Time to Get Serious: Evaluating the Impact of Professional Learning

Okay teacher friends, we’ve all been there. You just completed some form of professional development and you’re itching to get out the door. Someone walks by and hands you that green evaluation form right at the end. You know, the one you have to complete in order to get clock hours? In my experience, there are usually some additional questions about how the training went so that the facilitator can glean feedback on how they did. I remember jotting down some notes as fast as I could (while still being legible) so that I could jet out the door.  I’ve participated in a spectrum of professional learning sessions. From big international technology conferences to small local ESD workshops and in-house training on a specific topic. I feel like I’ve “been around the block” and done everything from PLCs and book studies to school tours and big conferences.  Needless to say, I feel tremendously blessed to have been given these opportunities to explore, learn, and grow in my own skills as an educator. But how do we know if these professional learning opportunities actually made an impact? How do we measure teacher growth, the impact on student learning, or overall school-wide improvement?  ISTE Coaching Standard 5 states that coaches “Evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet the school-wide vision for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning.”  So my big question: “How do we evaluate the impact of professional learning?” As I highlighted in a previous blog, Righting the Ship, one of our biggest problems with professional development (PD) is that we cram too many different topics into our annual schedule and then can only follow up on one or two of them. If that! This would be like teaching a math lesson to our students and moving on before we checked for understanding. Did our students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful? We need to ask the same thing of our teachers. After completing PD, there should be more than just a half sheet evaluation on how the session went. So this week I chose to dive in deep on best practices in evaluating professional learning. There are several well-known theories on how to evaluate the effectiveness of training. Perhaps the most famous in the education realm is Guskey’s Five Levels of Professional Development Evaluation. Guskey proposed that there were 5 domains that needed to be evaluated when weighing the success of a particular training. Below is a summary of each domain and suggested tools for collecting data.  Guskey also had a Theory of Teacher Change. He believed that teachers needed to first see the power of the new teaching method to really believe it was effective and continue to apply it (Hanover Research, 2015). Therefore, teachers must be given the time to reflect and evaluate student learning outcomes. Then they can see the impact of their training and continue to make changes where needed to improve student learning. PD is a complex beast. It can take many forms, whether attending workshops, participating in study groups, curriculum development, peer coaching, and so on. “But regardless of its form, professional development should be a purposeful endeavor. Through evaluation, you can determine whether these activities are achieving their purposes” (Guskey, 2002). As coaches, we cannot stop after the training, say a little prayer, and hope that we hit our mark. We owe it to ourselves and our students to follow through with Guskey’s five steps to determine if the training worked. Even if we are working alongside teachers who have individual goals and are doing more of a personalized PD structure, we can train and empower them to collect and analyze student data to take charge of their own continuous improvement cycle. Professional Learning should be an iterative cycle, where we take time to evaluate the impact on teachers, school-wide improvement, and most importantly student learning. Works Cited Guskey, Thomas. (2002, March). Does It Make a Difference? Evaluating Professional Development. ASCD, 59(6), 45-51. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar02/vol59/num06/Does-It-Make-a-Difference%C2%A2-Evaluating-Professional-Development.aspx  Guskey, Thomas. (2016, February). Gauge Impact With 5 Levels of Data. Learning Forward, 37(1). https://tguskey.com/wp-content/uploads/Professional-Learning-1-Gauge-Impact-with-Five-Levels-of-Data.pdf  Hanover Research. (2015, November). Best Practices In Evaluating Teacher Professional Development. Hanover Research. https://www.rsdmo.org/community/committees/professionaldevelopment/Lists/Meetings/Attachments/61/Best%20Practices%20in%20Evaluating%20Teacher%20Professional%20Development%20(1).pdf  ISTE Standards for Coaches (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches Background photo created by denamorado – www.freepik.com

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Incorporating Active Learning into Professional Learning Experiences

