How do new teachers grow professionally their first year on the job? The answer might astonish you -- because everything needed to improve their craft is right on their device. That's right! Simply take out your smartphone or tablet and learn away. Web applications like Instagram, Feedly, Google Classroom, Twitter, and LinkedIn can do wonders for an educator's professional growth. Of course, I know it's not all about technology, which is why fostering collaborative relationships with colleagues is critical for staying on top of best practices. Let's look at the various ways that technology, coupled with a willingness to learn from others, can put first-year teachers on the right track.
For years, Instagram has been considered a tool for teenagers to post selfies or silly video clips of life events. Little do people know that it really helps educators connect with other like-minded folks, particularly those who are visual learners. A great hashtag to follow on Instagram is #teachersfollowteachers. Each day, educators share pictures of lessons, bulletin boards, classroom set-ups, and other educational happenings by utilizing this hashtag. It provides an inside glimpse of what's happening in schools on a global scale and builds a sense of community in the virtual world. To the left, you can see an example of how a teacher utilizes Instagram to show her followers a bulletin board that she created for the first days of school. As you sift through the #teachersfollowteachers hashtag, you'll be amazed at the amount of resources and ideas made available for absolutely free.
Over the past decade, blogging has become an intrinsic part of the educational world. From a writing perspective, educators are able to reflect, share, and tell their story through text, images, and video. On the flip side, readers can consume a wide array of content in order to improve as educators and ultimately impact the success of students. So how do people stay current with their favorite blogs or find what's important to them? That's where Feedly comes into play. Once downloaded onto your device, this app lets you keep track of or search blogs. For example, if Monica Burns adds a new post to her ClassTechTips blog, it will automatically show up in the Feedly app. From there, the user can read, share out via social media, or save to read later.
Google Classroom is a virtual classroom of sorts that teachers and students can utilize. Many schools that are hiring new teachers are leveraging the power of Google Apps for Education to promote the success of students. For now, though, let's examine the impact that Google Classroom can have on professional growth. Think about the possibilities that it provides for teachers who are part of a professional learning community (PLC). You can upload resources and ideas to a unique classroom where PLC members provide insight on best practices. Say you come across a powerful YouTube video that aligns to the goals of your PLC. Simply open the Classroom app on your device and add the video link for members to view. To the left is a screenshot of a literacy-focused virtual PLC in Classroom.
Twitter has been around for a few years now and is one of the most widely used social media tools for educators. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, resources are shared, conversations happen, and connections form, all in 140 characters or less. There's a hashtag for every topic or subject area in the educational world that you can imagine. Don't think you have anything relevant to share on Twitter? Think again! Whether you're a new teacher or an experienced administrator, there's something for everyone. For example, you might have a question about effectively integrating technology into an upcoming lesson. Simply open the Twitter app on your device and type #edtechchat into the search box. Hundreds of resources and ideas will be at your fingertips to sift through and make sense of at your leisure. Another tremendous hashtag, #ntchat, provides new teachers with a supportive community as they navigate their first year on the job. The power of social media is strong and can be a game-changer as educators look to grow professionally.
An overlooked online resource for educators is LinkedIn. There is no doubt that you should use the free service to maintain your virtual resume. From a professional growth standpoint, there are options as well. Every day, educators from around the world are sharing resources on their LinkedIn profile. To the left, you can see how Derek McCoy shares out resources on his profile page.
Linkedin gives users the ability to comment, like, and share. You can join thousands of education groups that focus on specific interests. If you're interested in game-based learning, for example, simply hop onto the LinkedIn app and search for that specific group. Once found, ask to join the group and take advantage of all the ideas and resources shared.
The bottom line is that there's something for everyone out there in virtual world. This is one of the most exciting times for educators because there are so many ways to grow by leveraging the power of technology. There's no excuse for new teachers -- or any teacher, for that matter -- to take advantage of at least one web application in order to move forward. It's all about risk-taking and understanding the value of learning networks that exist virtually. The fact remains that students will only value the importance of learning if the adults in their lives are modeling it. So what are you waiting for? Take out your device, download an app, and make yourself a better educator than you were yesterday.