Sunday, July 13, 2014

Realtime, Online Professional Development

It's interesting to track your own use of social media. Do you ever look back through your Facebook timeline or Twitter history? I do, occasionally. It can be instructive, and you might find that you have grown and changed over time.

I have definitely found this to be true with my Twitter use. I joined Twitter in the spring of 2009. The whole first year I was on Twitter, I had no idea what I was doing, or what it was for. It is almost comical to read the ridiculous things I was posting. It's like I wanted to know how to use the tool, but I really just had no idea what it was for or what possibilities it could hold for my own professional development.

This infographic from mediabistro perfectly describes my Twitter journey:

I was stuck at stage 2 for about two years before starting to figure it out.
It wasn't until the past three years that I really got the hang of Twitter as a key part of my personal professional development. The key?


I started following people who would regularly tweet with #rechat or #iaedchat hashtags. I finally got bold enough to ask, and learned the joy of live interactions via Twitter with colleagues around the world.

It was a whole new world.

I still regularly keep up with #iaedchat, #sblchat, and #mschat, and occassionally with #satchat (or #satchatwc, if I sleep in), #geniushour, and #ChristianEducators. I've jumped in on a few other state chats, including #wyoedchat, #moedchat, and #aledchat from time to time as well.

In the past two weeks though I got involved in a couple new chats that were excellent, and some of which I'll definitely be joining more regularly (as my busy schedule allows.) In particular, I added:

  • #nt2t - "new teachers to Twitter"--fun for me to be able to share what I have learned and experienced via Twitter with folks who are brand new to the social network!
  • #WeirdEd - I've seen this one before, and since I was exploring new chats anyway, I jumped in. It is "weird" because the moderator is The Weird Teacher. Great chat about offbeat topics related to education. I don't know if this is going to become one of my "can't miss it!" chats, but I'll be back again.
  • #COLchat - "Community of Learners" -- a few of my friends from #iaedchat and #sblchat have been encouraging me to join this chat about how to foster an authentic classroom community where self-directed learning is celebrated. It was fantastic, and I'll definitely be back at this one.
  • #txeduchat - "Texas educators," but like #iaedchat, there are folks from all over the place in on this chat. Wonderful, welcoming group, and I'm sure I'll be joining them again.

That is the thing I find most fascinating about Twitterchats for teachers: everyone is excited to share, excited when new folks show up, welcoming, kind, gracious, and ready to learn. That's why I was also excited when Jackie Gerstein encouraged me (via Twitter!) to attend the Reform Symposium Conference (#RSCON5), a free, online conference on the broad topic of school reform.

I had never attended an online conference before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I learned so much! Over the course of three days I attended nine different webinars (all 30-60 minutes in length) on a great variety of topics including:

  • Teaching with Joy!
  • Using iPads to foster learning in religion classes and music classes
  • Using social media as a teaching tool, and teaching students digital literacy in the process
  • TwitCast - a webcasting tool that allows you to add a live Twitter backchannel
  • Blogging as a means of developing writing skills for elementary students
  • Ideas and techniques for flipping your classroom

It was great to be able to livetweet these sessions while they were ongoing, and I connected with another great group of educators from around the world (New Zealand, India, Turkey, and Croatia) by attending. I will definitely be back next year, and I hope I might be able to present something as well!

After the past few weeks of  exploring new realtime, online professional development I had the thought, "Why isn't all PD this way??"

The answer I've come to is this: people need to opt in. Education can't be done "to you." It has to be something you want, something you decide is "for you." I think that the most engaging teachers in PreK-12 get this; they find ways of making learning irresistible for their students. Most spray-and-pray, large group PD for teachers is not this way, unfortunately. But personalizing your PD by selecting the opportunities that are the best fit for you are a great way to grow.

No comments:

Post a Comment