I have always been a fan of any professional learning experiences in which I return with something practical that enabled me to immediately implement something to improve student learning and achievement in my classroom. On the flip side, my least favorite professional learning experiences have been ones that were not relatable and left me wondering… “now what”. So here we go, let’s talk about active learning and end off with some extras that can be used directly in a professional learning experience! (or classroom if you so please).   But first, the WHY:  This quarter I have been focusing on learning more about ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator. This module we were asked to specifically focus on performance indicator “B”. Here it is:  This indicator is focusing on two key components of successful PD… active learning and meaningful feedback. While I believe both are incredibly vital to the success of PD, I felt that active learning was the horse before the cart. Hopefully, if we get staff to be engaged in an experience through active learning, we can then focus on the aftermath with meaningful feedback. This brought me to my question for the week:  “What are some active learning activities professional learning facilitators can implement in professional learning experiences?”  What is active learning?  While some may have not heard the term “active learning” before, educators have been putting this method into practice for ages. Essentially, active learning is getting students (or in our case, educators) actively engaged in their learning through not only thinking about what they are learning, but also why they are learning it.   Active learning in the classroom  For a long time educators have known that if we do not have student engagement in class, that we are not going to have our students retain as much of the information we are teaching them. Active learning is a wonderful way to get those kiddos engaged, and help to increase in lesson success. There are many different approaches to active learning in the classroom, however, the one I am going to focus on here is broken into three primary cognitive processes.   Mayer suggests that these three processes are:  1. Selecting relevant materials to attend to 2. Mentally organizing attended material into meaningful representations 3. Integrating these representations with prior knowledge  Some student based activities that incorporate these primary cognitive processes include:   Active learning using body movement HERE  Active learning activities with technology HERE  (this also is an awesome read on active learning if you have some extra time! Keep in mind it is written by a company selling a program that helps aid educators in increasing active learning in their classroom)  Active learning with adults  “Active learning methods ask students to fully participate in their learning by thinking, discussing, investigating, and creating.”  Cornell University has a short read on active learning that can be found here. They give a great list of research proven pros of active learning in a classroom setting. But active learning is not only applicable with children in a classroom! Adults can also participate in active learning and reap its benefits. Here are some of the most relatable pros to adult learning and professional learning experiences that I found:   “Creates personal connections to the material for students, which increases their motivation to learn” While many professional learning experiences are mandatory, there are still ways to make educators motivated to use the strategies and information that they gain from them. By creating a connection from the concepts to the educators, we can increase the likelihood that they retain, and implement their newfound knowledge.   “Build self-esteem through conversations with other students” There have definitely been times that I have been unwilling or nervous to implement a new strategy or standard in my classroom if I wasn’t confident in my ability to work with students on it. By working together with colleagues on new strategies, we can increase self-esteem and assure educators that they can try new things with their students!  “Creates a sense of community in the classroom through increased student-student and instructor-student interaction” This may seem only applicable to a classroom setting, but let’s broaden our thinking here. I have been to multiple professional development sessions that during the experience, I was able to interact actively with the facilitators along with my peers. This helped me to not only understand what I was supposed to be learning about, but it also gave me the community feeling that we were all in it together. There are still facilitators that I feel comfortable reaching out to in order to ask questions and deepen my knowledge on the content they presented. Wouldn’t it be great to feel you were always in a community with experts on what you were trying to implement?   Why does it matter?  Edgar Dale coined the idea of the “Cone of Learning” in the 1960s. He spoke to the process of knowledge retention and the different ways in which knowledge can be taught. Take a peek at the graphic below to see his thoughts represented visually.  On the left, we see percentages of knowledge retained based on the type of learning (on the right). The learning activity is placed in the triangle that correlates to the type of learning. We can see that the least effective learning activity is verbal receiving: reading and hearing words. The next category is visual receiving: watching a movie, looking at an exhibit, watching a demonstration, seeing it done on location. Next, we jump to 70% retention with receiving/participating: participating in a discussion, and giving a talk. And finally, the most effective strategy is doing: doing a dramatic presentation, simulating the real experience, and doing the real thing. We can see through this graphic that we must be moving away from the more traditional teaching methods of hearing and seeing, and focus on having students talking and doing.   Active learning focuses on the receiving/participating and doing “nature of involvements”. But let’s get into the “doing” ourselves, and see some examples!   Extras  Ready for some ideas for your next professional learning experience?   Here are two variations on a similar activity that you may already be familiar with:  Think/Pair/Share – An oldie but a goodie! Participants are given a topic and they think to themselves any information related to the topic. They can write this down, or keep the info in their heads. They then pair up and compare thinking.  Tell/Help/Check – Participants are in partners and are given a question or topic. The first participant gives all information that they have knowledge on surrounding that topic. The second participant then adds any information that they think is related, but not shared by the first participant. Finally, the participants share to a large group and continue the pattern of only sharing new information.  Here is an amazing graphic with short “brain blasts” that encourage active learning independently. (Okay, there are a few that peers can participate in)  And if you still haven’t found any that you are interested in trying, here is another resource that is geared towards increasing active learning with adults! Some fun ones include; The One-Minute Paper, Chain Notes, Mystery Quotations, Idea Speedating, Quescussion, and Empathy Mapping. Check it out!  What other activities have you done that were crowd-pleasers? Comment below!  Resources  Active Learning. (n.d.). Center for Teaching Innovation. Retrieved February 10, 2021, from https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources/engaging-students/active-learning  Active Learning. (2020, October 14). Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning. https://stearnscenter.gmu.edu/knowledge-center/student-engagement-classroom-managment/active-learning/  Dunnick Karge, B., Phillips, K. M., Jessee, T., & McCabe, M. (2011). Effective Strategies For Engaging Adult Learners. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 8(12), 53–56. https://doi.org/10.19030/tlc.v8i12.6621  Kosturko, L. (2015, October 14). Professional Development: Technology’s Key to Success. Getting Smart. https://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/10/professional-development-technologys-key-to-success/  Lynch, J. (2017, June 22). What does research say about active learning? Pearson. https://www.pearsoned.com/research-active-learning-students/  Mayer, Richard E. Applying the Science of Learning. Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2011.  What is Active Learning? (n.d.). Smart Sparrow. Retrieved February 10, 2021, from https://www.smartsparrow.com/what-is-active-learning/  Whenham, T. (2020, April 2). 15 active learning activities to energize your next college class. Nureva. https://www.nureva.com/blog/education/15-active-learning-activities-to-energize-your-next-college-class 

