Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Avoiding the Summer Slide - Teacher Edition

Parque 2 by Fotoblog Rare is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For many of us, the beginning of June marks the end of another school year. Almost everywhere you look at this time you find all sorts of activities and ideas about keeping students engaged in learning and "stopping or preventing the summer slide".

From the teacher perspective, summer means teaching summer school, taking those well-planned trips with family and friends or simply having the time to read a good book. However, it is also a great time to explore new ideas and engage in some self-directed professional development. You know, those things that you bookmarked for later and never got the chance to look at since you had to grade all those essays and lab reports. What can you do (for free or close to free) to avoid your teacher summer slide and come back in the fall refreshed with something new to try?

Things you can do in an hour (or less)

Twitter Chats: Every day, at almost every hour of the day, there is an education-related Twitter chat going on. All those hashtags you see in your colleague's Twitter feed mean that they are having conversations about something you may find interesting with people from all over the globe. This education chat calendar lets you know what is being talked about. Pick one (or more) and off you go. If you have never done a Twitter chat before, it may seem daunting, but it is really not. First off, if you are unsure about what to do, you can simply search for the hashtag and see what the participants are saying, without even having to tweet yourself! If you ar ready to participate, but are afraid to get lost, you can use things like TweetDeck (tool that helps you organize your tweets) or my favorite Participate Chat (tool that organized the chat in one place, adds the correct hashtag automatically and also lets you look over what was posted in previous chats). Here is more information on how to get started with Twitter chats.

Webinars: In a similar vein as Twitter chats, webinars are online meetings, but in this case, there is an official presenter or host. I think of these as old-school lectures. This does not mean that they are boring, but rather there is someone that will be talking most of the time, there is an official slide deck of some sort, and although there may be time for questions, the pace is less frantic than that of the Twitter chat. Most of them have the advantage of providing you with an "after the fact" link, so if you were not available at the specific time, or you have to step away to reapply sunscreen, you can still benefit from participating. My favorite webinar for education sites include EdWeb and ASCD, but there are many others. Sign up for a couple and you will start receiving e-mails with invitations.

Things you can do for dedicated chunks of time  

If you are interested in developing a new skill or trying out a new platform, there are two sites that I would like to share with you:

KQEDTeach: In his introductory blog post, Randy Depew explains it much better than I ever could. They offer free mini-courses aimed at growing educators' media literacy and bring those skills back to your classroom. I have taken several of their courses myself, and they are super easy to navigate and, because they are self-paced, you can advance at your leisure.

BadgeYourClassroom: Created by Christopher Tucker in Indiana, in this site you will find mini-challenges that will help you learn how to use a variety of platforms in your classroom. All you need to do is visit the site, select the tool you want to explore and watch a video that explains how to use the tool. Once you complete the tasks, and fill out the required form to "show what you know", Chris will award you a shiny badge.

For those want to delve more deeply in education technology (or have a bit more time), you may want to look into becoming a Google or Microsoft Certified Educator. Both of these companies have several pathways to choose from, with corresponding certifications.

Google for Education Training Center: Whether you want to obtain certification, or simply want to hone your technology integration skills, the Google training center will provide you with self-paced courses. Even though I had been using GaFE for years before I actually took the courses, I still found them incredibly valuable to hone my skills and remind me of things that my students needed explicit teaching on.

Microsoft Education Courses: Some of their offerings are product specific, but others are more pedagogy based, aimed at teaching you how to better integrate technology in your classroom. Their Digital Citizenship and 21st Century Learning Design proved invaluable additions to my own PD last summer, and I am looking forward to taking some more of their courses this summer.

Things you can do if you prefer face to face interactions

EdCamps: This will require a little bit more planning, simply because they happen on specific locations, dates and times. However, they are well worth the effort for a day of conversation with educators who are interested in collaboration and sharing ideas and best practices. The site will allow you to search for Edcamps that are happening in your area, and though there may not be one near you, it is the perfect excuse for a road trip.

So what are your plans? I would love to hear about any other ideas you may have to grow as an educator this summer.