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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The 4 Components of a DIY Professional-Development Toolkit

Dave Guymon

Online middle school teacher & educational blogger from Idaho Falls, Idaho

Education has always been a reflection of broader cultural values. As such, the roles of teachers and students have evolved as our models of education have moved from one iteration to another. Teachers who once traveled to town to instruct a heterogeneous room full of passive learners on matters of rote memorization have come to adopt new roles and philosophies toward learning. As these new models have emerged, educators have been required to hone their skills and adapt to ever changing sets of priorities, needs and expectations.

Where such trainings were once the sole responsibility of state and district organizations, many teachers are now seeing the value of venturing out to amalgamate their own professional learning experiences. While no two paths are the same, there are four components of effective do-it-yourself (DIY) professional development that all educational professionals should consider.

Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows users to publish posts of 140 characters or less in length. Educators the world over have adopted this social network as an always-open staff lounge where ideas, best practices and resources are shared with one another in the context of a professional learning network. In Why Teachers Should Try Twitter, William Ferriter shares his reason for taking his professional development to the network:

I finally understand how much differentiated learning matters. My own motivation levels have skyrocketed. I'm accessing ideas connected to my professional interests, and have taken ownership of my own learning.

Though these may be Ferriter's own words, the attitude expressed in them about leveraging Twitter for differentiated professional development is shared by many who have Tweeted and been Tweeted back at.

Blogs

In addition to Twitter, educators are making blogs an integral part of their DIY professional development. While many enjoy reading what others have written, writing your own reflective blog posts is a highly effective technique to improving your instructional practices. In their Teacher Evaluation Model, the Marzano Research Institute identifies reflecting on teaching as "a vital meta-cognitive step in teacher development." What you post at first doesn't really matter. The practice of consciously reflecting on your classroom practices and documenting what you are learning does matter. There are a number of platforms that teachers are choosing to host their professional blogs, Edublogs, Weebly, Blogger and Wordpress being the most popular among them.

Edcamps

Edcamps are cropping up across the country. Depending on where you live, you might have already attended one yourself. If not, it is quite likely that you have at least heard about the edcamp movement. Edcamps are a type of teacher-organized unconference that allows educators to get together, often for only a day, to engage in discussion-based professional learning. What makes edcamps really unique is that there are no planned sessions at the beginning of the event. Attendees gather in the morning to suggest topics and offer to facilitate sessions, which are then displayed on a large schedule board for others to view and attend. Tom Whitby writes in What Makes Edcamp Popular with Teachers that "Edcamp's success is based on trust and respect, as well as a personal drive for professional development." While these often take place on a Saturday, those who attend are there not because they need professional development credits, but because they want to learn.

Hangouts

Google+ is quickly finding itself the host of burgeoning community of educators as well. As on Twitter, users are sharing content and ideas with one another in a professional learning network. Additionally, they are utilizing Google's social networking platform to Hangout. A Google Hangout is a video conference with the potential to broadcast up to ten people at a time. For innovative educators, this technology has opened up a number of opportunities to connect and grow together. Whether participating in a distance-based book study, hosting a weekly educational podcast, or simply logging on to talk informally with a few friends about what's going on in your classrooms and schools, Google Hangouts is providing teachers with a way to connect instantly with other do-it-yourselfers. This past January, Google Hangouts even served as the platform for the first entirely online Edcamp, Edcamp Home, which allowed ambitious educators from all around the world to experience the unconference from the comfort of their couches.

At the heart of any approach to professional development is an attitude about how, when and where we learn best. In today's educational ecosystem, the answers to these questions can largely be found online. While Twitter, blogs, edcamps and Hangouts aren't all that should be included in a comprehensive professional development plan, the learning experiences and opportunities enabled by utilizing them far outweigh the takeaways from a district in-service training. This might be due to the nature of the teacher-generated interactions, the opportunity for knowledge construction, or even the access to educational experts and thought leaders. Regardless, the emergence of DIY professional development isn't a fad or a passing trend. It's a reflection of our culture, one that will see more innovation in education during the next ten years than it has seen in the past hundred.

