single free professional development course from ASCD Professional Learning Services.
OK2ASK offers free workshops (both live and recorded, on-demand) covering the use of technology in the classroom, a timely subject in the era of remote and hybrid learning. The topics focus on specialized skills, such as specific tools, rather than general classroom strategies. Registration and certificates are free, but certificates are only given for attending live events. Free registration is required for both live and on-demand workshops.
National University Online Learning Portal
Focusing on Social and Emotional Learning, the National University Sanford College of Education offers two online resources for education professional development: Inspire Teaching Learning and Sanford College of Education. Inspire offers a range of free webinars and modules on social and emotional learning. Educators can earn up to 9 graduate course credits for free by completing 4 Inspire modules. Sanford College of Education offers a comprehensive set of online resources covering SEL and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) in the classroom.
Both resources require free registration at a common learning portal to participate in classes. Sanford College of Education resources, however, are only accessible to registered users through the learning portal. However, all their video seminars are posted to YouTube, so people looking for a less-regimented format can find specific video seminars there without having to register.
PBS LearningMedia offers a selection of videos, webpages, courses, lesson plans, and other media spanning the K-12 curriculum for students and teachers. For educators, professional development includes courses and a range of media covering planning, effective instruction, assessment, learning environment, and individual disciplines in the curriculum.
While most do not offer certificates or professional development credit, a series of self-paced online courses from Kentucky Educational Television (KET) in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education can be taken for free for professional development hours. Free certificates are granted at the completion of each course. Courses can be audited on the PBS LearningMedia site, but certification will require registering with the KET Education site.
Education Week’s edWeb offers a diverse set of free facilitated and recorded webinars with free CE certification. Consisting of video presentations followed by a quiz for certification, edWeb teaches subjects as diverse as learning loss, equity, inclusiveness, assessment, data-driven teaching, creativity, and virtual learning. Certificates are accepted in many states with district approval. Free registration is required to access the catalog of webinars. Unlike many other resources, edWeb will ask for more detailed professional information when registering.
Sesame Street in Communities
As might be expected from Sesame Street, the free professional development courses, webinars, and training videos on Sesame Street in Communities are primarily for very young children. Most deal with development rather than learning, so the appropriate audiences are pre-K and early elementary school teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents. Emotional development, social development, working with families, language acquisition, and early math are among the courses they offer. Webinars take about 30 minutes and courses run for about 2 hours. Certificates of completion are free, but all courses will require an initial registration with the site.
Alison is a for-profit education company in Ireland that offers a host of online courses for free (with advertising) or for a fee (no advertising). Education courses cover a broad range of topics including classroom management, special needs, curriculum, and teaching, but finding the right subject may require some searching. Certification is free, but users will have to check if CE certification will be accepted by certain states or school districts. The downside is that all modules are text-based with few resources other than a note-taking capability. Initial site registration is required to take courses.
Coursera compiles professional development courses across several disciplines from a variety of universities and colleges. Some courses are free to audit, but CE certificates always require a fee (usually $40 to $50). Other courses will require upgrading to a premium membership at $59 per month, which offers unlimited “free” courses and CE certificates. For education and teaching, Coursera offers a mixed and random collection of CE and undergraduate courses from institutions as varied as Yale to UC Davis.
Emergent Tree Virtual Learning Academy
Emergent Tree offers a relatively comprehensive set of webinars on classroom management and student behavior. Most are free, but some will require a course fee. Registration with the site, which Is free, is required to take courses. Emergent Tree does not offer certificates of participation or CEUs.
Learning for Justice
Among the most vital skills required of 21st-century teaching are addressing bias, tolerance, and social justice issues in the classroom and curriculum. Learning for Justice, originally Teaching for Tolerance, offers professional development workshops, online topic learning, and webinars. Workshops require a $15 fee per course, and webinars are free but will require registration for each webinar.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress offers a free set of professional development resources for teachers primarily concentrating on how to use primary resources and facilitate inquiry and research. Recorded, on-demand online workshops, webinars, and videos can be accessed for free without registration. Live virtual webinars and workshops will require registration for each event. Certificates and professional development credit are not offered. Some workshops and webinars also offer teaching resources to take to the classroom. The Library of Congress also offers hour-long facilitated virtual student workshops for classrooms across the country.
A service of Carnegie Learning (the creators of the Fast ForWord reading course), Fast ForWord is a free set of webinars covering brain-based learning, executive functioning, and reading problems. Many webinars have a timely focus on challenges posed by the pandemic such as remote learning, hybrid learning, and struggling students. Administrators, teachers, staff, and parents are all welcome to register with the site for free for unlimited access to their webinars. Certificates of attendance are available on request.
Join a Community of Distance Learners and Educators: LenovoEDU
While attending courses and earning certificates are a good start, many educators refine their skills and find support through interaction with their peers. Last year presented new challenges as educators were not able to participate as easily in their in-person communities. In response, Lenovo developed the LenovoEDU Community to provide a dynamic online destination where a global community of educators can connect with each other, find expert advice, discover new classroom content, and explore online courses offered by some of the leading edtech innovators.
Learn even more with additional resources from LanSchool
LanSchool is committed to supporting educators’ professional development, and we understand how important it is to re-engage students to optimize their learning this upcoming school year. Learn more about how LanSchool’s tools help guide learning, promote collaboration, and maximize teaching time.
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