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Revamping Adult Learning

Three ways to differentiate your PD with tech and how they relate to adult learning theories. Just like students, teachers crave learning that is personalized, relevant, and fun. While best practices have shifted to include items like differentiation and personalized learning for students, school leaders are still in the process of revamping professional development (PD) for teachers that follow suit. Long lectures and “sit-and-get” PDs are a thing of the past! Technology offers new and engaging ways to deliver content and allow teachers a voice in their own continuing education. After taking the time to create your school’s vibrant and energizing culture of being life-long learners, check out some of the following ideas on how to shake up your PD with technology. Flipped PD  Traditional PD gives teachers a bunch of information, but rarely the time needed to play, design, and reflect on how to put it to work in their own classroom. Therefore, educators developed the idea of flipped PD. Kristin Daniels (2014) explains that their model of Flipped PD puts the experts where they are needed most – next to the teachers during the design process and implementation. The process begins as teachers complete a needs assessment or when they sit down with a coach to explore options for projects and set personal goals (Daniels, 2014). Before the next meeting, the coach or admin can provide customized digital resources for the teacher to review, including articles, inspiration, or tutorial videos (Daniels, 2014). Then at the next session, coaches can provide support and guidance as needed. If a coach is not available, teachers can team-up together with others who have similar interests. If the school does have coaches on staff, they are a powerful tool because they can come alongside teachers to co-design, model, troubleshoot, reflect, and empower teachers on their learning journey. An ISTE article, “Technology, Coaching, and Community” (2011), states: “Effective professional learning is intensive, ongoing, focused on the classroom, and occurs during the teacher’s workday” (p. 2). This job-embedded Flipped PD model makes learning relevant, gives teachers agency in their own learning, and continues to provide support for staff throughout implementation. Flipped PD connects with Malcolm Knowles’s beliefs on adult learning. Knowles believes that adults are driven by internal motives and are more willing to learn when the learning has immediate value (Navy Fleet and Family Readiness, 2018). So by allowing teachers to choose their own topics to explore for flipped PD and giving them job-embedded support while implementing, will ensure they are interested and it is relevant to their classroom. Knowles also argued that adults are independent learners and want to be in control of their own learning (Gutierrez, 2018). A flipped PD model allows teachers to complete their learning on their own time, compared to a traditional PD structure where teachers file into a room and listen to a presenter. Flipped PD also gives teachers a lot of say in how they learn, and in creating their own pathway to mastery. Probably most important, Flipped PD gives teachers hands-on experience with the support of a coach or collaborating with peers. Knowles believed that adults learn best when allowed to connect learning with real-world experiences (Navy Fleet and Family Readiness, 2018). Micro-credentials  In her blog post “OMG Becky. PD is Getting So Much Better!!” Jennifer Gonzalez (2018) talks about micro-credentials as a new form of tech-driven PD. Teachers select a topic and work at their own pace to complete a learning pathway or series of challenges to receive badges or micro-credentials. Similar to learning via Twitter chats or EdCamps, micro-credentials are another untraditional form of PD that teachers are embarking on. It’s a great way for teachers to pursue personalized learning that is interesting and valuable to them. Thank you technology for the wealth of information at our fingertips! Here are some examples of micro-credential courses online:  ISTE’s Learning Pathways Microsoft’s Learning Pathways Self-Directed