Professional Development Round-up

As part of my school’s end-of-the-year check out procedure, teachers must turn in a Professional Development form that indicates sessions/conferences attended and courses taken.  If I were as brilliant as Tamara Cox, I would include this info in my monthly report.

Instead I must backtrack and list the workshops/webinars/conferences that impacted my teaching this year.  (I wish I could list individual blog posts on the school’s form – sometimes those influence my work as much as, if not more, than some workshops I attend.)

I am sure I have overlooked some awesome webinars that I attended, but this is what I remember of formal professional development for this school year:

Informal Learning

My finances don’t allow me to attend many conferences, but when you have a PLN, you can attend conferences vicariously. This allows me to still grow from these conferences (while sometimes sipping coffee in my pj’s!).  A few conferences I attended through Twitter:

  • American Library Association’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, June 23-28, 2011
  • Unlocking Potential,” June 26-29, 2011: ISTE’s Annual Conference
  • “Turning the Page,” Oct. 27-30, 2011:  AASL’s Conference

What conferences/webinars/classes helped develop you professionally this year?

Image used through a Creative Commons license:

ALA and ISTE: Attending Conferences Vicariously

Cold Light

Ever feel like you’re on the outside, looking in?  It’s not a bad thing!  If, like me, you are not attending either of the “biggie conferences” this weekend, you can still keep connected to those who are and learn vicariously though them.

Getting Live Feeds

First, you need a Twitter account.  (If you have never used Twitter, now is the PERFECT time to see this powerful learning tool in action – promise!)

Have no idea how to get started?  Visit David Wees’ “Eight Videos to Help Teachers Getting Started Using Twitter.”  He includes information on not only how to sign up for and customize your Twitter account, but also videos on how to use Tweetdeck, an application that simplifies and organizes your Twitter experience.

The Twitter client I use is HootSuite which is an online application (you don’t have to install anything on your computer).  There are many YouTube tutorials to help you get started with HootSuite, but I’ve embedded one below you might want to watch.


Using Hashtags

Once you have chosen your Twitter client, you want to set up columns, or threads, based on hashtags.  Then either Tweetdeck or HootSuite will do all the work of finding the conference tweets for you and you can sit back and let all the conference updates come to you!

American Library Association Conference – #ALA11, #ala11

International Society for Technology in Education – #ISTE11, #iste11

HootSuite Conference Columns

Let the Learning Begin!

Some of the best professional development of the year is about to begin.  Are you ready?

Image used through a Creative Commons license

“Cold Light” by Scott Ripton (Quasic)

All the News That’s Fit to Print

Ever pressed for time but want to keep up with the latest news being shared by your colleagues on Twitter and Facebook?  Then subscribe to the #TLChat Daily

Click on the image above to be taken to the #TLchat Daily site.  On the right side click on the “subscribe” feed.  Enter your email address, and – viola – you’ll receive a daily email informing you when that day’s has been published.

Joyce Valenza explained how works in “Curating the #TLChat Daily.”

On days when I barely have time to check my email, I know that I can catch up on the latest and greatest links being shared by others with my same educational interests.  And if I don’t even have time to check my emails (you have days like that, too, I’m sure!), then I can check the archived news when I have time to catch my breath.

AASL Reflections: Opening Keynote

Earlier this month, I was among one of over 2800 school librarians attending the AASL Conference in Charlotte, NC. From the moment I picked up my nametag and conference information until the moment I left the closing celebration, I was totally captivated by the experience. It has taken weeks to try and sort out all that I learned and all the goodies I picked up from the vendors. I will try to share some of what I learned here through a series of posts.

Opening Keynote

danah boyd delivered the opening keynote address at AASL’s Rev Up Learning national conference.  According to Boyd, social networking sites play a strong role in teen culture.  Teens use social networking much differently than do adults.  Teens use sites such as MySpace and Facebook to share their creations as well as keep track of their favorite celebrities.

When we go online, we are by default just an IP address. Teens want to share themselves with their intended audience so they write themselves into being through the  profiles, comments, and creations they share.  Teens do lie about themselves online, but they have been told to do so by adults in order to protect themselves.

Adults often wonder about the inane comments teens (and others) make online.  Why would anyone share what they had for breakfast with the world?  Boyd says this is a form of social grooming.  Through status updates, teens can see the patterns of life in their world.  What is important to those important to them?  Just as adults of my generation would get together to hang out and “shoot the breeze,” today’s teens  do so but often do not have the mobility they would like to hang out face-to-face.  Social networks have become a place to hang out with friends.

