As I get to know this job a little bit better, it becomes easier. I am sure that I will never feel completely comfortable in the role; education, after all, is in a constant state of evolution and what we know to be best practice today might not be so tomorrow. We are constantly adapting to what we hope will work in our teaching practice. If it doesn’t, we continue to push and to strive to find the next great idea, practice, strategy, tool, all of which will come together with the hopes that our students will improve, push beyond our expectations, become engaged and motivated and will seek knowledge for the sake of learning.
I find as my own teaching practice and professional learning evolves it becomes essential that I stay current in my professional development. While I would love to attend conferences weekly, this unfortunately is not common practice in my school division and thus, I create my own professional learning community through my interactions with teachers and colleagues, but also by a multitude of technological tools that enhance my learning. Here are a few that I’ve been using over the past couple of years that have completely changed how I see teaching and the sorts of resources that I access.
1 – Google Reader – I’ve become familiar with Google Reader as a tool to connect and combine the multitude of teaching and educational blogs that I follow. I can subscribe to various blogs and as such, I can enter into my one site (google reader) to access new posts written by my favorite bloggers. It is a way to reduce the stream of information into a much more manageable format.
2 – Twitter and Tweetdeck – I was hesitant to join twitter at first, given that I didn’t really understand it and the hash tags were so confusing. Plus, I was worried that my meaningless rants or comments from facebook wouldn’t cross over to twitter. I didn’t understand the purpose of twitter in comparison to other social media sites. I also didn’t understand at the time how twitter really is an essential tool for educators. Once I created an account and began to follow various educational leaders (and there are so, so many on twitter), I was able to figure out what hash tags were and I started following subject relevant hash tags such as #frimm and #langchat. I started to participate in the educational chats and since I now follow so many educators, there are always relevant posts, blogs entries, resources suggestions, links, etc. in my twitter stream. Using tweetdeck simply allows me to refine what I follow – hash tags, lists, groups, etc.
3 – Pinterest – I am always surprised how quickly people react to pinterest as an educational resource. Seemingly, they either love it and are already on board, or they don’t see the interest/ purpose and have ruled it out. There is little grey area. I also find that men are less likely to be interested in pinterest than women. I started pinterest purely from a kid / decorating / baking / organizing standpoint. It took a few months before I realized what an incredible resource it can be for educators. Essentially, pinterest allows you to follow users who have similar interests and you can “pin” items to your own boards that you have organized as you like. I have followed a huge number of educators, consultants, administrators, teachers alike, who share a multitude of websites, assignments, technology tools and apps, ideas for the classroom. These ideas span all content and subject areas – from classroom environment, to response to intervention, kindergarten to high school, every educational aspect you could ever want is available on pinterest. If you are interested, you can see my boards here.
4. My Diigo library – I originally used delicious.com to bookmark all of the websites and links that I found in my searching, but I heard that it might not stay around. Apparently, I was wrong, but I switched to Diigo anyway. Diigo is an interactive website that allows you to create a library of links under various tags and topics. The other interesting piece is that you can join groups around like topics; for example, I could join groups related to educational technology and find links to all sorts of articles and sites related to this. It is just another method to track and organize the links and sites that you find as you explore twitter, pinterest, google reader, etc.
There are many more tech tools that help me strengthen my PLC – and I learn so much through these fantastic educators who share their knowledge. I truly believe that in collaboration, we become stronger. No longer can teachers continue to close their classroom doors and work in isolation. My collaboration with others strengthens my practice and allows to me to share ideas with others in my schools and in my own PLC. My teaching practice has completely evolved from where I started and this, I owe entirely to my PLC.