The web is a awash with many great resources and a lot of educators from all stages of education are realising that they can learn as much, if not more from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development activities such as the one day course or the half day workshop. The only thing missing with using your PLN is there is no tea or fancy biscuits!
Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals from around the world, reading about good practices and new trends in education and sharing their experiences with their friends and colleagues via a variety of open platforms. This openness is leading them to have the collaborations which help them with their professional development, through the comments of more experienced educators and that benefit their institutions by having more skilled individuals and others who come to read, watch and listen to their ideas. Some are even creating open educational resources (OERs).
Through the use of social media platforms, popular blogs and webinar series, educator are taking ownership of their own learning and finding that professional development can be fun, exciting and if taken in small bitsized chunks, the opportunities available now are far greater than a decade ago.
So with this in mind, try using some of these strategies to make your PLN work for you and be the master of your professional development and hence career!
Tweet Tweet goes the Professional Development Birdie
Twitter, the 140 character social media for everyone from Miley Cyrus to Barack Obama, also has educators and people you might be interested in, tweeting about interesting reports, videos and links. You can easily sign up to Twitter, start following educators with similar interests and organisations that share ideas you can use in your teaching. You can search hashtags such as #edtech or #highered or #STEM to find tweets in your interested area. A popular hashtag with UK educators is #UKedchat. You can even contribute to a topic using a popular hashtag!
Create Twitter Lists
Your Twitter feed is like a stream of thoughts, which can be overwhelming. If you need to capture some of the people who tweet things you like, you can create Twitter Lists, based on topic or location etc. They will help you keep an eye on a group of people easily.
Join a Twitter Chat
As mentioned previously, a popular hashtag is #UKedchat. This also happens to be Twitter chat hashtag that is used a particular time and sees questions posted by moderators on education topics. Anyone can join in with the hashtag included in their tweet. You can simply search via the hashtag and read people’s answers to the questions. It’s extremely insightful and if you respond and people like what you say, they will reply, retweet or favourite your tweet. They may even follow you, so you are building up your PLN further in this way.
Watch a (free!) Webinar
Going to a conference costs money, either the conference itself has a cost or at least the trip to another city or town does. Many organisations now offer live or recorded (on-demand) webinars for busy educators. The great thing here is you can sign up, get the recorded webinar and watch what you need to and ignore the rest (plus you can play, pause and rewind all you like!), unlike a real conference where you are there for the whole day! Many webinars also have a twitter hashtag, which a moderator monitors and you can ask questions via this so called back channel. This is great if you are shy asking questions.
Start a Google Hangout
As you start to develop your personal learning network, especially via Twitter chats which often attract worldwide audiences, you could host a Google Hangout. It’s a very good way to connect with other educators who have similar interests. Inviting a diverse range of people can often result in a very interesting discussion, as people will approach the questions asked in different ways. The hangout can be informal also, with participants coming with the idea from a couple of articles and treating the gathering like a book club, describing what they found interesting about the articles, much better than a dry conference right?
A step further from the webinar is the video tutorial. If you are thinking of incorporating more educational technology into the classroom, then the free video tutorials via the company who make the products can be a great way of seeing if the tool is right for you and learning how to use it, so you can see if it is any good.
Ever come across an article or web page on education via Twitter or other social media platforms and just kept emailing yourself? You might like to try using something such as the service Pocket. A fantastic free app that lets you easily bookmark web pages to read later, even without an internet connection! Once you have bookmarked or emailed your pocket account via a special address a web page or article, it’s in your pocket account, for when you have time to read the article.
These are just some ideas of how to take ownership of your own professional development. Have you got other ideas, please share via the comment section below.