Saturday, April 11, 2015

Online PD Resources: Puddle or Ocean?

I went to Pinterest intending to stick a toe in the water, and I ended up nearly drowning. 
Here’s my story: 

Exploring Pinterest and Twitter for the purpose of professional development was one of my goals for this year. I was wondering how much growth and networking would be possible for free in the virtual world. A lot, as it turns out.

I thought Pinterest might be a good place for a “stacker” like me (I stack things; my husband files things) to store handy things I might want to share with others use in the future. I started out with a board of books that have been formative for me as a teacher. (Because I’d gotten good ideas from someone else’s board like that; because people ask me for recommendations, and I can’t remember all the possibilities on the spot.) 

Along the way, I started a couple of other personal interest boards. One is on Japanhaving lived in Tokyo for 28 years and now moving to Okinawa—the best books I’ve read on Japan, and ones I’m finding on Okinawa, along with language tidbits to keep me growing in that area. The other one is on websites where I can buy cool stuff from companies that are doing social good.

I enjoy sharing articles I come across (while scanning Facebook or a newsletters) with colleagues who teach different subjects. But I found myself forgetting where I’d found them—I needed a collection on the spot. So, I started a Pinterest board for math, where I pinned things like 11 TED talks about life applications of math and a list of 44 things mathematicians do.

From there the project just sort of exploded. My husband—who I’d gotten on Pinterest in the first place—thought we should make a board for more subjects—art, computer, social studies, science.… I was intrigued—a place to park all the interesting things I come across. He, being a filer, was thinking of something slightly more organized. 

I was willing to collaborate because my teaching board was beginning to get unwieldy—between the general education topics, English teaching, and my course-specific ideas, even I was sensing that I would lose stuff in the piles. And it’s great stuff—too good to lose.  Stuff that will help me help my students learn more about God’s world and God’s Word. And if it helps me and my students, would it help anyone else? We’d never know if we didn’t try!

So we came up with a plan and some criteria, and we did some research. Along the way, I learned that the Internet is absolutely awash in professional development. I had no idea that the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE—of which I’ve been a member for many years) already has its own Pinterest board, available even to non-members. How many other national teacher organizations are there? How many of them already have loads of free stuff available? (Answer to both questions: Many.) Additional types of material we found were blogs (Edutopia), Twitter accounts (NCTM), websites (What If Learning), and webinars (ASCD).

As I said, I went to Pinterest intending to stick a toe in the water, and I ended up nearly drowning. The question I’m thinking about now is “How can I select, organize, and manage resources out of the ocean of free professional development material online?” I’m experimenting with some answers to that question (more on that in a  future blog). 

In the meantime, I’d really love to hear from you: 
  • What kinds of (free) online professional development material have you found particularly helpful? 
  • How do you organize it? 
  • How do you implement it? 
  • How does it help you and your students? 
  • What kinds of access, organization, and implementation tools and strategies would help you and your students even more?

Together, we can help each other stick our toes in, avoid drowning, and start swimming.

Found on Facebook, saved on Pinterest--an enduring understanding for next year's AP English Language class

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