Professional learning offers a great opportunity for educators to collaborate and share expertise with others with similar goals or interests, as well as build their skills and knowledge to benefit their teaching practice. As well as an increasing selection of professional learning programs on offer, options for delivery of professional learning have increased in the past few years with the use of social media and web resources. For the school that is seeking a fresh approach or has limited resources or access to professional learning programs, there are many options to connect with educators with the school and from across the globe and access quality professional learning opportunities. Great online tools are continually emerging to support teachers in their professional learning and teaching needs, but knowing where to start can sometimes be the hardest part.
Twitter – Twitter provides great opportunity to connect with educators from across the globe, and to tap into chats that are “trending”. Used effectively, it can be a great tool for the time-poor educator to keep up to date with the professional conversations or chats.
Once you have set up an account, search for thought leaders, fellow educators and educational publications, and ‘follow’ them. This will ensure you will see what these people are tweeting on a daily basis when you login to your twitter account. Some suggestions to get you started include Alec Couros, Will Richardson, Stephen Heppell, Jackie Gerstein.
Twitter can be confusing at first. Familiarise yourself with the abbreviations, and you should be ok.
- @name = the username or “handle” of a particular person or group. Often an abbreviation such as this will appear within the twitter message. This simply means that the person mentioned is being “copied” into the message.
- #hashtag = this displays the topic of the chat. Using the search function in twitter, you can search for topics as well as people or groups.
- RT = retweet. This shows that the tweet has been forwarded on.
Once you have joined Twitter, it’s worth having a look around. Do a hashtag search. Victorian educator Bec Spink runs a great blog and twitter account, and mentions a few key hashtags in her blog:
- Victorian Professional Learning Network- #VicPLN
Kahn academy – The Kahn academy offers free resources and tutorials. Explore this site to access curriculum materials, videos, and discussion boards on a range of topics. The Kahn academy is a great support for educators adopting a blended learning model, but regardless, many educators will find something of interest here.
Pinterest – Pinterest is a great tool for the visual learner. With Pinterest, you can get a snapshot of your topic of interest and choose to drill down further, if a particular “pin” interests you. You can also create your own pages on topics of interest, as well as follow others that have started up their own pages. The best way to get started is to create an account and try searching for different terms – digital learning, ICT education or digital technologies.
Join a chat, or start up your own. Craig Kemp @mrkempnz, NZ educator based in Singapore runs a great weekly chat on topics that are close to inspiring educators’ hearts, titled #whatisschool
Blogging – Global2 is a blogging community for Victorian schools. It allows teachers to manage an individual blog or manage their students to manage their own blogs. Each blog can have a defined audience:
- just the blog owner
- members allocated to see the blog, people who have been sent the link and a password to the blog or all other Victorian schools who have a Global2 blog
- The whole internet world
- The DEECD has a licence for all Victorian Schools to use the service. This includes Government and Non-Government schools. Schools are able to set up student, class, teacher and school blogs. If you haven’t already tried your hand at blogging
Virtual Conferencing – Virtual conferencing is a great means to establish contact with other schools and share resources. Virtual conferencing opens doors to new learning and teaching opportunities beyond the classroom.. There is a range of virtual learning tools available that enable educators to connect, interact, share and learn with others outside of their classroom and school.
DET offers information on how to get started, video conferencing tools, and case studies on what’s happening in Victorian schools. DET also provides Virtual Conference Centre (VCC) coaches are available to assist teachers and students to prepare for a virtual conference.
- Anne Mirtschin – firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @murcha
- Sally Walsh – email@example.com Twitter @salwal55
- Ben Gallagher – Gallagher.Ben.J@edumail.vic.gov.au Twitter @Ben_Mr_G
Jo Tate (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Butch (Gary) Schultz (email@example.com) also support the development of Virtual Conferencing across Victoria.
As with the delivery of any professional learning program, the usual principles of professional learning apply.
- Find a way of working- how do we ensure that capacity building is linked to classroom practice, is iterative and ongoing.
- Create professional learning teams and establish shared communication and collaboration formats. To create critical mass, identify early adopters, and establish a mentoring program. To affect change, build a critical mass from your most enthusiastic staff members.
- Establish a way of measuring, sharing and reflecting upon the impact of the implementation of the professional learning that has occurred. Start small – build in sandpit time to allow for review and reflection – before moving onto the next focus. Sustainability is more important than offering a wide smorgasboard.
- Use the resources! There are some great documents outlining professional learning principles. Familiarise yourself and use these as a guide. http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/professional_learning_in_effective_schools,12689.html?issueID=10183