Thursday, May 18, 2006

Commentary: Sotir: Professional Development: It's the New Big Thing

Some call it 'professional development' some call it 'staff development' but whatever the title, it's the latest trend in education. While it isn't always done well, it is being done a lot, and with good reason. It's what educators need to stay ahead of the curve, and their students.

Most educators were trained in a era where you went to college, got a teaching degree, and then went off to teach the things you learned at college until you retired. Yes, there were things like 'Teacher Institute" days, and sometimes a few hours were spent brainstorming with your peers, but overall, what you learned in college pretty well was all you needed to teach a class. History teachers learned the history. Math teachers figured out the math. English teachers knew the grammar and used their market share of red pens. But suddenly, a mimeograph machine and a typewriter with lots of carbon paper and white out just weren't enough. Things changed. Words changed. Typing would not longer do were now 'keyboarding'. 'Cut and paste' were used outside of the kindergarten classroom. 'Windows' were not just the things you see through, but rather things you use to see with. And an entire generation of baby boomers were spending more time with their mouse than with their cats and dogs. It's a revolution, baby.

So administrations began to figure out how to take the old guard instructors and bring them up to new guard standards. CEU's were now worth their weight in gold. Everyone was going back to class, and workshops were popping up like dandelions in springtime. And professional development was coming into its own as a life force for instructors struggling to keep afloat in a sea of technology.

For years, the defining word for education was 'consistency'. Technology is anything but. So teachers were dragged, some kicking and screaming, and put into a strange new world where few wanted to be. However, there were the pioneers, (and pionettes), who said wow, this could really be useful. They turned on the LCD projectors (and even knew they had to turn on the computers first.) A new iteration of haves and have-nots appeared, though these were more precisely use and use-nots. There were the purists...'children who use calculators will not learn how to do math.' And the realists...'children had to know a LOT of math to be able to figure out how to use the calculators effectively'. And really good teachers knew the difference.

Professional development is no longer optional, it is essential. Whether portals or blogs, wikis or iPods, instructors need to know what they are and how to use them effectively. So professional development is not really a trend, but a life-time commitment. Functional technology literacy is just not enough. Not for students, not for teachers and not for administrators. This is a road we all need to travel together, and financial commitments, whether for hardware or training, need to be adequate to get the job done right. It's time to support the revolution.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

ESL: It's English, Baby!

For advanced ESL students, English, Baby! (a web site) teaches real English by using American movies and music. It looks like a fun way for ESL students to get more exposure to today's English.

English, Baby! is at:

Thursday, May 04, 2006

ESL: Teaching Assistance Site

For ESL teaching tips, visit's ESL page:

You can also sign up to receive emails about Teaching ESL.


AELC Blog Learning to Blog is fun. Thanks for the great workshop Judith.

Informational. Financial Literacy

In 2003, Congress established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (the Commission) through passage of the Financial Literacy and Education Improvement Act under Title V of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-159). The Commission has recently published an in-depth review of financial literacy in America. The 160-page report is available on the Government web site, linked below. Improved financial literacy among all Americans requires an increased public awareness of the issues, as well as the many state, local, and national resources that are available for financial education.The Financial Literacy and Education Commission has established an information distribution infrastructure which will help increase public awareness of the resources available within the Federal government by establishing, a clearinghouse for financial literacy materials. This Web site contains links to free financial literacy and educational material produced by Commission members. also provides links to selected .edu sites maintained by publicly funded colleges and universities affiliated with the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), as well as .org sites affiliated with government entities such as the Federal Reserve Banks, to ensure that valuable financial information and learning tools are available from sites beyond Federal government agencies. The goal of the Web site is to provide a convenient and accessible source for credible and free resources. The Web site now contains useful information for individuals who are facing an array of financial needs, such as balancing a checking account, shopping for a mortgage or auto loan, researching ways to pay for a college education, reviewing credit card statements, putting money away for retirement, understanding a credit report, or simply deciding whether to pay cash or to charge a purchase. It contains information on how to understand, evaluate, and compare financial products, services, and opportunities and assists investors in understanding how to proceed when they encounter difficulties with market intermediaries.Although the Web site is arranged to be accessible and helpful to consumers, it also will make it easier for community educators and nonprofit organizations to find and use those same resources, reducing costs of needless duplication.

Sherry Burlingame

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Free Reports on Tips for ESL & GED Teachers

Merit Software offers a free report on Top 65 Tips for Teachers to Improve English Language Learners' Skills and a free report on 85 Surefire Ways for GED Teachers to Improve Student Skills. To get these reports visit: to register. While this is a plug for Merit's software, many of the tips are worthwhile to look at. Maybe ordering a demo and a free evaluation CD-Rom would allow teachers to find out more about these programs.
(Merit Software) Toll Free #: (800) 753-6488.

Monday, May 01, 2006

ESL/IEI: Pronunciation Websites

Robin and I have found two useful pronunciation websites. These would work especially well with class tours. They are and
They both have minimal pairs, and the latter website has dictation as well. The latter website has 13 lessons with sounds people have most the most problems with. It also gives basic definitions of each word. The former website has a fun memory game that most students enjoy. You should try them !! We think you'll really like them!