Boyd describes three categories of teens using social networking sites based on the number of “friends” they had:

1.  Teens with 40-50 identified friends are using social networking sites to stay in touch with face-to-face friends

2.  Teens with 400-500 identified friends are using the sites to keep up with school classmates

3.  Teens with more than 500 friends are considered “Collectors”

Teens actually use social networking sites as a form of social hierarchy.  Many social networking sites allow you to identify your top friends.  Because your online popularity can depend upon how many others identify you as a top friend, teens might say or do things to ensure their staying power as a top friend.

Teens need an online space to be with their friends, but because they don’t often understand how online information is organized nor the repercussions of their online actions, media specialists need to assist teens in learning the skills they need to operate in their online worlds.

Boyd’s keynote address was riveting and included so much information that it was impossible to take notes on it all.  You can read more about her research in her dissertation.  Boyd’s keynote underscored the importance of media specialists taking responsibility for their professional development in the area of technology (as Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson discussed in “Things That Keep Us Up at Night.”)

Want to read others’ thoughts on Danah Boyd’s keynote?  Check out:

Buffy Hamilton’s Cover It Live Blogging

Joyce Valenza’s Danah Boyd on the Importance of Being Present in Kids’ Lives Online

Meme: My Best Posts of the Past

I was tagged for this meme by my friend and mentor Cathy Jo Nelson.


Ranting:  School Internet Filtering posted on September 17, 2008

The choice for this category was obvious – it has been my only rant.  But I also remember the passion with which I wrote it last fall.  Students were working in the media center and could not access the school library web site; the district’s filtering software had blocked it.  I understand that those at the district level want to protect our students from material that is not suitable for their educational pursuits in our schools.  But as educators, we cannot teach students how to evaluate questionable material if we can’t even access it to demonstrate the process.

What would I change if I were to update this today?  I would stress that when an educator finds a site that he wished to use has been blocked by the school that he take immediate action.  Contact the district level personnel who can authorize the site’s unblocking.  I am pleased to say that out of the numerous times that I have requested a site be unblocked, only one was left blocked.


The Wally Principle posted on January 11, 2009

As I was standing in one of those endless lines at Walmart watching the never ending parade of people walk by, I realized that Walmart and public education had much in common.

If I were updating this post today, I would do some further research concerning Walmart’s success. I’m sure that educators could learn much from studying Sam Walton’s empire.

organized caos photo


Scholastic Videos posted on December 21, 2008

It seems the majority of my posts focus on sharing resources, so this was not easy to choose!  This is not necessarily my favorite post, but the resource is one of my newer favorites.  Not only does Scholastic post author interview videos, but they also have booktalk videos and professional development videos.  PLUS the site offers much more than videos.

If I were updating this post today, I would point out some of the many other wonderful resources that Scholastic offers at their site including educational games, annotated booklists,  and the new Teacher Share site.



Stumbling Blocks vs. Building Blocks posted on July 16, 2008

Reading the blogs of other educators often causes me to reflect on my own practices or experiences.  This post was composed after reading a wonderful post by Carolyn Foote.

If I were to update this post today, I would focus on my role this past year.  Was I a stumbling block or a building block?

Doing Some Reflecting of Your Own

Now, if you would like to take part in this meme, here’s the information you need:

Meme rules:

1. Scan your posts for your own personal favorites.
2. Choose one post in any/each of the four categories:

  • Rants
  • Resources
  • Reflections
  • Revelations

I leave it to you folks to define these terms, but my instinct is that we could treat these loosely. You are welcome to suggest new categories if these don’t fit.

3. In a blog post, list those posts and very briefly describe

  • why it was important,
  • why it had lasting value or impact,
  • how you would update it for today.

4. Select five (or so) other bloggers to tap with this meme.

5. Tag all of your post with #postsofthepast

(I am bending the rules this time by not “tagging” others, as in “tag, you’re it,” but rather listing the writers of several of my favorite blogs whom I would love to see take on this meme- if they so choose.  Most of these folks probably don’t even know who I am, much less that I read their blogs!)

