Get Your PD On-Line

Oh, how I love to attend educational conferences.  From the relaxed, grassroots EdCamps to the the frenetic learning bonanza of ISTE, the thrill of learning and connecting are hard to beat.  It's not always possible to attend as cost, time, and schedule conflicts interfere with my best effort to be everywhere that I want or need to be.  That's why I am so grateful for online PD.  

My Top 10 Ways to Learn Online

1) EdWeb.net - The online PD clearinghouse in my book and it is FREE!  First, you need to join edWeb. Then, search for and join communities for the most access to learning. Joining groups is not required, but will give you access to the webinar archives so that you can watch them later.  Webinars are posted along with the presentation materials and a transcript of the live chat within a few days of the live webinar.  Whether you watch live or a recording later, you can get a certificate for continuing ed credit.  Some people have complained about the frequency of emails, but you can change this in the settings.    There are hundreds of communities with varying levels of activity. 

2) Simple K12 - This site is similar to EdWeb, but it's not free to access all of the sessions.  They do have some free sessions offered for live viewing, but you need a subscription to watch archived webinars.

3) Twitter - This is a must have in your professional learning network (PLN) toolkit. You don't have to tweet, but you do need a Twitter account.  You can follow teachers, librarians, administrators, ed tech gurus, educational companies, and others to expand and elevate your thinking.  I follow over 350 Twitter accounts right now, which can be hard for me to manage.  So, I create lists and add people to those groups based on categories.  For example, I never want to miss what my district and area folks are tweeting about, so I have them all in a list.  I have another list for my library connections.  That way, when I don't have time to make it through all my Twitter feeds, I can go back to the groups that mean the most to me.  You can also set up notifications to receive alerts when someone you are following tweets. There's a lot of buzz around Twitter chats, and there is a Twitter chat for everything you can think of.

4) Teachercast - Brief interviews with teachers and product developers for the newest and best ideas on technology in education. It's broadcast live every Sunday night, or you can catch the archived shows on the Web site. There's also a TeacherCast University and blog with more workshops, news, and information.

5) Flipboard - The easiest way to keep up on professional reading across a variety of sources - news, magazines, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter in one place. It's not only a great place to keep informed of news and trends, you can create your own magazines and flip content in them to curate materials. Professional reading is a big part of my PD, but I can't always read things as they come across my email or I see them on Web sites. Flipboard is the solution to that problem. The desktop version even includes a Flip It tab so that you can quickly move things into your Flipboard magazines without leaving your browser.

6) Coursera - Free online courses from some of the top universities in the country. Learn to program, speak a foreign language, teach an online class, and so much more.  There are over 100 courses tagged with Education. Many of the courses come with verified certificates.

7) TED Talks - You can't beat them for inspiration, forward thinking, and concise, powerful ideas. You can also catch the TED Radio Hour on NPR for a behind the scenes/rest of the story approach to TED talks.  After you watch a few of these, you'll be more intentional about your own teaching philosophy and thinking, in general. You can translate this into lessons for your students, too. 

8) Lynda.com - it's not free, but the quality is amazing. I have access via my adjunct position at Calhoun Community College. There are so many courses I wish I had time to take! 

9) Edutopia - Professional reading, videos, whitepapers, and model school features all add up to a powerhouse of resources to help you improve your practice. You can browse by topic, strategy, or grade level. It's an active space for conversations, too.  You can also comment on any of the content, or start your own conversation about a brand new topic.

10) YouTube - Today, if you have a question, you either Google it or look for a YouTube video to explain it.  That's powerful.  It's also a shame that both are looked on with skepticism and scorn by educational establishments that continue to censor and control access to them. I teach young children and am not insensitive to the need to protect them from inappropriate content.  I'm also a realist.  Even my kindergarten students come to school and talk about the Google searches and YouTube videos they have watched. Whether or not you are interested in fighting the battle to open up access to these resources for your students, you will undoubtedly continue to use it for your own learning.  Don't just search for videos, become a power YouTube user by creating an account, subscribing to channels, and creating your own channel. 

The exciting thing is that there are an abundance of learning opportunities online - many more than I've listed here. So, if time or funding constraints have limited your access to conferences, don't fret. There are plenty of ways to connect and learn online.

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