Saturday, February 16, 2013

Training on the train: 3 useful tools for professional development

Professional development  for teachers should be an ongoing continuous activity and many teachers take a proactive approach, however there are some teachers who think of professional development is 'one of those courses you go on'. I don't know about you but generally I find sitting in a room sticking post-it notes on a big sheet of A3 about as useful as an inflatable dart board. Don't get me wrong, I have been on some very useful courses and often the best thing about the course is the questions it makes me ask, but I generally find that I learn more by researching something that I need to do, as and when I need to do it. The problem with the latter approach of course is that you sometimes don't get exposed to new ideas or approaches. Time is of course another factor with professional development. How do you find the time to keep up to date with the latest developments in education? Here I would like to explain my personal approach. I hope you find it useful.

My approach uses 3 free tools which I encourage every educator I know to use; Twitter, Paperli and Pocket. I use Twitter as the backbone of my professional learning network (and occasionally Linked In). Up until 3 months ago, I was a Twitter denier. I had never tweeted (or is that I had never twat!) and I couldn't see the point in messages of only 140 characters. It seemed like it had concentrated on the most annoying part of Facebook; the status update. What I found though was that with Twitter, it is much easier to only receive information related to certain interests, in my case, I use one account to keep abreast of topics on leadership, educational technology and developments within the British education system. Twitter is great for receiving information but it's as visually attractive as Ricky Gervais in a mankini and I find myself clicking backwards and forwards to get back to my home page. I needed something more visually appealing. Another educator I follow on Twitter, Doug Woods, was using a new product called Paperli, which displays posts that people share on Twitter as an online newspaper, gives a much more visually appealing way to digest the information shared on Twitter. Every day I get Doug's Edtech Daily straight to my inbox. I now aggregate all posts from my Twitter professional learning network into my own weekly paper called the Edutech Review. This lets me view lots of relevant articles from fellow teachers on a weekly basis, often giving me excellent new ideas for blog posts.
As I mentioned at the beginning, time is an issue when engaging in professional learning and I try to fit mine into my daily train journeys (10 minutes to and from work). Sometimes I am half way through reading an article on my phone when the train arrives at the station. At this point I save it to Pocket. This useful tool lets me access it later from my phone, tablet or computer and even read it offline.
If you are a teacher, consider how a potential employer will view your job application. I often look at CVs where people have listed 10 courses they have attended and then they mention nothing about it in their accompanying letter. All this shows me is that they work at a school with a healthy CPD budget and that they have sat in a room for a total of 10 days. I find a potential employee much more appealing when they talk about HOW they have developed professionally and what steps they take to constantly take to improve themselves as a teacher or leader. Putting yourself in a situation where you actively seek out information and act on it will make you more likely to get that next job so get on Twitter, engage with other teachers and make professional development a daily activity.


Ms. King says:

Jonny- I just really wanted to thank you for your tip on Edmodo to use Paperli, Twitter, and Pocket together. What a difference it makes! I can now enjoy the resources on Twitter and I'm passing along your tip. Thank you so very much for making Twitter a little more friendly.

Jonny says:

Thanks Ms King. I will be posting soon about how this can also be useful for students.

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