Saturday, February 28, 2015

#PD Your Own Way by guest blogger Jamie Wright

#PDyourownway


I work at Conesville Elementary as a K-2 Intervention Specialist.  This year, my kindergarten and first grade co-teachers and I launched a K/1 Fusion.  This K/1 Fusion has brought a lot of new and awesome things.  If you haven’t heard about our K/1 Fusion, learn more about it here!  Along with teaching in the K/1 Fusion, I also co-teach 2nd grade math.  


These new and awesome things happening in the K/1 Fusion have taken careful planning, outside the box thinking, and many hours creating.  A lot has happened from last spring when my kindergarten co-teacher, Michelle, thought of this crazy idea until now.  We aligned schedules, moved physical locations of classrooms, rostered classes, created unique schedules, created pre-assessments, formatives, and summatives, made new games, implemented new strategies and teaching methods, integrated technology, and created personalized learning opportunities for students.  




Although my team and I are relatively creative people, we did not get here on our own, nor can we continue our journey on our own.  As teachers, we are constantly looking for ways to better our instruction, methods, strategies, interventions, enrichments, etc.  With our crazy hectic work days and busy nights fulfilling committee and coaching obligations, when does one find time to squeeze professional development in?


In years past, if teachers wanted professional development (PD), it meant losing a day in your classroom to attend a training or PD session of some sort.  Today, teachers can get quality PD from the comfort of their own couch! Wait...how can that be?


Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs, and other social media outlets have allowed for this.  Hold on…How could one POSSIBLY learn anything from a silly social media site? I am here to tell you that some of my BEST PD has come from Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogs.  I use these 3 social media outlets to gain ridiculous amounts of knowledge, find new interventions, and new ways to teach different standards.



I do have a small confession, though. At first...I was skeptical, like many.  When my principal mentioned Twitter, I was like, “Oh, there is no way I will EVER use Twitter. It’s dumb and I don’t understand it.”  My principal INSISTED that I create an account and check it out.  I was very slow moving in this process because I didn’t really see the value in it.  I had my Twitter account for about a year and a half before I really used it.  One day at school, he told me about something called a TweetChat.  He told me that I should log on and use the hashtag, #oacteach and follow the conversations that were happening.  His explanation of this event sparked my interest.  I decided to check it out.  The first time I connected, I was a bit mindblown.  It was crazy how many people were participating in this chat, discussing a common topic, sharing ideas, and collaborating at the same time from a variety of states.  I had to learn more! I started researching other hashtags and found that the opportunities for professional development via Twitter were endless.  Shortly, I was hooked.  Once again, my principal was correct!    



According to a research paper from Pearson, “social media lend themselves naturally to cross-school collaboration and good practice sharing, both in terms of ease and cost-effectiveness.  This is true in so many ways.  Simply logging onto a TweetChat allows me to connect with multiple other educators from the comfort of my own couch.  I am able to engage in meaningful and powerful conversations with educators across the country who I may never meet in person.  The research paper from Pearson also states, “The global nature of Twitter allows teachers to engage with a more diverse group, challenging their own perspectives and inspiring new ways of thinking.”  Browsing through Pinterest links me to thousands of new ideas and connects me to other educators.  By reading blogs, I am able to understand other educators’ views on topics and ask questions or share my ideas on the topic.  I have learned more during an hour TweetChat on Twitter than I have in some college courses I have taken.  It is simply amazing to me that I am able to sit down (in my own house) and connect with so many diverse people with different experiences who are willing to share their ideas.  This type of collaboration allows for me to grow as a teacher.  My ideas and ways of thinking are sometimes challenged.  Most times I am inspired.    

Although I use many social media outlets to gain information, today I am going to focus on Twitter.  I use Twitter the most, usually daily.  For those of you who are still skeptics, I would like to share with you how to go about getting involved in Twitter.  I hope to show you the value in it, so you can learn as much as I have.  
Hopefully, by this point, you have already passed through the Denial Stage of Twitter and I have piqued your interest.  You are now in the Curiosity Stage.  At this point, you should navigate to twitter.com and create yourself an account.  Don’t worry...it’s easy and FREE!  Once you’ve created an account, you’re ready to explore!

If you already know some people on Twitter, search for them and begin following them.  As you use Twitter more, you will start to find your “herd” of people to follow.  If you’re unsure of who to follow, I have linked a list of some people I follow.  These people contribute often and have some awesome ideas for education.  I have learned a lot from these people.  See list here.  


Now that you have some people to follow, I’m sure you’re a bit curious about a TweetChat.  A TweetChat is where the world comes together to chat.  To learn more about a TweetChat, read this article.  There are many hashtags out there that will lead you to a digital community of people discussing the same topic.  Some of my favorites are here.  During these hour-long chats, I am able to learn more about specific topics, ideas, teachers, and administrators.  I build my network of colleagues through these TweetChats.  I have started to follow many educators in many different areas of education.  This is helpful because as I come across questions or challenges, I have a huge network of people to contact who could help me.  After participating in a few TweetChats, I was hooked.  I scroll through my Twitter
feed multiple times throughout the day, always finding something new or connecting with someone new.  It is amazing to me how much I can learn and how many people I can reach with a few clicks.  

Twitter is now a part of my lifestyle.  It is my professional development as an educator.  I always am striving to be better.  I am always looking for something new to use in my classroom or a new way to teach skills.  I do not want to take a day out of my classroom to attend trainings.  Twitter and other social media outlets allow for me to do all of this.  They allow for me to differentiate my own professional development.  I can gain knowledge on topics I know I need professional development on at any given time.  I am looking for other ways to gain PD from the comfort of my own home.  

What sites and hashtags do you use/follow? Who do you follow?    

How do YOU get your PD?




Jamie Wright
K-2 Intervention Specialist
Conesville Elementary