Expanding Opportunities for Professional Development: Online Conferences and Professional Learning Communities

A post by Jill Castek

We’re all familiar with the impact of shrinking school budgets over the past few years.  One unfortunate consequence has been the decline in funding for teacher participation in national and international conferences. Avenues for teacher learning have shifted and expanded as technology has given rise to new forms of professional development. When it comes to effectively using new technologies to support student learning in particular, these seeking out professional development opportunities is essential.  The IRA Position Statement, New Literacies and 21st Century Technologies (IRA, 2009) calls for professional development that provides opportunities for teachers to explore online tools and resources expected for use with students.  The statement asserts that it isn’t enough to just make new technologies available to students but to provide options in ways to use them to access information and share ideas. To inspire new ways of thinking about the use of technology, tangible ideas and examples of what knowledgeable teachers have implemented need to be shared widely and discussed.  This post introduces free PD resources and online communities that support teachers in integrating digital technologies into learning activities in meaningful ways.

The IRA Standards for Reading Professionals (2010) encourage teachers to integrate technology into student learning experiences. More specifically, learners are expected to engage in opportunities that utilize traditional print, digital, and online reading and writing and represent various genres and perspectives, as well as media and communication technologies. The integration of technology into literacy learning is also called for in the Common Core State Standards (2010). Students that meet the standards are able to, amongst other aspects, use technology and digital media strategically and capably.

Professional development efforts such as the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute (http://nli2012.wikispaces.com/Home) offer transformative models that expand beyond the school level and help build extended learning communities that promote lasting change. This week-long institute addresses ways that new digital tools can create challenging and engaging learning opportunities for students and teachers in K-12 and higher education. Participants come together to network, share ideas, boost their leadership skills, and create technology infused curriculum units they can implement in their own classrooms. For teachers who are unable to attend such an institute in person, online resources can be explored and discussed with colleagues to support implementation.

Available resources include videos, instructional suggestions, readings that link theory to practice, and online networking tools which allow teachers to connect with others who have similar goals and interests. Teachers who tap into the wide range of social networking tools that are available to educators can participate in virtual learning experiences that can be customized based on the needs in their own setting.

Special interest groups such as the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group, (http://tilesig.wikispaces.com/) affiliated with the International Reading Association (IRA), the 21st Century Literacies Group, (http://ncte2008.ning.com/group/21stcenturyliteracies) affiliated with the National Council for Teachers’ of English (NCTE), and the New Literacies Collaborative affiliated with North Carolina State University (http://newlitcollaborative.ning.com/ ) put teachers in touch with an extended network of colleagues with whom to discuss instructional approaches, share resources, and collaborate.

Rick Beach (from the University of Minnesota) and I will be giving a talk at the K-12 online conference (http://k12onlineconference.org/) coming up Oct. 15 – Nov. 2, 2012. This is a free online conference open to anyone. This all volunteer event is organized by educators for educators with the goal of helping educators make sense of and meet the needs of a continually changing learning landscape.  Presenters will share ways to integrate emerging technologies into classroom practice.  The schedule of session is available at http://k12onlineconference.org/?page_id=1091.  Our session, entitled Using iOS App Affordances to Foster Literacy Learning in the Classroom is available for download at http://ge.tt/6EtYbCP/v/0.

Literacy Beat aims to build a professional learning community amongst its readership. Please make a comment suggesting other professional development outlets or professional learning communities we can learn and benefit from.  These shared resources will allow us to expand our online networks and be in touch with new resources and ideas that benefit our teaching and our students learning.  We look forward to your comment!

References

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (2010). Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards

International Reading Association. (2009). New literacies and 21st century technologies: A position statement of the International Reading Association International Reading Association. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

International Reading Association (2010). Standard for reading professionals—revised 2010. Newark, DE: Author.

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