George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

5 Ways to Obtain PDPs During the Pandemic

Virtual conferences and webinars still go on, and there are other ways educators can get professional development points while working from home.

May 4, 2020
Neil Bussey / Alamy Stock Photo

Even in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, teachers still have a responsibility to keep their professional licenses and certifications up to date. Generally, they have to obtain a requisite number of professional development points (PDPs) in order to advance to the next level of licensure.

Now that schools are mostly indefinitely closed nationwide and opportunities for in-person professional development have been canceled, teachers may be looking for creative ways to fulfill their requirements. There are several things teachers can do at home to make that happen.

5 Ways to Accumulate Professional Development Points Now

1. Write an article or op-ed—or a book: Many online publications, including Edutopia, Education Post, and Education Week, are looking for teachers to share their expertise, including what they’ve learned about teaching online during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Consider submitting a written piece to a publication.

You could instead document your classroom experiences in a book. The process of writing a book is daunting, and it requires a great deal of time, patience, and attention—you’re most likely not going to whip one out while also learning how to best manage students’ distance learning. But if you have time now, and an idea that could be developed at book length, this may be the time to start the process.

A number of states award PDPs to teachers who create published written materials that are relevant to either the academic discipline of their license or the general advancement of instructional practice.

2. Attend or present a webinar at a virtual conference: Stay-at-home orders have resulted in many conferences shifting to a digital platform. Some of these conferences award either PDPs or a certificate of attendance that teachers can submit to their state department of education.

If you are a conference presenter, request a letter from the conference organizer that specifically details the professional development you provided to the attendees. Organizations like Solution Tree and ASCD offer free or low-cost online webinars and courses to teachers.

3. Create a social media channel for instructional videos: School closures have empowered teachers and schools to create social media groups or channels on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to provide supplemental instruction and academic enrichment to their students. These channels primarily consist of digital lessons, tutoring sessions, live demonstrations, and virtual read-alongs.

As soon as Covid-19 shut down her high school on March 13, for example, Fresno Unified School District geometry teacher Shariya Gray decided to start a YouTube channel, The Black-Matician, to provide much needed math edutainment for her high school students and others across the nation. Each week, she releases new video lessons that cover different math skills and principles.

With standardized testing shut down for the academic year, teachers can now devote more time to providing fun, innovative virtual learning experiences that will allow students to grow academically at their own learning pace. In an effort to boost student engagement and attendance during Covid-19, middle school language arts and social studies teacher Heidi Bruder of West Branch, Michigan, started creating themed videos in which she dresses up as fictional characters for virtual lessons. Every morning, she posts a new video in a private Facebook group she created for her classes.

4. Obtain certifications for educational technology tools: With schools making the shift to online learning, this is the perfect opportunity for teachers to build their capacity with educational technology tools and pursue certification badges to train other educators on the proper use of the tools.

For teachers who are currently searching for a new position, these certifications will significantly increase their marketability as more school leaders should be looking to hire teachers who possess a strong knowledge of the classroom applications of edtech tools.

5. Enroll in a continuing education program: Teachers who have the time may opt to enroll in continuing education programs and courses at a university. Generally, continuing education courses carry more PDPs than professional development opportunities designed within a school or district, which is why many teachers pursue either a master’s or doctorate in order to advance their careers. A significant number of PDPs are awarded to teachers who successfully defend their thesis or dissertation and get it published.

For those teachers who aren’t pursuing an advanced degree but still want to obtain continuing education credits, there are a number of universities that offer non-certificate courses that fulfill that need. For example, I know from my own experience that Dominican University provides affordable continuing education course options to teachers. Since these courses are designed for working professionals, the university allows up to nine months to complete a course from the day a teacher registers. The time flexibility allows teachers to complete the course assignments at their own pace.

A Few Points to Keep in Mind

Since teaching licensure requirements vary from state to state, it’s highly recommended that teachers contact their state department of education to get clarification on PDP requirements for their respective licenses.

For documentation purposes, teachers should keep a running record of all their professional development activities on a Google or Word document. The document should include the date they attended or administered the professional development session, as well as its title. Teachers should also include any published written materials they created in the document.

Teachers should be updating their résumés or curriculum vitae periodically to reflect the professional development activity they’ve done, including any published written materials they created, additional education technology certifications they obtained, and professional development sessions they facilitated.

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