Teacher-Created Professional Development: Meet the Winner of our EdTech Award

January 20, 2015

The Background

Monica Davis is a teacher in the Upper School at Westmark School in Encino, CA. She recently completed the Educational Technology Master’s Program at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), recognized by US News & World Report as one of the top online graduate programs in educational/instructional technology.

At CSUF, Monica was the recipient of the first ever Innovation in Educational Technology Award, which PowerSchool Learning sponsors. The award recognizes a graduating student from the program who creates an online professional development module that reflects innovative uses of technology in meaningful and effective ways.

This capstone project is built in PowerSchool Learning’s platform, which is used in all of the program’s courses. We recently sat down with Monica to learn about this project, which is now a PD class for her colleagues at Westmark. The PD class is actually about how to use PowerSchool Learning since they’re rolling out the platform in the Lower and Middle Schools this year.

The Interview

PL: Hi Monica! Can you tell us a little bit about this PD class you created?

MD: I really wanted to create something that was user-friendly, that teachers could work on at their own pace, and allow them to collaborate.

Each module has a text introduction at the top explaining what the module is about. Then there’s a screencast tutorial video embedded from YouTube, because Haiku works so well with YouTube. I also included a content block that contains screenshots.

Then I added little quizzes throughout, so that teachers can be assessed in some way. Of course they’re not really graded, but they do get points, so I can at least see if people are struggling with certain topics. Quizzes can be taken over and over again until they master them.

I also created a Discussion for teachers to collaborate with each other where they have to answer a question. So, for example one question was “What do you think is the most important content block to have in your class page?” (The calendar was the most popular answer!) Finally, there’s also a Q&A Discussion for that particular module.

And then it just goes on from there. So, they all have the same format: an intro, the tutorial video, quiz, and discussions.


Here’s a screenshot from Monica’s class. Every module in the class follows the same format.

PL: How important is it have the same format from page to page in the platform?

MD: I think it’s great to have the same flow. If you go to a website and the page layout and content changes all the time, it hinders the learning of the user because they are constantly trying to figure out how to use the site and where everything is instead of focusing on learning.

I teach at a school for students with learning differences. It’s very important for my students to have a set organization on their pages, even from class to class. This consistency allows for a better experience in user interface and less frustration with the content. With PowerSchool Learning, you can save classes as templates, and put them in the Library for other teachers to use, so you can have that consistency.

PL: What inspired you to take this approach to your class?

MD: The graduate program at CSUF is so great. I can’t say enough about them. Tim and Loretta — Dr. Tim Green and Dr. Loretta Donovan, my professors in the program — set up the program so that the projects are things we need and use in the field, and that makes it relatable. I was given this project to design a PD class, and in the meantime I’m reading a book that they wrote about different types of designs and ways to enhance learning with technology.

One of the many key points that I remember being introduced to is the P21 framework. It’s all about 21st-century learning, and I thought it was amazing. I then asked myself, “Why aren’t we using 21st-century learning for teachers when we’re using it for students?” And that’s what PowerSchool Learning is all about. It’s a platform for 21st-century learning.

PL: How did the platform help you fulfill your vision for PD?

MD: The fact that PowerSchool Learning has a user-friendly interface was really helpful to me. The ability to embed other web applications and YouTube videos is very simple, plus being able to put the assessment tool and discussion board allows for easy collaboration.

The Knowledgebase, the Community Forum, all the other dashboard tools…there’s just so much available from PowerSchool Learning, so I didn’t really have to reinvent the wheel. That was a time saver. PowerSchool Learning has a large Knowledgebase where you can find screenshots and videos.

PL: How important was collaboration in creating PD?

MD: In the beginning, I was doing a lot on my own. And then the summer came, and I started working with other people on the PD for the lower and middle school rollout. It’s been so much easier because they have a different view on the topics that need to be covered in the PD and the materials necessary to reach people of all different technology levels and content areas.

PL: What’s one of the biggest challenges when it comes to PD for teachers?

MD: As a teacher, I know I don’t have the time to go to all the PD workshops that are out there. Most teachers are using what little free time they have available to handle emails, grading, lesson planning, and much more.

That’s what I thought was so great with this online PD with PowerSchool Learning. Anytime teachers have free time, which is hardly ever, they can do it. I also decided to take this approach to help develop the 21st century skills of the teachers and building a strong communication within community about their experiences with technology. We talk to each other in the coffee room but not always on these particular topics, so it gives teachers a place to collaborate at their convenience.

PL: What kind of feedback have you gotten from teachers so far?

MD: The feedback I got was that it’s nice that it’s always available, that they can always refer back to it. They like that they can go back and forth in any order they want. They liked the ease of just knowing where everything is on the page.

PL: How are you going to implement this at your school?

MD: This year we’re rolling out PowerSchool Learning to the lower and middle school. We’re going to have an initial session with other teachers in a meeting. They will then follow up with the online PD tutorials and discussion assignment on their own time.

PL: How are you going to build upon this class moving forward?

MD: I was thinking about doing a PD like this for parents to use from home. They wouldn’t have to do the quizzes, but we could set up a Discussion, so other parents could to talk to each other. I get parents that say ‘I don’t know where the homework is’ or ‘I can’t find this on the site.’

The online PD’s for parents can be introduced during Back To School Night, so they can reference the material when needed to help them manage PowerSchool Learning assignments, grades, and calendar events for their child.

I’d also like to see how teachers are using different aspects of PowerSchool Learning and have them create PD. For example, I have a teacher at our school who puts all his units on PowerSchool Learning. I’ve never done that with my class, but it looks amazing. I’d love to see him put together PD for other teachers. So I’d like to see more teacher-created PD’s.

PL: So, you’re hoping to incorporate more teacher-created PD?

MD: When teachers create a PD it sparks creativity with other teachers and allows for more collaboration among faculty. It also gives the teacher a voice in topics chosen for PD sessions. I have found if teachers are involved in the creation of a PD, there tends to be more engagement.

PL: What did you learn from working on this PD project?

MD: That planning is very important, laying out exactly how you want your PD to look. Knowing what your goals are and then collaborating with others are all keys I have found to having a successful PD.

PL: Any parting advice to share with other educators working on PD?

MD: I would let teachers know creating PD like this can take some time, but in the long run it will save time. It’s nice to have the Library with the templates in there. I just have to tweak a few things on it periodically. We have this Library that we can always use for the future. When a new teacher comes into the school you can send them to this online tool.


Thanks for the interview Monica! Can’t wait to see how the rest of your class turns out!

Guest Blogger

Monica Davis

Monica Davis is a teacher in the Upper School at Westmark School in Encino, CA. She recently completed the Educational Technology Master’s Program at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), recognized by US News & World Report as one of the top online graduate programs in educational/instructional technology.

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