The idea of online professional development has been lingering in the world of education for quite some time, and yet a lot of teachers seem to avoid it in my country.

Written by Milica Vukadin, B.Ed

What is the reason behind that? Read on for some advice and links to current online PD opportunities. 

I need to start this post by being honest - I am not pleased with the overall quality of professional development in my country and the educational system in general. This is probably the most important reason why I decided to search for online professional development opportunities.

I started with my professional development when I enrolled in master studies. I completed a whole additional module with 7 courses connected to English teaching methodology, which made me the only preschool teacher in Serbia who can teach English in elementary schools as well. I did all that because I felt that there is so much more to learn - the official university program was somehow not enough for me.

Everyone is different, and every teacher has to come up with a PD plan that fits their schedule and preferences. You can use the tools on the British Council to determine your areas of improvement, or you can use the Cambridge Framework for Teacher Development - they will both help you understand what your next steps should be.

For example, my professional development plan consists of:

  • Attending conferences as a participant (live and online);
  • Attending webinars as a participant;
  • Keeping up with current research;
  • Running my blog with academic articles, opinion articles, and lesson materials as a form of teaching portfolio;
  • Volunteering in the educational sector offline and online - I am currently an online session facilitator in Granny Cloud. I also organize eco workshops in a local high school while cooperating with an ecological NGO.
  • Conducting research;
  • Attending conferences as a presenter and workshop facilitator;
  • Being a part of teachers groups on Facebook and discussing daily matters;
  • Reading, reading, reading and
  • Reflecting, reflecting, reflecting.

Maya Angelou once said: ''I am not a writer who teaches, I am a teacher who writes.'' This same idea gives me the energy to write, and this probably impacts my practice the most.

My professional development plan may sound complex, but I really love my profession, and I especially enjoy the academic side of teaching. When you break these activities into bite-sized learning activities, you will not even feel that you spent time doing them. If you are interested in developing teacher autonomy and if you struggle with reflection, I suggest that you read articles written by professor B. Kumaradivelu about post-method pedagogy - it will give you some insight on how to develop as a reflective practitioner.

Free online professional development was a lifesaver for me, and it is a brilliant idea because:

  • You can often complete the PD course or watch a webinar in your free time. You do not have to be physically present in a building.
  • You can complete your PD in pajamas while eating ice-cream -  professional development doesn't have to be dull.
  • Teachers already spend a lot of money on their university education and supplies, so why shouldn't they continue to learn for free?
  • Free certificates from credible organizations empower you to keep developing and improve your practice.
  • Connecting with educators from other countries and exchanging examples of great practice online ultimately leads to opening up your classroom to the world. Isn't that one of the core ideas of educational development and progress?
  • EDUCATION SHOULD BE FREE. For everyone. Everywhere.

When it comes to selecting proper professional development opportunities, here are several aspects that impact my decision when I am searching for online PD:

  • The presenters need to have a certain qualification (B.Ed or an equivalent degree minimum). You may think that I am asking a lot from free professional development, and that may be true, but I am not interested in attending presentations from only practitioners with experience. This often happens in seminars in my country - experienced teachers conduct workshops with topics that are basic, not innovative, and based solely on their personal experience. Education is constantly evolving, and presenting about any experience without the educational theory to support it does not promote innovation and progress. I want to attend a presentation that is backed up by research where I can see how the theory is applied in practice.
  • A free certificate is also important because when it comes to your CV, formal confirmation of your development is needed. Unfortunately, we live in a time where if things are not written on a paper with a signature, they are not taken seriously. Also, some online PD costs half of my salary since the standard in my country is not that high compared to other European countries, and I often cannot afford some courses I would love to attend.
  • The webinar or course should also offer academic references or recommendations for further reading.

Search for PD given by credible organizations - the internet is vast, and you may lose your time and be disappointed with bad content.

To keep track on current online professional development opportunities, I suggest that you subscribe to newsletters on these websites:

Since I am keen on environmental education, my current favorite free courses are from National Geographic. They offer a free certificate, the content is amazing and you can even purchase university credit later. The community is big and all the courses are moderated. The interaction level is amazing since you have to submit your lesson plans, and even teach a lesson to become a National Geographic Certified Educator.

To conclude this post, I just want to share a link with a list of current professional development opportunities - I hope that you will find something you like there. Also, I am not interested in earning CPD credit (my primary goal is learning and showcasing my efforts), so if that’s what you are looking for in a free course, you will have to check with every website if they offer such credits.

What is your opinion of online professional development?
Have you had positive or negative experiences with it? How do you motivate your self to develop professionally? Write in the comments, I would love to hear your opinion!

References for further reading:

Milica Vukadin, B.Ed.

Blog: Alice in Methodologyland

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