January 31, 2013 by

Five Questions with David Hargis on the New PD QuickKits Tool

 

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A large part of what ASCD does is provide high-quality professional development options for educators so that they can be empowered to support the success of each learner. We sat down to chat with our Director of Content Development, David Hargis, to find out more about the recently released PD QuickKit®. Below is the full interview.

David Hargis, ASCD Content Development

1. What are the new PD QuickKits®?

PD QuickKit is a new digital product line we’ve just launched. The idea really grew from customers who were asking for digital collections of professional development resources on specific topics. For example, our first PD QuickKit is on Common Core literacy, which is one of the most requested topics.

Of course, we’ve seen content packs before, and in some ways, that’s what PD QuickKits are. However, these aren’t like the content packs you’ve seen in the past. For one, PD QuickKits are totally web-based. There’s no CDROM disc to distribute; no big binder to store. You simply log in to the PD QuickKit site from any computer and you are ready to go. The digital packs are also mobile friendly and look great on tablets.

On top of that, we’ve built in social learning tools, like discussion boards, journals, and assignment-making capabilities. What this means is that you can view the content, assign it to your staff, and hold an online discussion about it, all without leaving the PD QuickKit platform.

The big difference is the type of content we’re able to include. Whereas traditional content packs—even digital packs—are often very document oriented, the new PD QuickKit packs support a near limitless type of digital material, from e-books to videos to online courses. For example, the Common Core Literacy Pack includes five online courses, an e-book, 15 videos and a host of other resources.

2. What is the advantage of using a mix of multimedia in professional development?

For one, it lets you vary the experience according to your need. For example, let’s say you want to conclude your weekly staff meeting with a tip or tool. You can show one of the short videos from the PD QuickKit to help illustrate the point. Or let’s say you want the teachers to work in teams over the course of a couple weeks to really dig deeper into a topic. A book study built around an e-book could be a great way to structure that work. Or let’s say you want to give the staff a chance to do some self-study and then bring their reflections back to the team. Here, the PD Online courses are a perfect choice.

Now, if we look at it from the learners’ point of view, the more variety we offer, the more likely we are to offer something that hits the users’ learning style. As we know, the closer you get to a person’s preferred learning style, the more engaged that person will be, which, in turn, helps with retention.

3. Common Core State Standards implementation is the focus of the first QuickKit. How does this solution support the implementation of the standards?

Literacy has been top of mind for educators since long before the standards. It’s like that old saying, “Reading is fundamental”; it’s absolutely true. So the standards’ emphasis on literacy isn’t exactly new, but the standards do add its own twists on the topic, from how it organizes the standards to its particular emphasis on nonfiction. The good news is that more and more schools have worked through the basic questions about the Common Core standards—what’s in the standards document, how do they relate to our last set of standards—and are now moving into the implementation phase. Educators are looking more and more for practical strategies.

That said, the level of implementation can vary greatly from district to district. Even districts that are pretty far along in the implementation will always have new staff members that need to get up to speed or existing staff members that need to strengthen their fundamentals. Our idea with this first PD QuickKit was to give people that range of support. For example, we offer five courses; four of them provide a blend of “Common Core 101” and practical applications. The fifth course, The Core Six: Teaching with the Common Core in Mind, is a much deeper dive into specific literacy strategies that work across disciplines and grade levels. That course also includes a digital copy of the best-selling book The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core. So even if you don’t want to go through the Core Six course, you’ve got a related e-book that you can turn to.

4. Do you have any suggestions as to how educators can most effectively use the QuickKit?

This is a really scalable, easy to implement solution, so getting the most out of it really depends on your specific needs and goals. For example, an individual might buy it for self-study, almost like a minicontent library. Others will want to buy it for everyone in their school or district. In either case, I’d suggest starting with one of the Common Core 101 webinars or videos to level set. If you’re part of a group, you could use this as a jumping off point to air concerns or misunderstandings about the Common Core standards. From here, the group could break into smaller groups based on subject area and level of readiness. Those who need more of a primer could then move on to some of the other introductory webinars or videos. Those who are further along with their understanding might jump right to the Core Six course. The groups’ leaders can even assign these tasks to their members using the built in assignment capabilities. Above all though, I would definitely suggest implementing the content of the QuickKit over time. Space the material out, take time to process what you’re learning, try out the tools and techniques you’re learning in your classroom, and share your experiences with peers wherever possible.

5. Can you give us any glimpse of what’s on the horizon with PD QuickKits?

It’s a new product line for us, which is very exciting, so we’re taking this opportunity to let our imaginations run. We’ve got several ideas under way right now for future packs, especially around the Understanding by Design® framework, differentiated instruction, leadership, and Common Core math. But above all, we’re talking with educators to learn what topics matter most to them and what sorts of professional development material would be most meaningful to them. That’s the whole point, after all, to support educators.