Sunday, May 1, 2011

What is Professional Development?

This is a question that can strike a sense of dread in even the best of educators. One of our goals at the Alabama NBCT Network is to provide support and constant professional learning. One way that we aim to do this is by sharing as many resources and ideas as we can through all of the professional development opportunities in which we engage. That was the driving force that caused us to form this blog, our Twitter feed, and a Facebook group (see the Resources page for more details). We want to create a portal that provides constant professional development not only for our network members but for all teachers.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to attend the first EdCamp Birmingham held at Samford University. EdCamps, TeachMeets, and Unconferences are a different type of  format for professional learning. They are participant-driven. Instead of a set program, attendees arrive and volunteer to lead discussions on topic about which they are passionate. A board is formed and participants decide which conversation they want to join. You vote with your feet. If there are two conversations you would like to join, you just go to that session, stay a while and then move on to another conversation.

The presenters are really facilitators. They begin by sharing a bit of knowledge and then engaging those in attendance to ask questions, draw on their background knowledge, make comments, and brainstorm new ideas. At first it may seem a bit daunting because it is different than the usual "sit and get" type of professional development that most of us have been involved in throughout our careers. However, the rich conversations that happened not only in the hour time slot continued at lunch and dinner and are still continuing today through Twitter.

We want you to benefit from the conversations from yesterday. So here are some of the resources, that we gained through our time at EdCamp yesterday:

  • The Cybraryman (a.k.a Jerry Blumengarten) has been cataloging Internet resources since the mid-1980's. He has a wealth of information and resources on any subject that you can imagine. If you have a question, he (or his wife, Gail) will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.
Tools shared through the Smackdown:
  • TitanPad Need for several people to work on one document at a time and other resources are blocked? TitanPad provides that option in real-time.
  • ComicLife-Do your students enjoy graphic novels and comic books? This let's you create them digitally for free. Here's an example of one done by Nikki Robertson, Library Media Specialist at Auburn High School
  • MyFakewall- Do your students like Facebook? This tool provide your students the free space to create wall that look a lot like Facebook for book characters, historical figures, etc. Here's one on Cinderella and one on Benjamin Franklin 
  • Google Voice- Want to stay in touch with your students and their parents without giving out your phone number? Then Google Voice is for you. There is a great video on the homepage that explains how it works...for free.
  • iCivics-This site has a host of games and simulations in which 3rd-8th grade students can engage. Everything from voting, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and how people become citizens of the United States.
  • Weebly- Do you or your students want to create a website? Weebly makes it easy...and it's free.
We hope that you've found something useful in this post. Come back often as we will continue post information that we hope you will find beneficial. Until later...


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