Adventures in Online Professional Learning: Spruce Up Your Ed Tech Skills & Knowledge
The summer days are slipping away, and soon you will be immersed in the exciting yet busy first days of the new school year. Surely, a slate of inservice trainings about new school policies and programs awaits you, but what about those personal PD goals that you have in mind for sprucing up your ed tech knowledge and skills this year? In this blog post I will share a list of some of my favorite go-to resources for free online learning about educational technology. However, before you dive into your personalized ed tech PD adventure, take a few minutes to focus your exploration by answering these questions:
- What are your goals? What are the problems that you have that require a solution? It is really easy to get excited and distracted by all of the sparkly gems you stumble across when exploring new resources such as these, so start by identifying your learning goals. Establish your goals and then stay focused. If you find other topics that you are tempted to explore – that’s fine – just bookmark them and put them aside while you work toward accomplishing your primary PD goal. Don’t get lost in rabbit holes.
- How will you organize the ideas or resources that you find? I can’t tell you how many times I have found something really special online and thought, “Wow! I really need to keep this in a place where I won’t forget.” Can you guess what happens next? That’s right. I save it, bookmark it, or email it to myself, and then promptly forget about it. Months, or even years later, I find it buried in my inbox or lost in one of my Google Bookmark folders. I’ve tried it all – Evernote, Google Bookmarks, Diigo, Readability, Papers, ScoopIt, and even a little notebook that I keep in my desk drawer – and I’ve finally realized that the trick is to pick one tool that works for you and to stick with it. So do that now! Decide which tool you are going to use to organize your future findings and STICK WITH IT!
- What specific steps will you take to keep yourself accountable for following through on your new learning? It is essential that you set yourself up for action, not just for consuming new information. One of the most challenging aspects of designing effective professional development is in moving new knowledge into practice. What measures can you put in place to support your commitment to converting your new knowledge into action? Maybe you could incorporate your personal ed tech goals into the formal professional development plan you develop each year for your school administrator? Maybe you could set up a timeline for action and set up reminders in your Google Calendar to keep you on track? Maybe you could find a partner or team of other like-minded colleagues who would be interested in setting up an accountability group, one in which you share your goals, develop a timeline for action, and meet on a regular basis to discuss your progress. This final strategy is one that I use. Not only does it help each of us stay on track with our goals, but it is also refreshing to have biweekly or monthly Google Hangouts during which we support and encourage one another.
And now for the list of my favorite free, online learning resources to develop my understanding and use of educational technology…
Edudemic is the first place that I visit if I want to know anything about educational technology. This “community-focused and resource-sharing destination for millions” offers articles, infographics, tips, lists, and how-to guides galore in easy-to-read-and-digest formats. From quick information such as the best apps for IOS and Android to deeper topics such as Why Every Student Should Learn Computer Science, this site offers lots of concrete information, as well as good food for thought.
This website offers a showcase of high-quality, relevant professional learning videos for teachers; a selection of which are also aired in weekly, one-hour PBS television programs around the country. The videos focus on real teachers in real classrooms using and reflecting on high-powered teaching strategies. A number of the videos in this growing library are focused on technology (as of 07/30/14 there were 135 videos) with topics as varied as assessing students with handheld devices, teaching stop-frame animation, using technology to teach hard-to-teach math and science concepts, and designing poetry work stations with technology. Don’t miss the video playlist focusing on digital citizenship.
It is popular to suggest that Twitter be used as a source of free professional development, but how do you actually do it? This Teacher’s Guide to Twitter from Edudemic is all you need – other than an actual Twitter account – to navigate Twitter for the purpose of professional learning. From the basics to more advanced tips, this guide covers it all. I particularly like the infographic of educational twitter hashtags, which will help you link into the communities of practice that most interest you. Our NAGC Computers and Technology Network community may be most interested in #EdTech, #ELearning, and #GTChat. Perhaps we should start our own hashtag to signify tweets of interest to the network and other techies in gifted education! Let’s try #NAGCTechNet and see if it takes off.
This is a tool that anyone can use to collect and create digital content around topics of interest. I use the free version of the tool to manage my own collections of keep-worthy content from around the web, but I also find great inspiration and ideas from other ScoopIt users who are curating topics that interest me. For example, Educational Technology News by EDTC@UTB, iPads in Education Daily by Jon Samuelson, and Tools for Teachers and Learners by Nik Peachey are just a few of the curated topics that I follow. I receive daily email alerts highlighting content recently “scooped” by those I follow, and when I log in to the site I also receive a list of computer-generated content suggestions based on the topics that I curate. I currently use the free, standard account, which has suited my needs well, but pro versions and a new education version are also available. You might be interested in following my “Tech Tools to Facilitate Learning” topic, where for the past year I have collected a number of articles, news briefs, and other digital content related to that topic.
So these are some of my favorite go-to resources for my own learning about educational technology. I’m sure there are plenty of other great resources out there. What are your favorites? Leave a comment on this blog or tweet your contributions with the hashtag #NAGCTechNet.
Kristina Ayers Paul is an Assistant Professor of Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies at Purdue University. She is the incoming chair of the NAGC Computer and Technology Network.