Monday, February 4, 2013

Crowdsource Your Professional Development

One of the biggest dilemmas facing all teachers, administrators, and the field of k-12 educational education in general is how to provide enough professional development, frequently enough, to truly benefit your staff.

As with everything in education there are no easy answers, there is no perfect solution, and of course, there is often no funding. All that said, none of those are reasons to not provide professional development opportunities; the key is to think of professional development a little differently...

I am both the technology teacher and coordinator, which means I teach a full schedule of classes as well as implement technology initiatives and train teachers. Definitely not enough time for everything. I’ve turned to the concept of “crowdsourcing” to help facilitate the dissemination of information as well as get staff exposed to the maximum resources as easily as possible.

What is crowdsourcing? Simply, instead of asking one person to find a thousand answers, ask a thousand people to provide one answer each. I’ve applied this idea to professional development:

  • Email - Might be the simplest and most overlooked. Email is second nature so it’s an easy medium to use to connect. The best part of email is distribution lists. We have lists broken down by grade, iPad users, Smartboard users, related service providers, etc. This way people can communicate and share resources with very specific target audiences, and not spam the entire organization. It makes the email innately more focused and relevant to the recipients (don't have the ability to create lists on your email platform? Try an app like Mailshot).
  • Twitter - It’s not just Ashton Kutcher talking about his latest couch surfing startup. Aside from the obvious likes of technology magazines, technology journalists, publishing companies, and hardware/software vendors, Twitter is chock full of educators of every ilk. Use Twitter as your news feed of what others are doing. Network with the world and get access to resources, questions answered, etc. without leaving your desk.
  • Diigo - Bookmark web pages, with a social aspect. Adding a webpage to your favorites is limiting. It’s on a single browser. Adding your bookmarks to your Diigo account means they are accessible on any computer or mobile device. In addition, create a group to share resources with colleagues. No more filling email boxes with countless individual links. An educators upgrade gives access to the Education group (feel free to check out our PS10iPads group too).
  • Dropbox - Cloud storage. Essentially a virtual box to store stuff. How is this useful? Aside from being free, it allows you to share entire folders with other users. Have Smart Notebook lessons you want to share? Save them in a Dropbox folder that you give colleagues access to. In essence, Dropbox is a great tool for having access to your files from anywhere as well as being able to easily share those files with anyone.
  • Educrations/ShowMe - In the vein of the “flipped classroom” and the Khan Academy, these iOS apps allow you to use a whiteboard on your iPad to draw out lessons, and then record audio to accompany the visual. Create video tutorials to share with students and teachers alike. The crowdsourcing aspect? Both apps allow for easy sharing and publishing to the web. And as others are also doing great stuff, check their sites for how other educators are using the apps.
  • - Not every teacher wants to use Twitter or be social? Use a newspaper style interface to comb Twitter, and the web in general, for useful resources and then create a virtual paper with the links. You can then share the paper with colleagues who are more comfortable with this more passive style of engagement.
  • SimpleK12/EdTechTeacher - Webinar providers. See and hear what other educators are doing. The best way to attend professional development sessions without actually going anywhwere...

Of course this is not an exhaustive list. One of the best things about technology and the crowd concept is the wealth of platforms available. Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, NewsMix, Zite, Flipboard, GoogleDrive... The possibilities are quite endless. The point is tools, resources, training, collaboration, and all those things we as educators need and look for to hone and improve our craft are available outside the bounds of our classroom, school, and immediate colleagues. Most important, almost all of it is free.

Cross-posted at

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