Edutopia is one of the many organizations, companies, and communities participating in the third annual Connected Educator Month (CEM), a celebration of online communities of practice originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education with partners. As with previous years, October 2014 is sure to include an array of rich opportunities for informal professional development, both for educators with established professional learning networks (PLNs) and for those just getting started. Explore the resources below as a guide to connecting, sharing, and collaborating with your network during October and all year long.
Visit the CEM calendar often and pick and choose among the events that are most meaningful for you, whether these are forums, webinars, guided tours and community open houses, book club discussions, contests, Twitter chats, simulations, or others. You might want to consider attending an edcamp. Why? In "Why Edcamp?" Kristin Swanson discusses how these educator-driven "unconferences" present invaluable opportunities for learning, growing, connecting, and sharing. All edcamps taking place during October will be part of this year's celebration. You can find the complete edcamp calendar on the edcamp website or on Edutopia's events page, updated weekly.
If you miss one of the hundreds of events during CEM 2014, visit the CEM Archives for access to recordings, transcripts, and other professional-development resources from October. The archived events are searchable by audience, event type, and topic. The Connected Educators website also maintains a showcase of opportunities for sustained professional development in the form of courses, classes, and clubs.
2. In Online Communities: Online communities are another great avenue for connection and collaboration with colleagues, since they generally support deeper discussions in groups and threads on specific topics, issues, and questions. Connect with other educators in Edutopia's community or via other learning communities listed in the CEM Community Directory. Connected Educators also provides a match-making tool called edConnectr that can be used to find and connect with colleagues.
4. With New Tools: Experiment with connection tools and technologies. If possible, find a colleague to join you. The Connected Educator Starter Kit guides you step-by-step through many of the ways you can connect and collaborate via social media, wikis, blogs, and multimedia tools. Here are a few other ideas to explore:
5. By Sharing Your Work: Sharing information publicly about your work as an educator, including news, reflections, successes, struggles, or resources, can be a powerful way to connect to other educators or community members. Consult the following pieces on Edutopia for advice and guidance: "Find Your Digital Space," by Andrew Marcinek, and "Start Your Teaching Blog: Resources, Advice, and Examples," by Matt Davis.
Burns, advocating that teachers take ownership of their professional development, suggests seven online strategies to help, including Google Hangouts, video tutorials, and sane ways to embrace the information-rich Twitter experience.
Moroder, a project manager with the non-profit Digital Promise, makes a case for micro-credentials in an educational landscape that encourages non-traditional learning for students while still evaluating teachers' PD by traditional measures.
Guymon, an online middle school teacher, provides an overview of how Twitter, blogs, edcamps and Google Hangouts are becoming the backbone of DIY professional development in the 21st-century educational ecosystem.
Why wait for a formal workshop environment to start improving your teaching craft, when there are so many opportunities to build your network and learn new skills on your own? We've compiled a list of the best resources for do-it-yourself PD to get you started.
Leoni, Edutopia's director of social media strategy and marketing, returns from ASCD's annual conference with 10 tips to become a connected educator, including making the time to connect, following educators you respect, and being open to making mistakes.