Monday, March 17, 2014

Virtual Professional Development

Beginning the "techie" adventure during this school year with 1-to-1 iPads in my classroom, I was unaware of the path and mind shift I would encounter.  One mind shift has been in the area of professional development.  Initially I thought attending conferences would give me PD I needed to be successful in the classroom.  I attended the Technology and the Classroom Conference in Pittsburg, Kansas; Extraordinary Educators Conference in Chicago, Illinois; and the MOREnet Conference in Osage Beach, Missouri.  Although all of these were outstanding conferences with great presenters and usable take aways, I knew there was something missing.  Excited and filled with ideas, I still didn't quite feel confident in the techie world.

How did I get started with virtual professional development?

Professional Literature and Resource Books

In my quest to learn about the techie world I turned to the Accidental Techie and her fabulous resource books. These books include step by step instructions with pictures. I bought every book of hers I could find.  As I was reading Dr. Elliott's books, I discovered excitement and an "I can do this" attitude. She was my rescue and the beginning of my techie professional development.

I also had the privilege of attending several of her workshops at the Extraordinary Educator Conference in Chicago.


I couldn't stop at Dr. Elliot's resource books.  I began reading her blog to continue getting ideas and information.  Of course I questioned myself again, "If her blog has great ideas what other techie or 4th grade teacher blogs have great ideas?" Deciding to search for other technology and 4th grade blogs that use technology turned my world upside down again.  I couldn't believe all the great ideas and resources available in the virtual world.  I was in awe of the ingenious ideas teachers were willing to share on the World Wide Web.

Collaboration with My School Team
Let me start by saying I work with some of the best teachers anywhere.  They constantly amaze me with their knowledge and data driven decisions. In our building we realized the value of sharing with each other and the value this piece would have in our professional development and growth as educators.  We decided to meet during our lunch time 1 to 2 times a month to collaborate and share what we have learned AND what is working well in our classrooms. Although we discuss frequently on a daily basis this time was set aside specifically to share ideas.

District Collaboration
I was getting hooked on professional development and needed more information about technology.  I set up a meeting with my teacher friends (and their friends) in other buildings within our district to collaborate and share what is working well.  Some of the teachers have iPads and some have Chrome books.  Wow! We were learning from each other and I was loving it.

I also connected with a couple teachers from other buildings in our district at the Alan November Innovation Academy.  Through this connection we have developed a comradery.  We share resources and ideas regularly.  Watch out, we will be Google Certified Teachers soon.

Snow season began and I was bored.  I was thinking, "Where can I find more information about blended learning?"

I had read a few blogs that talked about twitter chats and decided to check one out on Christmas Break/Snow Break (11 snow days this year). The first chat that I happened to join was a school district in McKinney, Texas.  This school district has a regular chat for all 4th grade teachers in their district (my next "I want to do this in Webb City") #mck4thchat.  These teachers are awesome. I learned so much in the short hour.

I would strongly encourage you to find a Twitter chat group for your grade or subject area. Check out this  website from one of my PLN members for more information about Twitter chats in education or to find a chat group for you. FYI, I met Jerry  the Cybraryman on #4thchat.  He has an amazing inventory of resources. Shout out to my #4thchat PLN, you are the best.

Not only are Twitter chats great professional development opportunities but Twitter is a great place to connect to other teachers who teach what you teach.  I've connected with 4th grade teachers all over the world.  Teachers in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are all part of my Professional Learning Network.  The tweets these teachers share include encouraging words, blog posts, resources, classroom pictures, student work, etc.  I've learned so much from them.  The BEST part is I have my own professional development conference available to me 24/7.  All I have to do is pick up my phone and start looking at my Twitter feeds.  No driving, conference fees, or travel expenses involved...just me and my phone (or laptop).  Check out this Twitter Post from one of my #4thchat tweeps.

Next on my adventure was Google+.  Yes, another Missouri snow day...and I decided to check out Google Hangout (GHO).  Why were my Twitter friends so excited about Google Hangouts? Wow, I opened up a whole new world yet again.

I joined several Google+ communities but found myself drawn to the Eduhangout community.  Through Google+ communities I was able to connect with teachers interested in Google Hangouts.  This lead to our Mystery Hangouts, book clubs, and activities with students all over the world.

Collaborating with Teacher's in the US and Abroad
Google+ and Twitter allowed me to connect with teacher's around the world.  I connected with 5 other teachers around the US to plan (via GHO) an Olympic Game Show for Digital Learning Day.  We connected on Sunday evenings to plan.  It blew my mind that I was looking at, talking to, and planning student learning with educators in Massachusetts, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Florida.

I continue to collaborate frequently with 2 teachers in the United Kingdom and 1 in New Zealand through our Quadblogging project.  Working with teachers around the world to develop ways to help our students learn is exhilarating. 

What's Next?

I can't wait to find out what virtual professional development opportunities arise next.  If you haven't stepped out into the world of virtual PD I strongly encourage it.  Grab a friend or co-teacher, challenge each other, and get going.

“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”

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