I love the idea of reflecting upon professional learning networks. Professional learning networks can take so many forms, and they have transformed significantly over the past few years!
When we first think of professional learning communities, we might think of colleagues in our immediate vicinity. We may start with our grade level or department on our campus. Then, that expands wider to our entire faculty in the building. Then that can expand to our entire grade level across the district, for example all 3rd grade teachers, all eighth grade tech apps teachers, or all history teachers across the district.
But because we have ubiquitous access to technology, our professional learning networks spread far beyond our immediate campus, district and state. Our professional learning network can be from all over the world. We have such a variety of information at our fingertips. If you think too hard about it, it can quickly get overwhelming.
For 15 years, I have been a member of TCEA, Texas Computer Educator Association. This is such a valuable organization for multiple reasons. It provides learning and networking opportunities for educators interested in technology at all levels, from paraprofessionals to district and state leaders, from classroom teachers to technology staff. In recent years they have offered free memberships multiple times a year. Their annual conference which usually takes place in February in Austin, or Dallas, or San Antonio is an incredible experience full of fun sessions, valuable for educators. Also the exhibit hall experience can’t be beat! In addition to the wonderful convention TCEA offers other opportunities throughout the year such as Lunch and Learns and other workshops. But one of my favorite elements are the special interest groups and learning community. In the TCEA community you can get daily emails with conversations of some of your favorite topics. Life is busy and the email box is full, so I may not read every single email every day, but I always have the community to turn to if I have to ask a question.
I subscribe to these groups:
- Technology and Solutions group
- Ask Your Fellow Techsperts
- Emerging Tech Trends
- Administrators Elementary
- Area 12
I also have been a member of ISTE, the International Society for Technology and Education for 6 years. ISTE is a very similar community to TCEA except that it spans the entire world. So you get information about technology in education from all over.
I have recently learned about TXDLA, the Texas Distance Learning Association. I’m seriously considering joining this group because our district is creating a Virtual Academy and remote learning is the reality of our daily lives. I’m still debating about whether or not the content of this professional learning community will apply to me, so I haven’t joined just yet.
Beyond these formal organizations, there are so many opportunities for educators to learn and grow from each other. One of my favorites is to subscribe to blogs and websites of some of my favorite edtech presenters that I have happened to see at TCEA and ISTE conventions. In some cases, we have even had the opportunity to host some of these speakers in our school district. I may not read every single blog subscription email that I receive every day, but they are a reminder that there so many wonderful ideas for supporting learning at a higher level with technology. Occasionally if I have a specific question, I am able to reach out to one of these edTech rock stars.
Many of these presenters host podcasts as well as blogs. My current favorite is Class Tech Tips with Monica Burns. She also has some wonderful online courses available for a subscription. Her podcast and class tech tips website are free. She creates some amazing resources centered around using technology for creativity.
Additionally, most of the products and applications that we support in our role has a community to go with them. For example I love the Seesaw community because it has a lot of practical ideas for teachers. Schoology has AMAZING communities with their public groups. I also really appreciate the daily emails that I get from my Book Creator Ambassador community. They are always sharing wonderful books and ideas for creating books with students. Another one of my favorites is the Discovery Education Network, which features educators discussing all of the great ways to use the Discovery tools in the classroom, as well as some self-paced courses.
Frequently, these communities have self paced training and some form of badging or ambassador program. If you engage in the training. then you’ll have a badge that you can use for your email signature. When we’re working toward these badges, we want to be careful that we are in it for the learning and not just the badge. One of my new favorite sites is the Adobe Education Exchange that has some very high-quality self paced training, and a strong collection of lessons to utilize the Adobe products very creatively for teaching and learning.
In addition to formal organizations, blogs, podcasts and vendor communities, there is SOCIAL MEDIA! Facebook groups are wonderful to subscribe to for topics that you’re interested in. I subscribe to Facebook groups about Schoology, Seesaw, library interests, coding, and maker spaces. There are so many! What’s great about those groups is that you can get some quick information and it’s an easy way to get help if you have a question or problem. In addition to Facebook there is Twitter. I am finally revisiting Twitter chats. Those have been a challenge for me, so I am making that a new goal to follow some Twitter chats. Just yesterday I followed a wonderful Twitter chat by Tony Vincent, sponsored by FETC. #FETCchat He shared so many phenomenal resources!
I also recently subscribed to friEd Online. They are new to me, but it looks like they have some great professional learning content.
I will admit that I am guilty of being a frequent lurker and less of a contributor to these networks. If there is something that I can answer quickly, then I will. But I certainly love having so much information at my fingertips. The key is to pick and choose what you’re going to tune into each day. It just isn’t possible to consume it all and learn it all. Also, sometimes I might get carried away, reading, listening and learning, that I may not always make it a priority to share. Sometimes I hesitate to share long lists of information or messages because I think that teachers may already have a lot on their plate. My elementary curriculum department has a great solution for that! We share three items a week in our district Schoology curriculum group.
What are your favorite professional networking opportunities or resources?