Quite often when we think about professional learning/reading (T&D) we envisage reading from a book or sitting and listening to a speaker who for the most part is talking about something we often don’t want to hear about. My own professional learning is at times this sort of traditional T & D (and it still needs to be), however a large portion (95%) is made up of Twitter and blogs, the majority of my ongoing regular professional development is online. Online learning allows me to focus on what I want to learn about. It helps me filter the stuff that I don’t want to hear about and its regular and constant. It is not one day here and one day there through a year.
The following video featuring Will Richardson explains briefly at the start of the video the power of online learning which I guess is the message I’m trying to pass on to you through this post. He refers to its power using two examples of teenagers but at the end of the video also makes mention of the fact that if this learning is out there for students to access it is also out there for us to access. His discussion moves away from this topic in the middle section and discusses how poorly US education is going and the problems with ‘test prep’ compared with real learning – worth the watch.
“We have to see it for the networks and connections that are possible and each of us needs to be able to reexamine our own learning.” Will Richardson in reference to the online learning available to us.
Using Twitter and blogs as a source of professional reading requires you to consider the following:
1. Do I have time! – If you know you will not make time for professional reading/viewing/learning online then you might need to stop reading this post . Just before you do though can I just say that reading/viewing/listening about the latest educational issues/debates and being challenged by other teachers/educators views and philosophies on a regular basis is (I have found) one of the most powerful learning tools I have come across. Anything that makes you think more deeply about your profession has to be good. So …….you need to make time each day, every second day, each week, whatever suits you and your current hectic lifestyle. Decide how long at the time you have to read – be flexible with this as sometimes you will be busier than others.
2. I don’t like using computers/social networks etc – As our careers evolve more and more of our learning will be online (good and bad). Lots of the tools that will benefit our students with learning will be found online. Online technologies will only continue to grow and we either choose to get on board or we can choose to ignore it. If we choose to ignore it who are we doing a diservice to? Remember you don’t have to do everything but you might do something.
2. Do I have to contribute if I create a Twitter account? No. You can just follow educators and access their resources, thoughts and ideas for free without anyone knowing you have done so. Of course contributing back can be rewarding also. At the risk of alienating everyone except Tanya and Dave if you have an iPad/tablet you can click the Twitter app and spend as little as 5-10 min flicking through tweets to see what educational resources and ideas people are putting out there. Of course you can also do this on your computer it is just not as convenient. If you connect to a blog post through Twitter but have no time to read it you can email the tweet to yourself and read it at a later date.
3. How do I find blogs? Finding blogs that interest you and that focus on the area you want to learn about is the key. I have started to collect some blogs as starting points for staff. Just go to the page tab titled ‘Teacher Blogs’ on this site and look through the list to see if you might connect with any of them. As time goes on I will try to build this list. Of course it is also very easy to Google ‘blogs about insert topic here’ to find blogs on topics you want to know more about.
4. Aren’t blogs just other peoples opinions with no foundation or research? Yes and no. Some blogs provide personal opinion based on their experience in classrooms, some provide resources and ideas that have worked for them, others go more deeply into issues and will cite current research to support their position on a topic. All are useful!
I hope this wasn’t to preachy, it was not my intention. My intention was to make you consider or think about what else is out there in terms of professional development. At the very least I hope that you check out some of the ‘Teacher Blogs’ listed on this site which might spark an interest in regularly going to the Web for a ‘hit’ of professional learning on a regular basis.