This summer I am trying some new things to help keep the learning going with teachers that I work with. Some of them are tools that I used during the school year that I am still using while others are new to me in the way that I am using them. I believe, that as professionals, we have to be always learning and that it should not matter if we are getting paid to learn or not. You can not be great if you do the minimum and if you expect to be compensated for every time that you learn, you will not be as good as you could be. I believe we need to be professional learners and should not have to be told to learn in order to learn. (rant over)
Flipboard for curated resources
During the school year I would use Flipboard magazines to curate resources to share with teachers. I really enjoy using Flipboard magazines because they are easy to use, easy to curate, and look very nice both on tablets, smarthphones, and computers. This makes it very easy for anyone to access them as they can use any device and they will not be turned off by the look of the tool. I use a Chrome extension to add any article or resource that I find online to one of the four magazines I have. I have a magazine for general ed tech resources (Teaching in a 1:1 Environment), formative assessment tools, Google Apps for the classroom, and digital citizenship.
A key is to make sure I am always curating and not just collecting. The difference is that I need to be very conscious about the resources I curate and make sure I am not just grabbing everything I find. The goal is to reduce the fire hydrant of information we have online into a trickle of effective resources.
Remind for summer newsletters
Throughout the school year I would send out a bi-weekly email with 5-7 resources to all teachers in the building I worked. These same resources were on my school site but by sending them out as emails, I was making sure everyone saw them. This made it much easier for those teachers who do not check sites regularly and helps get some new information out to those who are not seeking it. This same idea would not work for summer as there are a number of teachers who do not check their work email regularly. So instead of sending out emails that will just collect virtual dust, I am using Remind to allow teachers to opt into the summer newsletters and lets them choose the way they receive them.
Remind (formerly Remind 101) is a great classroom tool for communication as it allows you to create classes where students, or teachers, can join and not have to give out their emails or phone numbers. This started as a great way to text out information but there are other ways to connect to Remind, including smarthphone apps, that you have options. I can quickly send out information to my group of teachers and I do not need to have their personal cell phone number or email address. This is a great way to connect with students, and parents, in a way that promotes privacy of their personal information. I know of a few coaches who use this with their players to keep them informed of what is happening.
I am making sure to use this on a semi-regular schedule, except when I am on family vacations, and will even send out a few more when I am at ISTE. The new features in Remind allows my students (teachers) to respond back with questions and we can have conversations inside of the app. Just like texts, these will be short and to the point, easy for quick learning throughout the summer.
Google+ for a summer book club
One thing I really wanted to try out this summer was a summer book club with some of the teachers I work with. I have participated with other groups using Twitter but I wanted to make sure I could connect with as many teachers in my building as I could. Knowing that we all have Google accounts and that I have gotten a good number of our teachers onto Google+, creating a Google+ community was the easiest way. By making this a closed community, I ensured that those that wanted to participate could feel a little more secure in what they say.
This is just getting started but it has been really easy to post questions and have conversations. Teachers can post when they want and get caught up quickly in one place without have to open many windows, which can happen on some message forums. This also means it is all available to them later and they can easily look through it, it won’t be lost. I will post more about this later in the summer.
No matter what tools you use, there are many ways that you can keep the learning going in the summer. While many of these will have to be optional for people to use, they can greatly encourage the learning by being easy and effective. Find a tool and get started, learn as you go along.