Edutopia was one of the many organizations, companies, and communities participating in the fourth 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 2015 included an array of rich opportunities for informal professional development, both for educators with established professional learning networks (PLNs) and for those just getting started.
Though the month has concluded, the need to connect has not. Consider using some of the resources below to engage in do-it-yourself professional development all year long.
Visit CEM: Getting Started and consider downloading the Connected Educator Starter Kit by Powerful Learning Practice, a guide with 31 days of online activities -- including relevant tips, tutorials, and ideas -- that will help you along your professional-learning journey, no matter where you're starting from. As you build your PLN, make sure to click the +Follow button on Edutopia's Professional Learning Network page to receive email updates about additional guidance and tips. Linked from that page, "My Journey Into Connectedness," by Rafranz Davis, and "How Do I Get a PLN?" by Tom Whitby, are two great places to start.
You might want to consider attending an edcamp. Why? In "Why Edcamp?" Kristen Swanson discusses how these educator-driven "unconferences" present invaluable opportunities for learning, growing, connecting, and sharing. You can find the complete edcamp calendar on the edcamp website or on Edutopia's events page, updated weekly.
If you missed one of the hundreds of events during CEM 2015, 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.
Five Ways to Connect
1. On Twitter: New to Twitter? The CEM Starter Kit (linked above) includes step-by-step instructions for getting started. Other useful Twitter guides include these Google docs: "The Weekly Twitter Chat Schedule" and "The Unofficial Index to Educational Hashtags." Are you a school leader? Read Elana Leoni's post, "8 Tips to Create a Twitter-Driven School Culture," for tips on encouraging connected culture through Twitter use. And check out Edutopia's "Social Media: Making Connections Through Twitter," which highlights how teachers in Albemarle County Public Schools use Twitter to get ideas for their classroom, for professional development, and to connect student learning to the real world.
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 issues, and questions. Connect with other educators in Edutopia's community or via other learning communities listed in the CEM Community Directory. If you'd like to exchange ideas about books online with other educators, join the Connected Educators book club or start your own; "Online Teacher Book Clubs: Promoting a Culture of Professional Development" includes tips on how to get started.
3. With Parents: Share online with parents about what's happening in the classroom or think about hosting events for "connected parents." As Joe Mazza discusses in "A Parent's Guide to Twitter and Education," parents and teachers alike can benefit from transparent collaboration via social media tools. Read "Old School or New School, Keep Parents Involved" for more tips about strengthening the connection between parents and teachers and for information on useful connection tools like ClassDojo and Remind. For even more advice on the range of one-way and two-way digital-communication tools, see Gwen Pescatore's "Parent Communication Toolbox."
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:
- Connect on Skype. In "How Are You Connecting Your Students With the World?" Suzie Boss discusses how to use Skype in the classroom to post projects and connect with collaborators.
- Share ideas with other educators on Pinterest. Start by visiting Edutopia's boards and make sure to check out Pinterest's teacher hub. Vicki Davis shares some helpful advice in her "20 Top Pinterest Tips."
- Try out tools like Feedly that allow you to organize, read, and share content from the blogs you follow in one central place. Beth Holland has written a helpful blog post about other potential curation tools called: "Tools for Professional Learning: Curate, Share, Connect."
- Collect and share curated social media, news, and media content with other educators or parents using a content aggregation and magazine-creation tool like Flipboard.
- Connect with others in your PLN by "voxing" via the walkie-talkie app, Voxer. Joe Mazza explains more in his personal blog, in the post, "Create Your Own Personalized Podcast Using Voxer."
- Listen to great education podcasts. Betty Ray has listed a few suggestions in "Best Education Podcasts."
- Use virtual tools to attend video conferences, live sessions, or online courses. Read more in Monica Burns' "Can PD Be Virtual? Technology and Trends."
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.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Professional Development
By getting connected, educators can self-construct their own professional learning and development. These resources explain how:
- 9 Quick Tips for Taking Ownership of Your PD, by Monica Burns (2015)
Engineer PD activities on your own terms, whether it's inside your own school building, among far-flung teacher friends, or out in the teacher-friendly Twitterverse.
- Micro-Credentials: Empowering Lifelong Learners, by Krista Moroder (2014)
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.
- The 4 Components of a DIY Professional-Development Toolkit, by Dave Guymon (2014)
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.
- DIY Professional Development: Resource Roundup, by Edutopia Staff (2014)
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.
More Resources From Edutopia
- The Connected Educator: All About Connectedness, by Tom Whitby (2014)
Six educators share the insights, changes, and rewards observed and felt during their journey from unconnectedness to connectedness.
- The Connected Educator: It Begins with Collaboration, by Tom Whitby (2014)
Connected educators model collaboration, learning, and growth for their students by embracing those same qualities in their own professional development.
- 10 Tips for Becoming a Connected Educator, by Elana Leoni (2013)
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.
- Connecting Educators Benefits Students, by Nicholas Provenzano (Updated 2013)
Provenzano tells the story of how he expanded his personal learning network into the online world and, as a result, enriched his students' classroom experience.
- 5 Tips for New Teachers to Become Connected Educators, by Lisa Dabbs (Updated 2013)
Dabbs invites new teachers to consider the meaning of Connected Educator Month and how connecting will help them succeed this year and beyond.
Additional Resources on the Web
- Twitter: #ce15
- Edutopia's DIY Professional Development and Build Your PLN pinboards on Pinterest
- An Educator's Guide to Twitter, by Steven Anderson, LiveBinders
- "Are You a Connected Educator?" by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, the Learning First Alliance (2014)
- "The Limitations of Being a Disconnected Nomad," by Eric Sheninger, A Principal's Reflections (2014)
- "10 Apps for Connected Educators," by Alison Anderson, Getting Smart (2013)
- SmartBlogs Roundup: Connected Educator Month, SmartBlog on Education (2013)
- "What ‘Connected Education’ Looks Like: 28 Examples From Teachers All Over," The New York Times' The Learning Network (2013)
- "For ‘Connected Educator Month,’ Tips From 33 Educators We Admire," The New York Times' The Learning Network (2012)