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ISTE NETS*T Part 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
This is the fifth in a series of five articles about the NETS*T (National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers) from ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education). We are accustomed to thinking about standards for student achievement. But we can really raise the bar by having a certain level of expectation for teachers in the use of technology. What better way to encourage students to gain important life skills than to model them ourselves?
The fifth of these standards is “Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership.”
Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership
Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources. Teachers:
- participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.
- exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.
- evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.
- contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession and of their school and community.
I have, in the past, addressed the topic of attending conferences and conventions. (See THIS blog post I wrote after attending CUE in Palm Springs last March.) I truly believe that the most effective way to improve oneself as an educator is to step firmly outside one’s natural boundaries: get off your own campus, meet people you don’t work alongside, and strike up professional relationships with like-minded folks who can support you in your quest for improvement.
One way to do this is through online networking opportunities, such as LinkedIn and even Facebook. But the true “game changer” (I can’t stand that term, but it’s perfectly fitting here) has been Twitter. Even when you can’t afford the time and expense to possibly miss work and/or travel great distances to attend conferences online, if your personal learning network includes others who CAN attend, you can follow their tweets and stay informed. Last month, I attended the first-ever Google Geo Teachers Institute. We established a “hashtag” (a type of identifier to include in Twitter posts) of #googlegti and used it throughout the weeks leading up to the event as well as during the two days we were there. People who attended “found” each other and began following these people whose specific niche as geo-interested educators brought them to the event. People who could not attend communicated in real time and asked questions about what was happening at the event. Participants shared links to resources, non-attendees shared similar links, and some of those resources were then shared within the event as it unfolded. It was an excellent demonstration of how an event that could only hold about 150 teachers was able to reach and inspire many more who were geographically distant or otherwise unavailable to attend.
I share this example because it completely addresses each of the four parts of this standard for teachers. And it is a practice that, once it becomes habit, can impart such amazing sharing experiences on a regular (even daily) basis. In addition to the many hashtags for specific events (such as #cue10 and #iste10), there are virtual discussions that happen weekly or even more frequently, such as #edchat. Ours is not the only “community” taking advantage of Twitter for these types of discussions. Small groups of friends can plan camping trips and large groups of professionals can discuss major issues, such as how reform needs to take place within their field. I know that I have found many new Twitter users to follow through such events and online discussions, and these are people whose paths I would never have crossed otherwise.
There are, of course, many other ways to make connections that enable one to grow as a professional and a leader. Many of them don’t involve the Internet. But tools such as social networking, social bookmarking, and other highly interactive real-time technologies can augment even those “offline” experiences. And the increased prevalence of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers means that it’s even easier to share up-to-the-moment updates about what you’re engaged in, and to potentially involve more people in your experience. I would predict that this is the future of professional development, but the truth is that it’s happening now, and if you’re not involved, you’re cheating yourself and your students.
Images from Google Geo Teacher Institute by Scott F. Schilling © All rights reserved.
Used with permission of Google, and those appearing: Jerome Burg, Danny Silva, Diane Main, and Kelley Hundley.