Tag Archives: PLC

4 Tools for Integrating Social Media into Professional Development

by Hope Morley

social media professional development

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Participating in professional learning communities (PLCs) allows teachers to share ideas, resources, and strategies that support and enhance learning outside of traditional professional development seminars. Previously, we’ve talked about building an effective PLC and how to integrate technology into a PLC. Today, the focus is on four social media tools to explore for personal professional development: Edmodo, Google+ Communities, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Edmodo

Edmodo is an educational website that functions as a social network. Most teachers use Edmodo to communicate with students, but it also is a great space for interacting with other teachers. Think about it, with all those educators in one place, don’t you think they’d start talking to each other?

To get started, check out Edmodo’s list of Teacher PD groups. Search the list to find one that relates to you and request to join. You can also create your own group to connect with teachers within your school, district, or PLN. If you’re looking for advice surrounding a specific device or program, such as ClassDojo, search for the company’s publisher page. Many of them cultivate good communities, or at the very least provide a space to discuss with other teachers.

Google+ Communities

Google+ Communities are groups built around specific topics and interests. There are Communities for every topic you can think of, including literature, math, science, and more. Community members share information, post comments, and ask and answer questions. A moderator likely reviews all posted content and can take action to address anything that’s irrelevant or inappropriate.

If you have a Gmail or Google Apps account, then joining Google+ is easy (and possibly already done for you). Mashable has a helpful beginner’s guide for Google+ Communities. You can search by subject area, or start with this list of more than 190 education-related Communities.

Pinterest

Pinterest serves as a virtual bulletin board where people can “pin” images and other digital content that they want to save. You can create different Pinterest boards for different topics and follow others’ boards to see what they’re pinning.

Pinterest is a lot more than recipes and ways to repurpose mason jars. It has a very active teacher community sharing lots of great activities and tips. Find educators to follow and search your subject or grade level for new ideas.

For more, visit Edutopia for one educator’s perspective on using Pinterest and a video overview of what the site is and how educators are using it.

Twitter

An executive at Twitter recently said that educators are an essential part of the network’s base. Anyone who hangs with teachers on Twitter already knew that! Twitter can be a busy place—let hashtags help you sort through all the information. (For those who don’t know, a hashtag is simply a keyword or phrase, no spaces, preceded by the # symbol.) Use hashtags to find educator chats and find people worth following. You can also create your own class or school hashtags (e.g., #leydenpride) to organize tweets and build community. If you feel overwhelmed, try a tool like TweetDeck (my favorite) or Hootsuite to organize hashtags you like into streams.

For more, check out our complete post on using Twitter to form a PLN. Also check out this comprehensive list of education-related hashtags and guide to Twitter lingo.

What social media tools do you use to connect with other educators? Leave a comment to join the discussion.

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

4 Tips for Integrating Technology into a PLC

by Erin Dye

technology integration PD PLC

Image courtesy of bplanet / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A couple of weeks ago, we posted about three ways to build an effective professional learning community (PLC). Today, I’d like to focus on some best practices for integrating technology professional development into your PLC.

In a perfect world, technology would be seamlessly incorporated into every PLC topic. For example:

  • A discussion on improving test scores might flow directly from a collaborative data collection spreadsheet or a reporting platform with easy-to-digest graphics.
  • A group focused on improving in-class reading time might consider the pros and cons of using a digital service to track students’ reading time, Lexile levels, and interests.
  • A PLC about stabilizing the classroom environment might talk about using an iPad app to organize notes about students’ behavior and communicate directly with parents.

However, before that day of organic tech integration can arrive, your teaching team has to learn how to use the technology that’s available. It’s worth your time to establish a PLC course that focuses on using technology in small ways during instructional time. Here are some tips for starting that PLC.

Place teachers in PLCs based on subject area.

While this might not be the best structure for every PLC, as teachers learn about new digital resources and tools, it makes sense to share reading resources with other reading teachers, math resources with other math teachers, and so on. This also helps the PLC facilitator develop ideas and techniques that will be immediately useful to the teachers in his or her group—a hallmark of effective PD.

