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BOE buys learning software for teachers
Looks to save money with new resource
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    A new strategy for helping teachers stay on top of their game will soon be implemented by area high schools.
    The Bulloch County Board of Education approved last month the $12,800 purchase of Professional Development 360 (PD 360) software for teachers to hone their craft and more conveniently meet requirements for maintaining teaching
    The PD 360 program will offer to educators an online resource featuring hours of videos and pages dedicated to sharing new and improved teaching techniques, said Penny Freeman, Director of Professional Learning for Bulloch County Schools.
    “Basically, teachers can watch, in action, other professionals that have utilized the program and see the impact it has had on their classrooms and students’ achievement,” Freeman said. “It is a way to ensure teachers are up-to-date with the newest and best strategies for learning. It is a learning tool that will enhance teachers’ best practices and allow them to make a big impact on student achievement.”
    Statesboro High School Principal Marty Waters says the new tool will present updated teaching practices, interactive lectures, questioning techniques, new ways to design tests and various other materials.
    “PD 360 is completely web-based and accessible wherever. Teachers can go in and research different topics, each with their own short lessons,” he said. “We are excited about it.”
    The driving force behind the purchase, said Freeman, is the almost incalculable amount of time and money sparred as a result of teachers remaining in Bulloch County to learn online rather than traveling to Atlanta, Savannah or cities in Florida to attend conferences and seminars.
    “The biggest advantage of the program is that it saves us money used for travel, registration fees and having to cover for teachers missing time in classrooms,” she said.
    According to Waters, the convenience is a welcome change for the schools’ teachers — Statesboro High School underwent a trial run of the program last year; Portal High School and Southeast Bulloch will soon begin using the product.
    “(Teachers) like the fact that the program is web-based and can be done at their convenience outside of school. They really like the accessibility and ease-of-use. It is one less thing for them to keep up with,” Waters said — previously, teachers self-monitored the amount of credit hours that had been earned and stored any documentation associated with the many conferences and seminars attended throughout the year. “Now, you can sit in an easy-chair, spend five to 10 minutes going through a session/activity, and then put it into practice in the classroom. And the program keeps track of all activity.”
    There is also a mobile application associated with PD 360.
    “There is even an app for it,” he said. “A teacher could be doing a fitness-walk around the track and, at the same time, listen (on an iPod) to school improvement measures. It is very user-friendly.”
    The end result of using PD 360, which is always accessible and available even when not undertaking required courses, is hopefully to constantly improve more effective teachers, Waters said.
    At Statesboro High School, teachers will be required to complete at least 10 hours of professional development courses each year.
    According to Freeman, each high school principal will design an individual plan for implementing the program with their staff.
    All teachers are mandated by the state to take 100 hours of professional development courses every five years to retain their certification.
    Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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