Creating Innovation in Personal Professional Development

Creating Innovation in Personal Professional Development
Posted on 07/23/2015

By Rebecca Berrett, Special Education Teacher at Worcester Technical High School

As the educational world inexorably moves forward into a future of digital conversion, the first thought that came to mind is “how will we, as teachers, prepare ourselves for this exciting learning transformation”? Our students have grown up in a digital world and have been utilizing technology their entire lives; however, many teachers and staff may have grown up in an analog world and have only been using technology for a short period of time.

Knowing about the digital conversion here in Worcester County, I wanted to have a better understanding of what this conversion meant for not only my students by myself as an educator. I decided that I would take steps to personally prepare for the future.

After exploring a number of resources, I came upon Coursera, a comprehensive, free resource of virtual courses for professionals. Coursera offered a variety of non-credit courses from top higher education institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and Princeton University. These 4-10 week classes conducted instruction through videos, Google hangouts, Twitter feeds and more.

I participated in the courses: Foundations of Virtual Instruction, Performance Assessment in the Virtual Classroom and Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom. I was so impressed with the depth and breadth of what Coursera had to offer that I felt compelled to share this with my colleagues.

My principal, Mrs. Caroline Bloxom, was very supportive when I approached her to discuss the digital conversion and the resources I had discovered and how it was shaping my classroom teaching. She encouraged me to continue pursuing this self-directed learning and instilled a confidence in me to create opportunities for my fellow teachers to participate in this program.

I began with an online poll of my colleagues at Worcester Technical High School to gauge their interest in participating as a group in the Coursera course, “Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom”. I was delighted to see a willingness from some of my peers to engage in this new venture.

For five weeks, our group participated in the course by watching a weekly video presentation and then held discussions to see how we could incorporate the ideas shared into online lessons within our own classrooms as we move into the digital conversion. We also took weekly quizzes and read articles, all provided digitally as part of the course materials. It was a success, with 86% of participants saying they would take another course.

When I contemplate the state of innovation within the educational universe, it’s apparent that it is not just about the students being prepared for the future; but teachers, as well. It is imperative that teachers remain excited and driven to pursue an ongoing personal professional development such as Coursera that allows them to stay current with new practices that continue to unfold in education.

This personal professional development project earned recognition in the Celebrating Innovation Recognition Program. If you have any questions about Coursera, please visit, or contact me at Worcester Technical High School at 410-632-5050. Thank you.