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Play 7 – Provide Professional Learning and Resources for Educators to Drive Meaningful Classroom Learning

The presence of dedicated student learning devices alone does not make an instructional system effective or accessible to individual students. Using technology for instruction without integrating it with strong instructional practice may even widen inequities in student opportunities and outcomes. For example, studies have shown that even when devices are available for learning, students from low-income backgrounds and students of color tend to receive instruction that leverages technology for routine drills focused primarily on repetition with lower levels of adult support, whereas students in higher income schools experienced technology as a creative and playful medium.1 Recent studies have found that teacher professional learning in technology is the most significant predictor of the type and quality of classroom technology use by students, suggesting that providing effective professional development for teachers can help close the digital use divide. It is essential that along with internet access and device roll-out, states and districts provide professional learning opportunities that support improvements in instructional design and empower educators to effectively use technology to support student learning.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are open educational resources (OER) and how can they support statewide professional learning efforts?

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under a license that permits their use, modification, and sharing with others. Open resources may be full online courses or digital textbooks or more granular resources such as images, videos, and assessment items.

Because OER are free to access and use, and have permissions that allow adaptation, a state could invest once in the creation of a core set of materials or resources that can be customized to the needs of local school districts. OER also facilitates statewide (and cross-state) collaboration because access to and sharing of materials is not restricted by licensing agreements that may only allow access to a limited number of people. Several states including North Carolina, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington maintain OER repositories where professional development resources are curated, created, and shared alongside student learning resources.

Play in Practice

Oregon Open Learning Hub Provides a Digital Resource Repository and Collaboration Space for Oregon Educators

The Oregon Open Learning Hub is a digital resource repository and collaboration space for Oregon educators, administrators, and other educational partners. In addition to finding resources and curating them on Oregon’s Hub, educators are also encouraged to revise and remix existing resources, as well as add lessons and content that they create.

More than 750 educators, specialists and administrators have engaged in virtual professional learning sessions about OER and Oregon Open Learning, and over 300 have joined groups on the Hub. Teachers appreciate the search features that allow them to quickly find resources they can modify for their classes and are excited about statewide collaboration possibilities. The Hub also enables teachers to rate and review content on the Hub, connecting teachers with other educators’ perspectives and experience using the material. Additionally, educators involved in national workgroups and communities value the ease with which resources can be shared across the site.

Before launching the Oregon Open Learning Hub, Oregon Open Learning team connected with other state leaders that had launched their own OER Hubs and Microsites. These conversations provided valuable insight into designing an OER Hub and the programming needed to support the initiative. Another key component in setting up the Hub was the creation of a plan for how to involve educators through professional learning, collaboration, and community building. The Oregon Open Learning team hosted a launch webinar that drew over 400 educators to learn about the new Hub and continued offering OER Workshops as standalone events and sessions at virtual conferences. The team also engaged specialists within the Oregon Department of Education in professional learning opportunities, contributing to the direction of the work, identifying and posting locally developed resources to the Hub, and sharing the Hub with their networks of educators.

Here are a few examples of student learning OER resources currently available in Oregon Open Learning:



Nevada Launches a One-Stop-Shop for Learning 

In response to the abrupt shift to remote learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nevada Department of Education launched the Nevada Digital Learning Collaborative (NvDLC), a statewide collaborative for digital learning resources. These resources support the nearly 500,000 students and the nearly 25,000 educators in Nevada.

NvDLC is a central website where students, families, and educators can search for resources in a range of formats (e.g., books, webinars, videos) by a range of categories including school subject (e.g., math, science, computer science, etc.), grade-level (e.g., elementary, middle, and high school) and types of pedagogies (e.g., hybrid teaching model, remote teaching). Elementary teachers, for example, can use this site to gather tips on how to use technology with young learners. Students will find materials to supplement what they learn in the classroom as well as digital literacy tools. Families can use the site to find technology training or resources to support students.

Along with instructional materials, the NvDLC also houses what are known as Digital Engineers. A Digital Engineer is a seasoned classroom, school, or district leader equipped with the ability to provide training and coaching services. Digital Engineers are responsible for outcomes around leadership and coaching, developing digital academic content and professional learning, and providing resources and support that align digital learning with effective teaching practices. 

Checklist & Key Questions

  • Identify professional learning goals and priorities aligned with your vision for how technology is used to support teaching and learning.
  • Determine opportunities for state-level support and coordination of professional development opportunities and collaborative training resource development to maximize return on investment and save districts time, money, and capacity.
    • Are there particular skills or competencies that most teachers across the state need additional support in developing?
    • How would you prioritize the required skills or competencies by greatest need for development and most impactful for student learning?
  • Establish a state professional development committee or team.
    • Who are the digital learning experts in your state (e.g., classroom teachers, school librarians, instructional coaches, school or district administration, Tribal educational agency, and regional educational service agency staff)?
    • How might a statewide effort draw on and amplify their expertise?
    • How will the professional development committee or team contribute to the development of collaborative professional development opportunities or resources? Will they help establish the state goals and priorities, help identify, evaluate, and curate existing professional development opportunities or resources, support the development of new opportunities or resources, or support outreach and engagement among educators?
  • Identify, evaluate, and curate professional development and materials.
    • Have districts or other states or organizations developed professional development opportunities or resources (e.g., micro credentials) that can be aggregated and shared with other districts across the state? Are these training resources openly licensed to allow for local customization?
    • Are there external collaborators (e.g., libraries, postsecondary institutions, local businesses) that can support training or curating professional development content?
    • Is funding available to pay teachers with specialized expertise to curate or create professional development opportunities and resources?
    • Do the professional development training opportunities or resources help educators leverage technology to accommodate students with disabilities and English learners? Do they include trauma-informed practices? Do they address different delivery formats or schedules (e.g., synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid)?
  • Determine how professional development and resources will be accessed and disseminated.
    • Is there a state repository or learning management system that can be used to organize and share curated professional development training opportunities or resources?
    • Is the storage solution freely accessible, or does it require a log-in?
    • How will teachers demonstrate their learning?
    • Will teachers earn continuing education units, digital badges, or another form of recognition that training has been completed?
    • Who will be responsible for granting credits (e.g., state vs. district)?

1. Rafalow, M. H. (2018). “Disciplining Play: Digital Youth Culture as Capital at School.” American Journal of Sociology, 123(5), 1416-52.