Identify a “super user” teacher in each PLC.

In addition to the teacher/team leaders, PLC facilitators should capitalize on the creativity and enthusiasm of a teacher who already has a real interest in or flair for incorporating technology. During modeling and observation time throughout the month, suggest that other teachers visit the super user’s classroom to get ideas for integrating technology into their own lessons

Provide plenty of workshop time.

Enter the PLC with the understanding that some of your teachers may genuinely need help turning on their computers and logging into their iPads. But recognize that if you spend time discussing these basic steps with the entire group, you’ll alienate much of your audience.

We’ve found that the key is to allow as much workshop time as possible and use this time to have 1-on-1 discussions with teachers to address their specific needs. When you can, break the PLC up into small groups, just as you would when you differentiate among your students.

Workshop time in itself is very important because teachers likely don’t have any additional time during their busy week to research tools and resources. Give them structured time during your PLC to work and collaborate.

Start out with sessions on the basics, but be flexible.

It’s fine to develop your sessions around the basics—for instance, how to set up lessons in which students collaborate in a Google Doc. But make sure you build in differentiated workshop outcomes for both novice and advanced users, such as simply navigating Google Drive or publishing that Google doc to a class blog or website. The bottom line is to meet the teachers where they are.

If you plan ahead to support different levels of learners, there will be fewer on-the-fly fixes.

 

We’ll come back to this topic and post more tips later. Until then, we’d love to hear what you’ve learned through your tech PLC experiences. Leave us a comment and let us know!

Erin bioErin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.

3 Tips For Building an Effective PLC

by Erin Dye

Professional learning community

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Professional Learning Community (PLC), n. (education) A group of teachers who regularly meet to focus on and share knowledge and experiences about a specific topic or topics.

Are you part of a professional learning community at your school? Have you ever felt like you’re not getting anything useful out of it? Or, is your school talking about building PLCs to replace current PD efforts? PLCs have a lot of potential to make professional development successful, but only if implemented correctly.

We’ve done some research and gained some experience, and we’ve noticed a few key things that will make PLCs effective.

1. Teachers must be allowed to choose what they learn.

I was recently at a conference where Robert Schuetz demonstrated exactly this concept. Before the session started, he allowed the left half of the room to choose a piece of candy from a bag, while the right half had a specific piece of candy given to them. Without knowing this was an exercise to prove a point, the right half began to quietly grumble…

“…But I don’t like Tootsie Rolls…”

“…I’m allergic to chocolate…”

“…Why didn’t we get to choose?…”

Without being given a choice, half of the class was ready to write off the session, and it hadn’t even begun yet.

PD goes much the same way. When given a choice, even if it’s only between two interesting options, teachers are already more likely to be engaged and—most importantly—to learn something they can take back to their classrooms.

2. The time between official meetings has to include observation and modeling.

Let’s say that my PLC is focusing on the best ways to facilitate close reading. I learned something really cool during the February meeting—to pull up the Gettysburg Address on my interactive whiteboard and have my students come up to annotate the text as a group. But now it’s time for our March meeting, and I realize I haven’t tried out that activity with my 10th graders yet.

This is a big PLC fail. I know that I should have taken the initiative to try out the technique, but I also needed my team leader and fellow teachers to support me in testing out this new strategy. As we all know, modeling is a “safe” way to learn something new.

3. Communicate expectations clearly and follow up throughout the month.

Don’t leave follow-up time to chance. The PLC should agree on dates and times that will work for modeling and observations. This helps teachers know how to plan their lessons and gives them time to prepare. Teachers being observed won’t feel as threatened or uncomfortable as they try the new technique.

Moreover, the skills you’re teaching or learning in the PLC are important. Sometimes they even mark a big shift in pedagogy or policy. There’s no way a big change can happen successfully with only one or two lessons. The process has to be ongoing. Demonstrate that the PD is important by making teacher follow-up support part of the official schedule.

There are plenty of other good tips for effective PLCs, but these are good places to start if you’re building a new PLC or trying to salvage one that isn’t working properly. Stay tuned—we’ll continue to share what we learn about the process.

Erin DyeErin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.