Learning is another well-known adult learning theory developed by Tough in 1971. In self-directed learning, adults design and structure their own learning (SH!FT, 2019). Microcredentials are a great way to empower teachers to pursue their own continuing education that interests them and fits into their busy schedules. And perhaps, after they earn a digital badge they would opt to continue learning by joining a Twitter chat or by asking someone to mentor them while they try it out in their own classroom. However, the one downside is that self-directed learning hinges on adults taking responsibility for their own learning (SH!FT, 2019). So it would be prudent for school leadership to provide an accountability structure that gives teachers a time and place to collaborate on what they are learning, perhaps during a “Lunch and Learn” or a PLC.  Choice Boards or Cafe Menus A third way to revamp your PD time is to create a choice board or cafe menu for your staff giving them PD options to choose from. One awesome example I found was from Big Spring High School in Newville, PA. Their instructional coach, Niki Donato, designed a Best Practice Group Choice Board that allowed teachers to personalize their PD and choose how they wanted to engage with others (Gonzalez, 2018). Some options included participating in Teacher Labs, doing cross-curricular planning, or spending 1-1 time with a coach. While this option is not strictly on an online platform, technology can assist in so many ways! Teachers can collaborate asynchronously on shared documents, post reflections via FlipGrid, research topics online, or explore new technology together.  This PD structure made me think instantly of the experiential learning theory created by David Kolb. To put it simply, adults learn best by doing (Gutierrez, 2018). Compared to traditional PD where teachers sit and listen to an expert, choice boards or cafe menus have teachers participate as active learners! They read, design, collaborate, tinker, build, etc. These hands-on tasks let teachers apply their new learning and give them concrete experiences (Gutierrez, 2018).  Conclusion  I was fascinated when researching different ways to personalize and differentiate PD for teachers. There are a lot of good ideas out there and people are doing some amazing things! However, we have a long way still to go. Let us commit together to make PD more meaningful one session at a time. By using technology, we can truly start to meet our individual teacher’s needs and allow them to learn in ways that motivate them.  If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my other one: Shaking up PD. Works Cited  Coaching_Whitepaper_digital.pdf. (2011). Retrieved from https://www.ri-iste.org/Resources/Documents/Coaching_Whitepaper_digital.pdf Daniels, Kristin. (2014, April 18). The Flip Side of Professional Development. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-04-18-the-flip-side-of-professional-development  Gutierrez, Karla. (2018, April 24). Adult Learning Theories Every Instructional Designer Must Know. SH!FT. https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/adult-learning-theories-instructional-design Gonzalez, J. (2018, March 4). OMG Becky. PD is Getting So Much Better!! Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pd/  Moroder, Krista. (2014, April 7). Micro-credentials: Empowering Lifelong Learners. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/micro-credentials-empowering-lifelong-learners-krista-moroder  Navy Fleet and Family Readiness. (2018, February 12). Adult Learning Theory [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk6QFlUYrkE Robinson, LaKetra. (2020, August 26). The Benefits of Differentiation in Professional Development. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/benefits-differentiation-professional-development  SH!FT. (2019, June 14). Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Self-Directed Learning at the Workplace. SH!FT. https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/self-directed-learning-workplace-trend  Wolpert-Gawron, Heather. (2018, October 30). The Importance of Choice in PD. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/importance-choice-pd 