Heather Wolpert- Gawron

Dana Huff

Sue Tapp

Carolyn Foote

Steve Dembo

Image attributions:

“I Hate Mornings”

“LED + light bulb”

“Organized caos”

“Omar contemplates”

“Oh, it’s so Ning to be with you”

“Oh, it’s so nice to be with you, I love all the things you say and do…” Gallery   Eid+Mubarak+-+%D8%B9%DB%8C%D8%AF+%D9%81%D8%B7%D8%B1+%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%DA%A9

I was first introduced to Nings through Joyce Valenza’s TeacherLibrarianNing (2430 members). I have to confess that I found the interface quite confusing for a while.  However, since joining that Ning, I have joined several others and have become accustomed to the way Nings work.

The Ning that has excited me the most recently is the SCASL Ning.  I’ve attended three SCASL (South Carolina Association of School Librarians) conferences in the past and have been impressed with the enthusiasm and creativity of other media specialists in South Carolina.  The current leadership of SCASL has made intensive efforts to involve our association with Web 2.0 through blogging, podcasts, and even a webcast. 

Now, thanks to Julie Putnam, South Carolina library media specialists have their own social network.  As of today, 235 people have joined the Ning.  Great ideas are being shared and new friendships are being formed. 

I want my teachers to experience the professional development that Nings offer, so I thought I would find several to recommend.  The numbers in parentheses after the title of each Ning are the number of members in the Ning as of the date of this post.

English Companion: Where English teachers meet to help each other (594)       This Ning  was created by Jim Burke, author of many books including the namesake of this site, The English Teacher’s Companion. 

Classroom 2.0  (15,559) Winner of the 2008 Edublog’s Award for Best Use of Social Networking. This Ning focuses on introducing teachers to Web 2.0 tools and how they are being used to enhance instruction. 

Smart Board Revolution (750)      The members of this Ning share tips, ideas, and lessons for using Smart Boards in the classroom.

VoiceThread for Educators  (248)      The members here are participating “to create, build, and keep resources” for those using VoiceThread in the classroom.

So, You Want to Start Your Own Ning?

Ning in Education (3229)      This is a Ning on how to use Nings in education.  It’s a great starting point for anyone considering developing their own Ning.  If you want to start a Ning for your secondary classroom, be sure to investigate the offer for an ad-free site.

Image attribution:

Happy Birthday, Little Blog

Looking Back

This little blog began as a way to track my journey as I learned about Web 2.0 both through my courses at USC and self-discovery.  Since its inception, I have learned much – including the fact that I can never have a solid grasp on the read-write web due to its nature.

One of the most useful tools I’ve added to my blog is the tag cloud.  Not only does it show the key focus of my blog in just a few words, but it also shows (to me) that I have expanded my blog’s original purpose.  I have begun to put more emphasis on YA lit and topics (such as the poetry festival and teen read week) directly reflecting activity in my own media center. 

Looking Forward

I look forward to this next year of my journey and seeing where it has taken me this time next year.  To the friends I have made along the way, thank you for your support and encouragement.  To the other bloggers I follow, thank you for the inspiration and ideas you have provided. 

Image attribution:

Upstate Technology Conference – Day Two

This post is sorely overdue!  It has been two weeks since the Upstate Technology Conference,  but I don’t want to let what I learned slip away before capturing it here. 

The keynote speaker on Day Two was David Jakes.  His presentation, The Global One Room Schoolhouse: Creating Learning Communities in the Digital Age, was inspiring. 

Obviously, this conference focused on technology, but Jakes insists that it takes a backseat to our curriculum. Although we are often attracted to all the bells and whistles of  Web 2.0 tools, he stressed that we not use technology for technology’s sake, but use it to enhance learning.  Rather than find a tool and wonder, “Wow!  How can I use this in my classroom?” we should examine our curriculum and determine the best approach to achieving our instructional goals. Certainly not a new idea, but one that needs to be stressed as we plan instruction.

Jakes recommends a scaffold of four questions that educators should use to determine which technology, if any, is appropriate to instruction.

I attended several sessions today. Carlton Greene of Greer Middle School shared “Free and Open Source Software.” He focused on educational software and shared a document that can be accessed here that gives descriptions of dozens of programs. Some interesting programs he shared were Celestia (a space simulator allowing you to travel through the solar system), Stellarium (a planetarium for the classroom), Abiword (an easy to use word processor), KMPlot (a mathematical function plotter), KVerbos (helps with learning Spanish),  and Jodix (a movie converter that converts most popular movie formats to iPod video).

