Isolation in the classroom is a serious feeling that many teachers suffer. I was definitely one of them. I felt very isolated when I started teaching and could not relate to most of my colleagues. There was very little time for colleagues to meet in person and a lack of PD opportunities. Many of them were great teachers, but I needed to connect, collaborate and share thoughts and ideas on teaching.
When I became digitally active and connected, I realized that many windows of opportunity opened up for me all at once. Being connected and active on the digital sphere means a lot more than occasionally maintaining social media accounts. It means connecting with like-minded individuals who share your interest and passion in teaching and learning. This sharing is a two-way street: you learn and you give it right back by sharing your knowledge.
As a whole different world of opportunity opened up to me by being a digitally connected educator, this translated into improving my pedagogy and teaching strategies in the classroom. It also allowed me an opportunity to really reflect on my teaching, make sure it’s relevant, and pass on the knowledge of digital citizenship to my students.
There are so many available pathways for professional development that teachers can seize without having to rely on their school or department. Teachers can take charge of their own professional development by taking advantage of the following opportunities:
EdCamps: These are free professional development unconferences run by educators for educators (some include parents and students). Edcamps are a great way to have your voice heard and to contribute to topics you care about. Sessions are chosen the morning of the event, and what’s empowering about them is that anyone can choose to facilitate a session. Edcamps are also known to trend on Twitter because many of the attendees share their knowledge and learning using the event’s hashtag, making for a great opportunity for global learning. I organized EdCampToronto, and it was a great way to meet so many wonderful educators. The best part is we still keep in touch.
Webinars/Online Courses: With these great PD opportunities, teachers learn about a specific subject area relating to their teaching and pedagogy. There are so many courses, and webinars allow teachers to learn and master teaching and pedagogical skill sets on their own time. Annenberg Learner offers workshops and courses that cover a variety of subject areas and teaching strategies. They also partner with Colorado State and PBS TeacherLine to offer graduate credits and CEUs. EdWeb.net is another great website that offers webinars on a regular basis to connected educators. By being connected, educators can share their progress and reflect on their practice.
Twitter: Being a connected educator means that an educator is using 21st Century tools to connect and collaborate with other educators to improve their pedagogical practice. On Twitter, the connections you make are global and diverse. By joining Twitter chats, one is able to connect with people from across the globe, share ideas, resources, and tips. Some of my favourite chats are #EduColor, #WhatIsSchool, and #T2Tchat. Twitter chats are great prompts for important conversations about education. Those conversations don’t often end when the chat does. They keep going, evolving, and changing as relationships are built between educators.
Blogging: When I became connected, many educators encouraged me to start blogging. Conversations on Twitter are amazing, but blogging can take Twitter’s micro-blogs (tweets) and expand on those thoughts and ideas. Blogging can also open up a world of opportunity for educators, where writing can reach a global audience and act as a prompt to great conversations. Here is a post I wrote about blogging for beginners.
Educators have a choice now when it comes to teaching isolation. We can choose not to be isolated. We can choose to connect with others to share our experiences, successes, and failures. When we stop waiting, and take charge of our own professional learning is when we start to grow as educators and as people.
What are your favorite types of formal and informal professional development? Let us know in the comments below.
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