Many of us spent the month of October celebrating Connected Educator Month. Over the last four years, the grassroots push for educators to engage in professional learning opportunities on their own – outside of school requirements – has increased. Last month, many organizations organized and sponsored professional learning opportunities including webinars, virtual conferences, book studies, virtual field trips and twitter chats. All were designed to help educators learn from each other and engage in collaborative activities that have the potential to transform teaching practice and change what education looks like in classrooms around the world. Now that October's flurry of activity is over, you may be asking "what next?" Or "how do those who have just begun connecting continue to move forward?"
Here are a few tips inspired by the book The Relevant Educator by Tom Whitby and Steven W. Anderson. I read the book with a group of teachers last month as part of the TeachersFirst #CE16 celebration:
- Get in the habit of reflection. Consider starting an online journal where you can reflect on your learning experiences. Penzu is a great tool for this. With a free account you can make an unlimited number of entries and share selected entries by creating a public link. Use the public link when you want to share your reflection via twitter, Facebook or Google+.
- Envision your PLN. Use a drawing program (such as Google draw) to create an image of what you would like your PLN to look like. Include as many details as you can – names of blogs or podcasts, communities, twitter chats, people or hashtags to follow, etc. Once you've mapped out what you have or would like to have, you'll have a better idea of how to move forward making connections and building out your PLN.
- Find and attend an Edcamp near you. Edcamps are a great place to get involved in teacher-to- teacher collaboration. There is no pressure to remain in a session that doesn't meet your needs, and best of all you can attend for free.
- Join an educator community. There are a number of free professional learning communities you can join. The EdWeb platform has a number of free communities where educators actively share with each other. Classroom 2.0, English Companion, and Flipped Learning Community are a few free communities that you can find on the NING platform. In addition, a number of professional organizations, including NSTA and ISTE, now sponsor free educator communities on their websites.
- Create a plan. Recognize that building a PLN is a process and not a race. Decide when and how you will continue the process. Plan to spend 15-20 minutes a day engaged in reading blogs, listening to podcasts, or searching twitter. Create a schedule of activities for the next month, and see how it works out for you. You can always revamp as needed.
As you continue your connected educator journey, be sure to follow @SFLOK2Ask to learn about free professional learning opportunities sponsored by The Source for Learning.