Comments (19)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dave Guymon's picture
Dave Guymon
Online middle school teacher & educational blogger from Idaho Falls, Idaho
Blogger

Lynn, thank you for sharing your thoughts about my blog post with me. I agree that practices grounded in solid research are often optimal for teaching and learning to occur. Do you know of any good peer-reviewed articles that would support the DIY professional development process?

Nichole Carter's picture
Nichole Carter
Eighth grade ELA teacher from Portland, OR.

Agree! Love it, will share with my staff.

I wish I could get more people to see the benefits of all of these things. I have only had a few converts at this point, and really only in twitter and edcamp. I have yet to have anyone in my building join me in a twitter chat, but a few at least have an account and are scouring for information.

Each edcamp we have I bring a new person or so, I am lucky that we have a very active group here in Portland, OR. Shout out to #edcampPDX!

The thing is you have to "want" to do it, to go beyond the traditional, "I don't have any time, how do you find the time?" mentality. This is a hard sell to today's overworked teachers. Ultimately with the fast changing times, and edtech integration, I don't know how you can ignore brushing up on the new stuff that is out there on a regular basis. These tools help you do that when you have time available. Thanks for the post!

Dave Guymon's picture
Dave Guymon
Online middle school teacher & educational blogger from Idaho Falls, Idaho
Blogger

Nichole, you make so many great points here. I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and comment. I envy you being a "Portlandian." I follow a number of educators in your area on Twitter and Instagram. Like you said, it is a city with a thriving connected culture. The people you and I know there certainly do want to be connected and they understand the vision that social networking has to offer educators. Keep focusing on doing your best and modeling effective PD for others. Some people will never move past Web 1.0, but others just need someone to show them how.

Dave Guymon's picture
Dave Guymon
Online middle school teacher & educational blogger from Idaho Falls, Idaho
Blogger

Samer, thank you for sharing this resource. I will definitely add it to the curated content that I share with my network.

Mikala Mason-Schaefer's picture
Mikala Mason-Schaefer
9th grade science teacher, Redmond, WA

Hi Dave
It amazes me to see all of the various resources that are available to us as educators! I would like to think that I am fairly current in my practice, but there is so much more out there that is unknown to me and I fear I am actually quite far behind.
What would be your advice for a teacher like me or for a teacher with no experience in DIY professional development on how to get started? Besides the communication I have with my master's program colleagues, I feel like my DIY professional development is singular, and I really want to get others from my school involved in PLC type groups to improve our practice. My fear is that we will be lost in the various blogs, websites and resources, and not get very far. It is also a matter of getting started. How do we find others to "hangout"? Do you know if there a sort of master website that lists multiple resources and how to use them? Or is it going to be more trial and error and searching and discovering?
Thank you for your incite and inspiration to start doing DIY professional development!

Dave Guymon's picture
Dave Guymon
Online middle school teacher & educational blogger from Idaho Falls, Idaho
Blogger

Mikala, thank you for reading my post and connecting with me here in the comments thread. As long as there is a willingness to learn, I don't think that anyone should fall victim to the idea that they are falling behind. It is this type of mentality that will lead to fatigue and resentment of technology implementation. As for where I would begin, that's simple: Twitter. There are a number of resources for getting started on Twitter as an educator (Google Search them after searching Edutopia). And there are a number of ways to engage with Tweeting. For example, I spend a substantial amount of time reading my Twitter feed, Retweeting (sharing) others' content, and Tweeting my own. That is what is comfortable for me. However, my administrator, who is newer to Twitter, likes to lurk. Lurking is when a person uses Twitter to view the Tweets and content of others without publishing much of their own. Of course, it is difficult to build a professional learning network with others who don't realize that you are reading their stuff, but the primary focus at first should be on your own learning. If you would like, sign up for a Twitter account, and follow @DaveGuymon. I would love to Tweet with you and mentor you on the process more there.

Justin Talmadge's picture

Hi Mikaela,

One great way to get started is to connect with other like-minded educators on Edmodo as well as Google Plus. There are some very active Communities on both of those platforms. I would be happy to help you consider other ways of managing DIY PD. Feel free to connect with me at http://justintalmadge.com

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

If I may be so bold, I'd also throw in a plug for the community right here on Edutopia. You're always welcome to ask questions here or on any of our blogs, videos, or discussions. :-)

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