Taking Control of Your Professional Development

By Jen Smith

The days of sitting in one-size-fits-all professional meetings are dwindling. Whole day, large group professional development sessions are being replaced with technology-infused collaboration ripe for lifelong learning. For me, the best part of this shift in professional learning is the ability to focus on the topics that interest me the most. Here are some of my favorite ways to take control of my professional development while embracing technology.

See What Educators are Talking About

Twitter chats provide an excellent venue for interaction and learning. Many educators participate in live Twitter chats, but I have found the fast-paced nature of these chats difficult for me to read, process, and respond to the conversations quickly enough. So in taking control of my own learning, I discovered that following hashtags after a live chat helps me dive deeper into the ideas being shared while giving me time to peruse the links and thoughts without urgency to respond. Regardless of how Twitter works best for your learning, here are several hashtags worth following.

  • #edchat (education chat) is a weekly conversation of educators on topics of teaching trends, technology integration, and best practices. The hashtag is popular with many educators and I have found it helpful in connecting with other teachers.
  • #tlchat (teacher librarian chat) is also a weekly chat for teacher librarians to come together and share ideas on a multitude of library-related topics, such as helping teachers find success in the digital age, rethinking library spaces, and leveraging the library for instructional leadership.

Read, Listen, and Learn

I view my professional development no different than a doctor, dentist, or surgeon. If my doctor went to university in the 1980s and didn’t continue reading research upon graduation, I wouldn’t necessarily trust his knowledge or diagnosis. So continued reading is important to me in my quest towards lifelong learning. Resources that help me stay organized and broaden my perspectives include the following.

  • Participate gathers learning resources in one place, making it easy to find and catalog topics of your choice. I primarily use Participate to follow archived Twitter chats, but you can also organize articles, resources, and sites to collect for future reading.
  • edX is filled with numerous courses-all of which are free. I have used this platform to learn about design thinking, leading professional development, effecting change in schools, and many more topics.

The most important aspect for me as an instructional technology coach is to maintain my curiosity and seek out opportunities for learning wherever I can. Utilizing technology has enabled me to take control of my professional development by engaging in constructive dialogue with other educators to broaden my knowledge base.

Jen Smith is an Instructional Technology Coach at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. She has been teaching for more than 15 years in K-8 school districts, has worked as a classroom teacher, a world language teacher, and now as an instructional coach. She was the 2016 Illinois Computing Educators’ (ICE) Outstanding Technology Using Educator of the Year. She is passionate about sharing the good news from inside our classrooms, and raising and educating global citizens. She challenges that teachers-just like other professionals-need to grow, change, and be on the cutting edge of technology to best reach students. Jen is interested in redesigning learning spaces and pedagogy to engage and inspire students in our changing world. Jen is a mom of three cheeky monkeys, a tech enthusiast, and a wife. You can find Jen on her blog and on Twitter @EdTechJenSmith.
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