Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Extend your professional learning with online tools

We all have participated in formal professional development days at school. Even if the topic is carried over for several PD sessions, the trainings sometimes leave you with questions or needed follow-up to learn more about the topic. Fear not! You can continue to learn on your own using simple online tools and have access to experts from all over the world to help you out. In addition, you can help others with their own professional learning, too!

Twitter and chats

My favorite personal professional development tool is Twitter. It goes without saying that all educators should have a public Twitter account. Being able to follow the tweets of others and ask questions of the creative educators you follow, as well as share your own thoughts and projects, provides 24-hour professional development!
Once you have mastered Twitter, and feel comfortable collaborating, the next thing on your list is to attend a Twitter chat on a topic of interest. Twitter chats are scheduled, moderated chats with posed questions and attendee answers. Each tweet includes the hashtag from that Twitter chat so the results all flow together when you search for the hashtag later.
To attend a Twitter chat, it is easiest to use a multi-column Twitter tool that allows you to see both your Twitter stream and that of the hashtag of the chat. The screenshot below illustrates how I am able to see my regular Twitter feed as well as set-up a column to see the hashtag for the chat using Tweetbot.
The best place to find a list of Twitter chats and times is on the Education Chats site. This site includes a daily, weekly, and monthly calendar with times and the agreed-upon hashtag for the Twitter chat. You can even conduct a search by a keyword of interest, and learn about any Twitter chats on that topic.

Aggregators and blogs

I have noticed many people now call every Web page a “blog”. I am not sure why that is, but there is an easy way to understand the difference between a blog and a Web page. Both of these Web-published items are posted on the Web by the creator. The main difference is the blog carries some special information called a “feed”, which allows you, the reader, to subscribe to the blog using an online tool called an aggregator or newsreader. You simply enter the blog’s “feed address” found on the blog’s page into the aggregator tool and then, from that point on, any time the blog creator publishes new information, you will automatically receive the content in your news aggregator. By adding all the blogs you are interested in to an aggregator, you only have to go to one place to see the new content being published by the authors of all the blogs you are following.
The first thing you need to do is to register with an aggregator tool. Two of the most popular are Feedly and Pocket. Once you sign-up, you will be registered to allow you to add blog feeds.
If you look at the main page of this Kathy’s Katch blog, you will see the little aggregation symbol (also called the RSS symbol with stands for “Really Simple Syndication”) as illustrated by the orange arrow in the screenshot below. Most times, when you click on that symbol, your aggregator will launch and ask you if you want to add the blog to your list of blogs. Other times, you may have to copy the feed address or URL of the blog and put it in the search box in the aggregator to get the blog to add correctly.
Once the blogs are entered in your aggregator tool, you can decide how you want the blog feeds to look and create folders to categorize your blogs. 
By collecting all your blogs in one place, it is easy to skim through the list of content and decide what you want to read!
Once you enter all of the blogs you follow into the aggregation tool, you will save a lot of time reviewing new blog content as well as being able to use one tool to get all the information you are interested in! And, you can unsubscribe from a blog as easily as subscribing, and no one’s feelings get hurt!

YouTube and Vimeo

If you are one who likes to learn new strategies on your own and master them before sharing with others, there are plenty of online videos to help you out! I happen to learn better from printed instructions, instead of videos, but often look at videos put up by creative teachers to learn how they are using the technologies.
For instance, if you are writing a grant to get a set of Merge Cubes for your classroom, and want some ideas on how they can support teaching and learning, just type “Merge Cubes in the classroom” into the YouTube search box and you will come up with over seventy videos to pick from!
I love this video from Gabe Haydu which showcases how the Merge Cube and the Dig app (iOS / Google Play) can support math!
Search for “Merge Cube in the classroom” to get ideas!
Vimeo is also used by educators and students to showcase apps as well as create tutorials for other teachers and students. For instance, Karen Miller showcases below how to use the crop tool in the Do Ink app for iPad and iPhone.

Professional communities

The third area to consider, when working on your own professional learning, is to join one or more professional communities. Being around a group of dedicated educators who share freely in online discussion groups is a great thing!

Things to think about

I hope you take advantage of some of these options for extending your professional learning. Are there other ways you do this? Do you have favorite Twitter chats, blogs, or professional communities that you can share with us? Please share your thoughts on Twitter! #kathyschrock