by Bill Carrera1
Out of all the challenges teachers face overseas, keeping current on methodologies, techniques, and educational research is perhaps the most difficult. Opportunities for professional development are not easily accessible. It wasn’t until I started my master’s program in Educational Technology that I learned about using blogs, Twitter, and even Facebook to create my own personal professional development network.
Blog posts, tweets, and Facebook groups are used to collect resources/lesson ideas and to learn about new methods and techniques. One math blog leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another….and then Twitter. Twitter, where teachers initially posted links to material they had found, now has meetings at regular times to discuss techniques and to problem solve within their disciplines. Facebook groups, public and private, are also used to share resources. And there is also Pinterest.
Now you need to figure out how to organize resources, because it is like being connected to a firehose. A week’s worth of collected resources can easily consist of fifty to sixty blog posts and links to online resources like maps, videos, worksheets, and more.
Teachers have tried different things. Some will save those resources they know they can use now and store them in online or offline digital filing cabinets. Sites and applications like Google Drive, Evernote, Feedly, and OneNote can be used to store links and sometimes whole web pages.
*picture from cesardepaz.com
Other educators will pick one or two resources a week and develop them into a usable format, dumping the rest. Once you submerge yourself into this world, you’ll have to decide how you will handle the resources and what’s the best way for you to use them.
How to Get Started
The first step should be how to store and organize your resources. Personally, I use two tools. Anything I want to save for later goes into my Evernote account (here is my folder of American History Resources) and then I add it (this is really the key step) to the appropriate class outline in my Google Drive (work in progress American History class.) I use Evernote as a catchall, while google drive is focused on current classes and what I know I’ll be teaching in the near future. There is more in my Evernote account than I will ever use, but I can forward links to anyone asking for resources.
Where do the resources come from? Here I have one main tool, an RSS reader with Feedly. I follow/subscribe to blogs and websites, and when they update, I receive the article in my reader. Resources I think I can use right away get read and sorted into Evernote and Google Drive. Resources I hope to use or want to save to pass on get bookmarked right in Feedly.
The second step is what I call the churn — looking through and using or discarding things. During the school year, this takes a back seat to actual lesson planning. During the summer, I file, refile, delete, and adapt what I can use.
I am not a big Twitter or Pinterest user. If you think resources come too quickly using an RSS reader, then those two will drown you in links. The biggest and best thing about Twitter is the weekly chats between teachers all across the curriculum. There are lists of times and lists of subjects and you simply log in to your twitter client and search for the hashtag linked to the class or subject you are interested in. Questions are posed, suggestions are given and resources are shared — all by experienced, practicing teachers—mostly in real time. You can engage in the entire meeting, or you can find the conversation later and read through it whenever you want. Searching Facebook groups by grade and subject (High School Math Teachers) will also return groups of teachers sharing and giving advice to each other.
These are the suggestions that Bill has found helpful. We would welcome your input as you have engaged technology and educational supports during your teaching tenure overseas.
- Here is a YouTube video that discusses uses for Google Drive and Evernote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwKsLlGZzQ8. Other videos come up on how to get started with Evernote as well. (LWard)
- I also used Instructables and had students create instructions for various projects. Instructables has a ton of awesome projects for your classroom, and supports teachers and students by providing free Premium Memberships. To view one of my former student’s project go to http://www.instructables.com/id/Bandsaw-Box-Whale/. HPenner