Especially useful to me in the media center is Abiword.  Many times students will bring in work from home on a flashdrive hoping to open and print it out in the media center.  But alas, it was created with WordPerfect and we have been unable to help them.  Abiword will write and read WordPerfect documents.  Hooray!

Another interesting session was “Flip for Flip Recorders!”  I have blogged about the media center’s Flip camera before and attended this session hoping to get some ideas for using our camera.  Amanda Leblanc, Media Services Coordinator for Greenville County Schools, did not disappoint me.  She divided us into groups and had us use the camera on a scavenger hunt.  You can find directions for the scavenger hunt on this page.

Elizabeth Kohut of Richland County School District 1 presented “Podcasting with GCast.”  She demonstrated how easy it was to create and post a podcast using just your cell phone. You can then embed a player on your site so that you visitors can listen to the podcast. 

The final session I attended was “IS Your Life Chaotic? Simplify it with Technology!” Cathy Arnold, Technology Facilitator for Greenville County Schools, shared several tools to help organize your life.  I was already familiar with the tools she presented but her explanation and demonstration of Jott inspired me to try it once again (I had been using Reqall to send notes to myself).  Jott is now on my speed dial!  I have used it to send notes to myself and have added events to my Google calendar with just a phone call to Jott! Cathy converted me, I helped my husband set up his account, and I WILL be sharing this with my teachers when school begins. 

Kudos to the Greenville County School District and the staff that finely crafted this awesome professional development! Those who attended came away with multitudes of ideas to try in their schools.

Image attribution

The Need for Professional Development

One of my hobbies is gardening.  I love to watch my flower garden as spring arrives; the drabness of winter is replaced by a lush green and then various hues as pasqueflowers, daylilies, yarrow, butterfly bushes, bee balm, and purple coneflower (among others) paint its surface.

Each year I purchase hanging baskets to adorn my front and back porches.  Their very presence not only calms me, but brings me joy.  Plants are nature’s way of reminding me that nothing lasts forever. Their beauty is temporary and requires nuturing.

South Carolina is in the second year of a drought. This June has also brought us more than our usual share of extremely high temperatures.  Heat, combined with the lack of rain, stresses my plants. They will quickly remind me of this, too.

My hanging baskets and potted plants have required daily watering the last few weeks. On Wednesday, as I prepared to head to Greenville to attend the Upstate Technology Conference, I forgot to water one of my hanging baskets.  When I arrived home Wednesday evening and went outside to check on my my flowers, I found the basket of purple million bells dry and shriveling. I quickly brought it up on the back porch to water it and shield it from the relentless sun it receives by the pool. 

As I watered it and pinched off dead shoots, I realized that educators are like those beautiful hanging baskets.  When the school year begins, we burst forth from our dormant season and are eager to meet each day.  As each week passes, we tend to lose the enthusiasm with which we started the year as we settle in for the growing season.  The year quickly heats up as we are enundated with papers, duties, meetings, lesson plans, and more.

If we do not nuture ourselves with professional development, we tend to get stuck in routines and our grand plans to make this year different shrivel up.  Every educator who has attended a convention or conference realizes the immeasurable value it provides.  We return from these sessions invigorated and ready to try newly learned techniques or tools.

However, most educators do not have the opportunity to attend such conventions or conferences often.  That is why it is imperative that we take professional development into our own hands. We must seek ways to learn that do not require professional leave. 

Each of us needs a mentor (or mentors) to inspire us and encourage us to continue to challenge ourselves. Today’s educators have opportunites for professional development that did not exist when I first began teaching.  The internet provides us limitless possibilities to improve our understanding of our subject matter and the needs of today’s students.  Some examples:

  • online courses
  • educational blogs
  • lesson plan resources
  • tutorials
  • streaming video
  • databases
  • ebooks and ejournals
  • wikis
  • nings

 I am, of course, preaching to the choir here.  If you are reading this, you have already taken responsibility for finding ways to continue your professional development beyond graduate courses, workshops, and conferences.  You are to be applauded for this, but unfortunately, you are in the minority.

I challenge you to encourage the educators in your building and district to do the same.  Tend to the garden where you bloom and your students will benefit.  If you already have ways in which you do this, I would love to hear about them.