Webinars and Twitter Chats: The Connected Educator
October is Connected Educators Month in the United States, and the many e-Learning conferences offered this past month or so certainly allowed me to connect with many educators! Most people think of professional development as something you do face-to-face, or in person. However this month my professional development focused on connecting to others via webinars and live Twitter chats. I am quite happy to say I enjoy brushing up on my professional development right from the comfort of my home! Instead of becoming an armchair traveller I became an armchair educator! Like any other conference I attended sessions of my own choosing, I met and mingled with people, and I became “more” knowledgeable.
Webinars are a great way to gain knowledge or insight, and my first e-Learning conference session at the Global STEMx Education Conference accomplished just that. I wanted to see how STEM supports “literacy” outcomes so I attended Wayne Christensen’s session on Reinforcing “Literacy” in STEM Literacy. I appreciated the fact that English Language Arts educators or English professors aren’t the only ones promoting literacy. The topic was treated seriously and the presenter knew his topic inside and out. He also included sample rubrics so STEM educators would know what outcomes to meet in order to support literacy. I also learned that the attendees are expected to be involved in the session as well by participating in back-channel discussions and tweeting on Twitter. At first I found this overwhelming — most in person PD involves listening and nothing more — so this approach took a while to get used to that’s for sure!
The next three webinars were chosen because they focused on librarianship at the school and college levels. Because I am fairly new to the field of librarianship I wanted to learn more about the issues and trends librarians face today. The Embedded Librarian presentation (Classroom 2.0 Live : Feature Teacher Series) by Zoe Midler was excellent! She focused on how an embedded librarian could and should work with teachers to develop inquiry based or project based learning assignments while incorporating information literacy outcomes / skills at the same time. Zoe gave concrete examples throughout her session and shared all of her resources and exemplars. Zoe’s approach means that she works with specific groups of teachers directly to plan lessons or projects. The entire team works together using Google documents and everything is done collaboratively (lessons, outcomes, assessments). I want to be able to do the same thing with the educators I work with! The team also publishes and shares student work via e-portfolios and revises each lesson and/or assignments on-line. Great examples of team work were demonstrated throughout.
I also attend John Shank’s presentation on Re-imagining the Role of the Librarian as an Educator in the Digital Era, which was a Library 2.013 Pre-conference event. John is very passionate about blended librarianship and why we need blended librarians in the digital age. I enjoyed seeing a college librarian using Scoop.It! to share his knowledge with others. John’s Scoop.It! pages are quite good! I can see that he is very passionate about his subject area and what he deems valuable in the 21st Century. He is a good remodel as well; I appreciated how he practices what he preaches.
Another highlight for me was Gwyneth Jones’ seminar on the Secrets of the Remix Mash-up YouTube Generation (via 2013 Reform Symposium e-Conference / RSCON4). I came across her Librarian / Media Specialist wiki last year. Her materials are fantastic! She was the first person to introduce me to Symbaloo and Comic Life. Like John, she practices what she preaches. Her high energy and enthusiasm is “catching”. In this session I learned that librarians need to be more aware of the generation we are working with; we must be information and digital literates too. I learned a lot about the “remix” generation and the movement that they have created. Before the session started I was fortunate enough to talk to her before others had arrived. She encouraged me to become a presenter, and challenged me to present next year! Scary. (FYI: I want to become a Google educator too — just like Gwyneth!) While we were chatting she told me how Joyce Valenza was her mentor, and I told Gwyneth that I see her as a mentor as well. Then she made my day by following me on Twitter!
I attended two more webinars as well. I tell you once I started, I was hooked. If you would like to read more about those webinars please visit my Google presentation on this topic. (This presentation can also be found at the end of this post.)
Another part of Connected Educators month involved participating in live Twitter chats. Different groups establish weekly “live” chats, and you can join these chats based on your interests and needs. (If you would like to learn more about these chats, visit the link provided here.) I quickly learned that there are two types of live twitter chats: 1) formal chats which usually involve moderators, a specific topic, and a Q & A structure; or 2) informal chats which usually involve a leisurely pace where browsing and / or contributing are encouraged. The first two live chats I attended were #tichat and #etcchat. I saw these informal chats as being quiet and “safe” as participation is low and slow. I didn’t really feel I got a lot out of them. To me it was like dining and dashing in that people shared resources and ideas then left as quickly as they came. For those who stuck around, there really wasn’t much interaction available. You could peruse the links and ideas left behind but there really wasn’t anyone to chat with about these little “gems”. I preferred formal chats because I think interaction is key to learning and improving as an educator. At first it was maddening because the pace is chaotic and frenetic but once you got used to the format it was very enjoyable! I felt like I walked into an immediate PLN. I attended three formal chats: #byotchat (Topic: Owning the Learning), #21stedchat (Topic: Digital Literacy), and #SD36Learn (Topic: Personalized Learning). I think I went from newbie to expert in three sessions. At first I felt overwhelmed but by the end of the third session I was chatting like a pro — which means I was able to ask and answer questions, share resources and ideas, provide solutions and suggestions. Most of the interactions lasted seconds but I learned a ton. I had no idea what a Makerspace was or what the difference between personal learning and differentiated instruction was before I started but by the end I really felt like I had a handle on it — including the trends and issues that came with each topic. More importantly, I gained three new PLNs! I added followers to my Twitter feed and became a follower on other people’s feeds. I am beginning to establish a whole new network! I can tell you this for certain, I know I am going back for seconds and thirds! This a great way to develop yourself as an educator. I recommend you jump in the deep end now. Seriously, jump in!
If you would like to read more about my experiences with live chats, visit my Google Presentation (included below) on the topic. Links for each Twitter group are provided as well.