How to “Cheat” at Professional Development

"If you're not cheating, you're not trying." Eddie Guerrero

Wait, What?

Let’s be clear right up front: I’m talking about things that might seem like cheating because they make PD easier. But they’re better described as “productivity hacks” – ways to increase your efficiency. 

And pretty much all the “cheats” I’m going to share are possible because there are SO MANY digital opportunities for professional development. You’ll have to find out whether or not your district will accept these opportunities as counting toward any PD hour requirements. It may be worth having a conversation with your supervisor – pointing out that you can improve your work for free could be a strong selling point! 

But even if they’re not “official” PD, they can still help you learn better ways to improve your practice.

So let’s get started!

First: Find Opportunities

The pandemic has been terrible, but the massive increase in the availability of online learning opportunities it has prompted is a real boon.

I’ve managed to get on several mailing lists that send me at least one free online learning opportunity a month. For example, Flipgrid offers “Flipgrid Live” events, where experts in different areas share their expertise. Not every one of these applies to education, but there are quite a few authors and educators who share ideas. 

And Wakelet just wrapped up their “Wakelet Community Week 2022” that featured lots of great educators and school librarians sharing info and ideas. Those sessions were also recorded, and are posted to Wakelet’s YouTube channel. A few personal favorites: Kristina A. Holzweiss and Deborah Zeman on “Creating a Legendary Library”, Wenndy Pray and Victor Domingo on “Student Portfolios”, and K.C. Boyd, Karina Quilantan, and Amanda Jones on “Freedom to Read: School Libraries Impacting Change”. 

You can actually find all sorts of free upcoming virtual events and other free learning resources at the School Librarian Learning Network website.

Second: Take Advantage of Your Time

How long is your commute to work? How much time do you spend folding laundry? How long do you take to do your yardwork? 

When you’re in the car, listen to podcasts rather than the radio. Not only will you avoid goofy DJs and miserable news updates, you’ll also expand your knowledge! 

School Librarians United logo, Amy Hermon editing an episodeThere are so many great podcasts for school librarians out there! If you’re not already listening to Amy Hermon’s School Librarians United podcast, you are really missing the boat! Real school library practitioners discuss real challenges and their solutions. And Amy has included a PD certificate in the show notes for each episode. 

You might also check out School Library Connection’s podcast “One Lesson at a Time”. In the first season, host Courtney Pentland discusses a particular lesson a guest school librarian created and used with students. The show notes include a copy of the lesson plan, so listeners can dive right in to trying the lesson themselves. Each episode is available for 2 weeks from release for non-SLC subscribers. (Full disclosure: When season two starts in Fall 2022, I’ll be the new host – and I’m very excited to learn along with listeners!)"Partnering with your Public Library" July 8, 2022 10 am CT, featuring Michelle Parish, Kyla Robertson, and Amanda Jones

And when you’re doing those mindless tasks that take up your hands, you could check out some of the YouTube offerings instead of popping on Netflix. There are tons of webinars recorded and waiting for you to discover them! Amanda Jones regularly offers webinars that she presents on YouTube Live, with recordings available for viewing at your leisure. She even offers PD certificates! 

Third: Take Control of Time (Literally)

When I started my graduate work for my library degree, the entire program was online. We had multiple recorded lectures to watch each week. I found myself playing around with the speed settings to help me stay mentally engaged – and to reduce the amount of time I had to sit in front of my computer! 

Most podcast players offer the ability to set custom play speeds. When I first started listening, I slowly increased the default playback speed. Now I’m usually listening at 2.3x normal; if I step it back down to 1x, it feels like a slow-motion scene in a movie. 

Video Speed ControllerYouTube also offers some basic playback speed adjustments. But there is actually a great tool called Video Speed Controller that lets users speed up or slow down any HTML-based video online (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.). This lets me find the right speed for me, rather than the three defaults YouTube offers. It also allows users to slow down playback – great for taking notes, or deciphering tricky portions. Simply press the S key on your keyboard to slow playback by .1x, or press D to speed up by .1x. Holding the key down quickly increases the slow down/speed up factor. 

Now I can watch and listen to recordings in less than half their normal play time – a huge time saver! 

Fourth: Find What Works for YOU

There is a plethora of professional development out there. Look around and see what works best for you. Maybe you prefer visual learning. You might prefer to fill your brain with knowledge while you’re on the go. There are presenters and topics aplenty to choose from. 

And maybe you’ll be inspired to create your OWN professional development offering to share with others. There is no shortage of examples to get inspired by! 

However you decide to develop your mind, if it helps you, then it’s right!


Author: Steve Tetreault

After 24 years as a classroom English Language Arts teacher, Steve became a school librarian in January 2022. He has earned an M.Ed. (2006) and an Ed.D. (2014) in Educational Administration and Supervision, and completed an M.I. degree in Library and Information Science (2019). He is certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!

Categories: Professional Development, Technology

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