Found! The Best Form of Professional Development (in my humble opinion)

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pln-wordle1In the last five months my teaching has transformed. I am tuned in to the world of education for the first time in my career. At times I have been overwhelmed by it all; only because I truly did not even know many of the tools I now use on a daily basis even existed. What is really amazing about all of this is I had thought I WAS a progressive minded educator. I used technology daily (though my definition of the words USED and TECHNOLOGY have both since changed). I talked about having an ipod and texting with my students (now we are utilizing both in the classroom). I had shown students great websites and allowed them time to explore them during computer lab (not to be revisited until the following week). I made PowerPoints and guided students in making their own. I had even provided families with a static informational website to which they could refer for book review ideas and spelling lists. I thought I was doing as much as I could.

Then I found Twitter.

In September, During an instructional coaching professional development opportunity, Jim Knight briefly mentioned that if you are trying something new in the classroom, and did not have quick access to someone else who had tried it…Twitter can be a powerful resource. He said it…I forgot about it.

I was fortunate to have an interactive whiteboard installed in my classroom this summer (2 days prior to school start-up); unfortunately, I had no idea how to use it. I watched the on-line tutorials and practiced the simulations but that only led to me using it as a beautifully framed writable projection screen for slideshow presentations and the occasional look at an interesting website. I was successful at finding some interactive games and activities for reviewing purposes, but struggled to get much further that that. Finally, in November…I remembered what Jim had said and I set up a Twitter account. My first step was to follow Jim. I listened to Jim’s side of the conversation, and began to add the people he was talking to. That led to them following me and conversation began. The amazing links people were sharing were really eye opening. I had compiled a list of 30+ interactive whiteboard resources in one weekend…all more effective tools than those previously used. Bridging information from Twitter to social bookmarking sites Delicious and Diggo, created a manageable flow of quick access information (what educator would not want that?) With professionals tied together by general interests and a desire to learn, Twitter provides a platform for endless conversation about ideas and resources. Self paced, interest based, ongoing professional development, wow. Now, how do we spread the knowledge to others?

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Keeping it real: In addition to the links embedded in the prior post, this is a list of the sites and tools I have found most useful. Every link was completely unknown to me prior to happening upon my evergrowing PLN: 

Teacher Tools and Networking Sites for use with Students:

Many of these tools have an easy access online support community as well (ning or wiki) which can help provide both encouragement and tips for success. Please ask if you want further info (if I can’t help, someone in the education network can!) This list is just the beginning, but I found these resources to be the most beneficial while starting out, please comment other great starting points for assisting teachers expand their own PLN and collaborative resources if you have them. 

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Sidenote: Yesterday, while sitting with colleagues at a professional development meeting, I mentioned the value of Twitter. I reached out to my network for “their favorite educational website”. Thank you to all that responded (very promptly I might add!). I’ve bookmarked all of them as well as many were new to me. Here is the compiled list:

 

I was truly impressed by how quick the responses came. The diversity of the responses and the professionals who responded impressed me just as much: college instructor, administrator, literacy coach and educational consultant, middle school science literacy teacher and high school english teacher, all helping a fifth grade elementary teacher. I am touched.  Thanks again!