Back in the day, not too long ago, the only way to receive professional development was to attend a training or workshop. No longer is that the case. Now, there are many options for us. So, with Twitter, online learning, and newer opportunities out there, is face-to-face professional development a thing of the past? As a professional development specialist, I find this an interesting question to ponder.
I describe myself as a a life long learner. I'm definitely the type of person who actively seeks out personal learning that meets my own needs. I read professional books and I research topics that intrigue me. I enjoy learning in a variety of ways. I love face to face PD just as much as like twitter chats and online learning. But I can respect that not everyone is like that. Some don't care for Twitter, while others despise sitting through a day of training.
Twitter is a an easy, low stress way to grow as a professional. Following people and organizations in the field you are interested in is the way to start. I can't say enough about building a Professional Learning Network (PLN). These are your people. The ones that share your vision and mission. Your go to people. It doesn't happen overnight either. Be patient but persistent. You will find your tribe, your PLN. The next step is to plug into Twitter Chats. Find chats that discuss issues you want to learn more about or concerns you are facing. Twitter Chats are great for finding resources and people with fresh new ideas from around the world. Two of the beauties of Twitter are that you can participate anywhere at anytime and it's totally free. Win, Win!
One of the best Twitter PDs I've discovered is #ELLchat_BookClub. This book club selects a book and designates a period of time for participants to chat about it on Twitter. The founders, Dr. Katie Toppel and Tan Nguyen, release questions and anyone can join in. Educators from around the globe have collaborated using the hashtag.
Online or Virtual PD
Many educators participate in online or virtual professional development. For example in May of 2017, Peter Cameron and Derek Rhodenizer organized over 60 educators to hold a day long free professional development on google hangouts called MadPD. Anyone interested could watch the sessions throughout the day. Sessions varied in topics, so educators could choose what they wanted/needed to see. The turn out was fabulous because this type of PD was offered by choice, it was free, and people could attend from the comfort of their home (no travel necessary).
Another such virtual PD took place in June and was tailored towards ELL educators. Carol Salva and Tan Nguyen organized a group of ELL experts to present various topics in June 2017. The session was called VirtuEL17 and can be accessed by educators even still by clicking on this link. VirtuEL17 Link Teachers participated and interacted with one another during the sessions and are able to use the presentations with their own campus staff as well.
Other online learning opportunities include MOOCs which are Massive Open Online Courses. They are much line taking online college courses. If you recently graduated from college or went back to get your masters or doctorate, you might have taken some courses online. MOOCs are similar but they are larger in that they're open to more people, usually free, and usually self paced.
On campuses in the district where I work, we have implemented something similar to MOOCs. They are Canvas courses which incorporate a book study and job embedded implementation. Teachers read a chapter of the professional book, implement the learning in the classroom instruction, and interact online in the Canvas course. Then we meet face-to-face for debriefing, modeling and coaching of the instructional strategies. Here's a link to learn more about how to implement something similar on your campus. Click here.
Face-to-face PD is often described as the sit & get type of training. But not all Face-to-face PD is that boring. I've been to many that were highly interactive and quite engaging. Not only do I enjoy attending workshops and conferences, but I also love presenting at them. From small, intimate campus trainings to large state conferences, I love the energy and connections that are created at face-to-face professional development opportunities.
Is face-to-face PD passe?
I don't think we can say goodbye to face-to-face PD. Just because it doesn't meet the needs of some people doesn't mean it's bad or wrong. We have to remember that everyone has different preferences and some content has to be delivered in person. What I know for sure is that when we meet face-to-face, relationships are built that technology can not create. I have met many wonderful friends on Twitter who I respect greatly and learn from everyday. But I hope to meet them in person soon because I know that when we do meet in person, face-to-face, we will be able to work together to change the world. Our shared sense of mission and purpose will become something greater than it ever was virtually. Nothing can replace or match the connections, community, and collaboration we create when we come together face-to-face.
Don't get me wrong. I love online learning, Twitter, MOOCs, all the new technology and being able to learn from home. But there is no one size fits all when it comes to PD just like there's not one size fits all when it comes to classroom instruction.
All in all, I think we each need to find the type of PD that fits our needs at the time. What do you think?