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Professional Development in the 21st Century
If you’re using online tools like HotChalk, and you’re visiting sites like freeteachertools.com, then you’re probably like me: fairly tech-savvy, and the person your colleagues at school frequently come to for help with their technical needs. You probably invest a fair amount of your own time and money in professional development for yourself, despite your school district or employer not helping out much to finance such endeavors. And you probably work with a number of people who do not seek out enrichment as much as you do. Those same people are probably the ones who ask you to help them “connect to their printer” or some similar task you never seem to have to do for yourself.
How can people like you and me help people like them to locate and embrace professional development opportunities, even when districts and schools can’t afford to subsidize such efforts? I would prefer to hear from readers about the kinds of personal enrichment they seek in their own regions, because I only have limited knowledge based primarily in Northern California, where I live and work. However, I thought I would start the ball rolling by sharing some of the resources I use or recommend to others. I’m sure there are similar organizations and opportunities where you live.
Corporate-Sponsored Trainings and Workshops
My own experience includes attendance at the first Google Teacher Academy here in Mountain View, California. There have been at least eight GTA events held so far, and they are completely free. You just have to get yourself there after earning one of the limited spots (usually 50) via a competitive application process. Other companies, including Adobe, Apple, and Discovery Education, offer classes, workshops, and training institutes. Some have a cost associated, and others are free but require acceptance into their programs. One of my favorite benefits of these programs is the personal learning network of like-minded educators I have met – and keep in touch with via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other means – and who continue to support my own growth daily.
Local Organizations Aimed at Educators
I belong to Computer-Using Educators (CUE) and serve on the board of my local affiliate, SVCUE. This organization publishes a regular magazine and holds an annual conference. Many affiliates, including mine in Silicon Valley, also hold annual regional technology conferences. Because I live in the Bay Area, I am close enough to several affiliates’ territories that I can attend and present at several of them. The California Leagues of Middle and High Schools (CLMS and CLHS) also hold conferences, including one that is jointly-run and strictly devoted to technology. If you have not already done so, investigate similar organizations in your area. Another fantastic resource where I live is The Krause Center for Innovation (KCI). They offer regular classes and seminars on a variety of technology topics for different levels of learners.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) may be best-known for its National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), available for students, teachers, and administrators. They also hold an annual conference that is the talk of the Internet. I have only gotten to attend one, but it is an event that I partly credit for my own shift in the way I see myself as a professional educator. Technology is my thing, and this organization addresses the needs of all educators, but especially me. Find an organization that truly represents your needs and interests – one that fits with your content area of specialization – and reap the benefits.
Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – which I mentioned earlier – are just a few examples of excellent tools for keeping up with what is out there. Do you read blogs? No matter what your specific passion is, there is a blog out there dedicated to it. (Or you could always start one!) Set up a Twitter account and fill in your profile with keywords that will attract like-minded individuals and businesses. There are also sites dedicated to helping you find people like yourself on Twitter. In addition to these networking tools, there is an entire “Web 2.0” world of tools you can use for your own productivity and/or with students. Many of them are free, have free trials, or have reduced costs for educators. Take a look at some of these: Google Apps, Google Earth, Google SketchUp, Animoto, YouTube, VoiceThread, Skype, and PBworks (and other wikis). This is only a tiny fraction of what’s out there.
It can be rather overwhelming to consider just how to approach a novice colleague about professional development, but if you know the person fairly well, you can appeal to his or her personal interests and start with a match you think is a good fit. It also helps to offer to go along with your colleague and make it a social adventure as well as a learning experience. You may find that you’re answering even more questions and putting out even more fires initially, but once the confidence builds up in your co-worker, you can form a team that has each one teach one until your entire school staff is converted to the way we geeks “do” education in the 21st Century.
Image shown is from Flickr user krossbow, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.
Diane Main is a Google Certified teacher who teaches technology integration in San Jose, California.