Professional development has never been easier (…or cheaper!)

By December 2, 2013 3 Comments

Professional development for educators used to involve writing sub plans, paying hefty conference fees, and usually (especially for those of us in small towns) driving a fair distance to attend these events.  The alternative was having in-service days where all teachers listen to a speaker brought in for the corporation-wide professional development day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good conference.  I love the learning that happens face-to-face, the networking with fellow educators, and the change it provides from the dailiness of my regular job.  However, my hope is to come away with, at least, three new things to implement.  I know that I will probably select sessions that don’t end up meeting my needs.  I know that I’m going to have to catch up on work I missed while I was gone.  I know that I’m going to be spending time away from my family.  Well, the face of professional development has changed with the Digital Age.

“Why isn’t the way we learn evolving with the rest of the world?”  This poignant question comes from a high school sophomore during a TEDx talk she gave a year ago.  Her talk addresses the need for students to direct their learning….for teachers to allow students to choose what they learn about.  The video is fantastic, and worth the eight minutes it takes to watch it.  While she is discussing student learning, the same can be said for adults.  Why spend time and money to go somewhere to learn?  Why spend time and money to sit through sessions that don’t end up teaching what you want to learn?  My favorite way to learn right now is from other educators via online resources.  I can read or watch when I have time.  Here are a few of the best.  Take time to check them out, subscribe to the blogs (or others that you find), and see what can be relevant to your learning and your teaching.

Twitter: Twitter is my pd go-to site.  I only follow educators and most of those I follow are bent towards edtech and/or leadership.  People link their blog posts into tweets giving me an always-changing, always-relevant list of pd resources at my fingertips.  I can choose which posts I want to read, and easily close that tab if it’s not what I’m looking for.  The other fantastic way I use Twitter is to tap into an incredible Professional Learning Network.  I can ask for resources, pose a question, or explore a specific hashtag to get real-time help from educators from around the world.  

Google+: Admittedly, I am just beginning to dabble in my Google+.  I didn’t link this one, because you will need to set up a Google account (or Gmail account) to access it.  Google+ offers similar benefits to Twitter, but can also replace Skype and FaceTime through Google Hangouts.  I’m a huge fan of GAFE, in general.  If you don’t have a Google account yet, get one.  🙂

TED Talks: I already linked a TEDx Talk above.  That video was a great way to start my day.  If you haven’t clicked on the link and watched Noa Gutow-Ellis, yet, stop reading, scroll back up and watch it.  You won’t be sorry that you did.  You can search TED talk lists and find just about anything you want to learn about.  You will find videos that motivate and inspire you, and those that teach you about content, as well.  These are great for your own development, but are also good to use with your students to introduce, review, or learn about a topic.

These last three are blogs that I subscribe to.  I learn something new every single time I read a new post.

Dangerously IrrelevantScott McLeod is the author of Dangerously Irrelevant.  (It was one of his recent posts that exposed me to Noa’s TEDx talk – see how this all interrelates?)  He is Director of Innovation for an education agency in Iowa.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that he will be coming to Warsaw, Indiana in April.  I’m hoping to go see him in person.  Remember, I still love the actual in-person pd, too.

The Principal of Change: This blog is written by George Couros.  An educator/speaker/consultant from Canada.  The joke amongst our admin team here is that if I send out a link that I want others to read, it’s most likely from George.  I’m never disappointed by one of his posts.  I read a lot of blogs, but I only subscribe to a key few – those that I know I will learn from each and every time.  This one is at the top of the list.  Don’t be fooled by the term “principal” in the title.  His posts apply to every person in the field of education.  He may also be close to us next summer.  I’ll keep you posted as that unfolds.  

Fluency 21: “This resource is the collaborative effort of a group of experienced educators and entrepreneurs who have united to share their experience and ideas, and create a project geared toward making learning relevant to life in our new digital age.”  I had to copy and paste this directly from the home page at Fluency 21.  I couldn’t say it better myself.  The Committed Sardine blog from this project always links several articles from a variety of educators.  I usually want to read just about all of them.  

That’s my short list, but like I said, I’m always looking for new ways (and places) to learn.  Leave me a comment sharing your favorite online sites for professional developement.  This is about learning from one another.  I can’t wait to see what’s ahead!


  • My Fave PD site is AOE-Art of Education… they offer multiple choices of PD and I will testify that they are VERY relevant to Art Education.

  • Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I’ll be in Warsaw next April!

  • Hey Janelle 🙂 Thanks for mentioning me in your post. I like to think that my blog only exists because I read and learn from so many others that really push my thinking. The blog is where I try to connect those ideas for myself so I can go deep. I don’t know what I would write about if I wasn’t open to learning from so many educators that do great things every day.

    Thank you for sharing this!