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Righting the Ship

For years now, it has been recognized in the educational sector that professional development (PD) needs to change. Whether we focus on the unhappy and unfulfilled teachers, the principals who do not see the desired change in their staff, or the lackluster results from high-quality studies done on PD… one thing is very clear – we need to right the ship.  I sought to explore the question: What does research say about planning effective and meaningful professional development? While this question is too broad to come up with one succinct answer, I did uncover some thoughts to consider when planning your next PD session.  Choosing Less and Diving Deeper Schmoker (2015) argues that we choose topics for PD that have no empirical evidence to back it up as true “best practices” (p. 2). Instead, schools choose PD that follow current whims and fads, such as educational technology or differentiation (Schmoker, 2015, p. 2). In contrast, schools and districts should conduct a far more “methodical, painstaking study of any practice or program before they adopt it” (Schmoker, 2015, p. 3). Teachers should be given a say as well and leaders should be able to explain, with evidence, why those topics have been chosen for PD and how they will improve students learning. Another problem with our current professional development is that we choose way too many topics for PD and have limited, if any, follow up with teachers to coach them through until mastery. And then the next year we pile new initiatives atop the half-mastered ones. Schmoker explains “…we must direct all professional-development time and personnel, and teacher collaboration, to a severely reduced number of powerful and proven practices” (2015, p. 3). Otherwise, we overwhelm our staff with the onset of new initiatives and make very little progress in any of them. Agency and Collaboration Teachers want a say in their professional development. Classrooms around the nation are very diverse- in curriculums, supplies, and students’ needs. So naturally, teachers should participate in continuing ed on the topics that connect with their classrooms. On top of that, teachers’ have a huge range of backgrounds, training, and experiences, and need personalized training to fit where they are at professionally. Therefore, we should give teachers choice in their PD and make sure it is relevant to them. In a survey done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014, teachers expressed that their ideal PD would be personalized, interactive, and sustained over time (p. 4). Likewise, McGrath (2020) encourages trainers to give teachers time to process, practice, and transfer new knowledge. A good rule of thumb is to spend about a third of the session on new information and the other two thirds on reflection and implementation (McGrath, 2020). Give teachers agency and the opportunity for hands-on learning, applying their learning to their specific classroom, and the opportunity to collaborate with others. Check out Elena Aguilar’s Principles of Adult Learning to gather other ideas of how to meet your adult learner’s needs.  Implementation and Coaching Another problem with our current formats of PD is the lack of support for teachers during implementation. It’s like giving them a map on how to get to point b or mastery and then helping them on their personal voyages. Valerie Strauss (2014) gave a powerful analogy as she compared implementation in the classroom to riding a bike. Would we show a picture of a bicycle, explain the theory behind the mechanism, and then just release teachers to try riding a new bike in the parking lot on their own time? No. Strauss states: “In the same way that riding a bike is more difficult than learning about riding a bike, employing a teaching strategy in the classroom is more difficult than learning the strategy itself” (2014, p. 1). In fact, studies show that it takes an average of 20 practice attempts before a teacher can master a new skill (Strauss, 2014, p. 1). Therefore, a goal of PD time should be to choose powerful practices to study and then support teachers as they practice, tinker, and improve their craft. Schmoker argues “mastery born of repeated practice and ongoing guidance must become the new goal of professional development” (2015, p. 3). Furthermore, teachers have indicated that they want sustained time to learn (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014, p. 4). During implementation, teachers would benefit from time collaborating with peers and receiving additional support from coaches. If implemented well, coaches can come alongside teachers and help with the implementation process by co-planning, co-teaching, modeling new instructional practices, or observing and giving feedback.  While it is always hard to right the ship, implement change, and break away from how things have traditionally been done, think of the benefit professional development can have on teaching and learning if done right. It would be like unlocking a vast treasure trove of skills, ideas, knowledge, and pedagogies that can transform education. For now, let’s begin by choosing just a few evidence-based practices for PD, giving teachers agency and hands-on learning opportunities, and supporting them through the learning process to mastery.  In your opinion, what is vital to consider when planning effective and meaningful professional development? I would love to hear from your experience participating and leading PD.  Works Cited  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2014, December). Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5W5P9bQJ6q0SUlzb19fX0lpaXM/view Bright Morning (n.d.). The Principles of Adult Learning. Retrieved from https://brightmorningteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Principles-of-Adult-Learning.pdf McGrath, Shannon. (2020, May 7). 3 Tips for Creating Effective PD. Eduptopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-tips-creating-effective-pd Schmoker, Mike. (2015, Oct. 20th). It’s Time to Restructure Teacher Professional Development. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/opinion-its-time-to-restructure-teacher-professional-development/2015/10  Strauss, Valerie. (2014, March 1). Why Most Professional Development For Teachers is Useless. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/01/why-most-professional-development-for-teachers-is-useless/ 

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Principals Best Support in Educational Technology PD

Principals play an important role in teacher’s professional development program on educational technology. Their vision determines the PD’s direction and also impact on student learning. If the school want to enhance technology-based learning environment, teachers will be confident on taking the risk to pilot technology-based teaching initiate with the effective supports from principals. So I …

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Doing – The Most Important Digital Age Best Practice for PD

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”  ― Aristotle   Student needs and outcomes should be at the heart of how educators teach and grow but how can this happen in a thoughtful way that includes how digital practices have changed how we all (educators and students) learn, interact and consume information?  While looking more closely at the ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program …

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Motivate and Engage Teachers to Be Positive Learners in PD on Educational Technology – considering adult learning principles

ISTE Coaching Standards ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B ● Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment. Inquiry Question:How can we design the professional development /What kind of PD can motivate …

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ISTE-Coaching: Supporting and Sustaining Successful Coaching

ISTE Coaching Standards ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth b. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, …

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Regional Teacher Professional Learning and Technology – Module 5

Involving Many Stakeholders Like some of my colleagues in the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. Program at Seattle Pacific University, this quarter has led me to think more broadly about professional development for teachers and specifically professional development through technology. Much of the learning this quarter has been new and valuable to me as a first … Continue reading “Regional Teacher Professional Learning and Technology – Module 5”

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