LA Unified Expands Deployment of Teacher Professional Development System
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Los Angeles Unified School District teachers are moving to a new professional development site that will centralize all of their learning opportunities. Most recently, My Professional Learning Network (MyPLN) introduced Teacher Talk, a moderated online forum where the district's teachers can discuss timely topics. The entire application is being hosted on Cornerstone OnDemand, a cloud-based learning management system.
The Cornerstone LMS upon which MyPLN is built is in use by a other large K-12 organizations, including San Francisco Unified School District and KIPP Houston Public Schools.
According to Program and Policy Coordinator Brittany Estrada, MyPLN grew out of a series of discussion forums held in the district to "help gather educator feedback about what they wanted to see in a professional learning management system, what kind of system functionalities and what kind of content." Currently, she said, content such as videos and learning modules and other related materials is spread across multiple systems and "it becomes very challenging for educators to know where to look when they want to find professional development or training content."
The result — MyPLN — was piloted with around 2000 educators during the 2013-2014 school year. Feedback was "overwhelmingly positive." Now MyPLN has been expanded for use by the largest group of certificated employees: teachers and principals. Along with online resources the site also provides a registration feature for face-to-face professional development activities.
A teacher who interacts with any piece of content in MyPLN is encouraged to submit a star rating. Those ratings will eventually be used "to help inform what kind of content stays in the system and how we can improve the kind of content we're providing in the system," Estrada added.
Another goal of MyPLN is to provide a space where educators in the district can "connect and collaborate." That's where Teacher Talk comes in. As Estrada explained, the district has been working with a small group of national board-certified teachers to launch a community "to connect teachers to their most valuable asset — each other." Only teachers are allowed to participate in Teacher Talk. "Sometimes a teacher with a best practice is in the Valley and the teacher who's looking to learn about that best practice is in South LA. How do we connect them? The Teacher Talk community is our first attempt at trying to create that space for teachers."
The moderators — those board-certified teachers — each facilitate a bi-weekly discussion forum. The current topics are:
- Using technology in the classroom;
- "Close reading," a "big focus" of the Common Core State Standards;
- Classroom culture and climate; and
- Supporting diverse learners in a classroom.
- Eventually, a fifth category will be added to encompass a topic participants submit through a suggestion forum.
Formally launched March 1, pickup has been slow. But in a district as large as LA Unified, which has about 27,300 teachers, it takes time for word to get out, Brittany noted. For example, the district has just begun more targeted communications to its new and novice teachers, who may make up the most interested group of users in the beginning. On top of that, she added, "We're looking to do a lot of outreach and communication about the MyPLN system in general and then likely around this community as well as we move into the beginning of next school year." The "soft launch" going on now "is just our time to test this out. This is the first time we've done anything like this."
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.