At Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., we put together a lot of great professional development for learning opportunities. Often, these learning sessions are so great, that I want to share them. Opposite to the idea of a “secret sauce,” I enjoy sharing the work we’re doing, if for no other reason than it might prove useful to others as they consider professional learning opportunities of their own.
Sharing isn’t always easy, however. Word of mouth is great, but it takes a long time to travel. And inviting people to attend requires them to be available when our workshops are running, and also requires them to either enroll at a cost for the whole session, or be comfortable joining the workshop for a short, and possibly disconnected, learning period.
So, I’ve begun to leverage technology as a way to let our professional development for learning tell its own story. Here are three ways we're leveraging technology:
Timely tweeting. It’s been roughly five years since I started using Twitter, and it has had a tremendous impact on my development as a learner and a leader. I’ve found it beneficial to share phrases, quotes and pictures from learning sessions, often with hashtags connected to groups or chats that might find the learning meaningful. I also mention specific educators in my tweets who I know focus or specialize in the areas being explored. Using Twitter to share solid professional learning serves multiple benefits, but here are two: it can be made timely and composed quickly (being concise is key), and by directing tweets to specific people, I let them know I’m thinking of their learning too.
Scope it out. I’ve become a big fan of “Periscoping” a few minutes of our learning opportunities to give a more immersive sense of the work taking place at our agency. Periscope is a wonderful tool; the streaming capabilities allow for viewers to get a sense of the types of conversations that take place during workshops, the way we frame the learning sessions we hold, and who some of the facilitators of the learning are. Even five minutes can provide viewers with a clear sense of who we are and what we do, and can help educators make the choice of whether what we currently offer is a good fit for their learning needs (or not). After all, even the best professional learning doesn’t fit everyone at any time. The choice of what to learn needs to also be accompanied by the choice of who to learn it from.
Hollywood and vine. Vine is another tool I’ve used to broadcast the learning taking place in our organization. Vines are fun to create micro-videos that are either composed of a few seconds worth of a steady video feed, or an unlimited number of snapshots looped together (unlimited as long as they are roughly 6.5 seconds in total length). Vine works because it allows a much longer period of learning to be captured in a short segment, a segment of time that anyone interested in the topic can view to get a sense of the learning that occurred. I like to capture educators talking, writing and engaging in a plethora of activities. Interactivity is a key to learning; if we do not do it, then we do not learn. Vines help me showcase much of the “doing” that takes place in our workshops.
Educational technology is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to keep up with all the new ideas. And this is much the same as with learning in general. There is so much for us to do to continuously improve, and never enough time to take advantage of everything. That is why I believe broadcasting the work taking place in our agency is so important, and why I know leveraging technology is the best way to do so.
Fred Ende (@fredende) is the assistant director of Curriculum and Instructional Services for Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Fred blogs at www.fredende.blogspot.com, Edutopia, ASCD EDge and SmartBrief Education. His book, Professional Development That Sticks is available from ASCD. Visit his website: www.fredende.com.
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