Nik Peachey concludes his digital teaching series with a specific look at teacher development, and some of the quick ways you can use the internet to enhance yours.
As I’m sure you are aware we live in changing times with technology impacting on every aspect of our lives and the lives of our students. Keeping up with these kinds of changes isn’t something we can expect others to do for us. As technology increasingly enables our students to have a greater degree of learner autonomy and drive their own education, we as teachers need to also take responsibility for our own development and ensure we make best use of the opportunities the internet offers.
Here are some suggestions for how you can take control of your own development.
There are countless blogs about ELT, education and educational technology. These can be a really rich source of personal development, if you find the right ones. Luckily Feedpost has put together a list of the top one hundred. This list is dynamic and updated every week, so the blogs in the list should all be relevant and regularly updated. Save the link to the list and check it regularly when you have a little time for your own development.
Diigo is a social bookmaking service that allows you to build an online library of links to the articles and resources you find. You can add tags to them to make them easy to find and search later, but best of all the platform hosts a huge number of special interest groups. Joining these groups allows you to see and share resources with other users who have the same interests as you. You can also sign up for a daily or weekly digest of all the links that have been saved into your groups. This allows you to access the best links to information that directly relate to your research or development area of interest.
Paper.li is a great free service that autogenerates your own personal e-newspaper. You simply go to the site, and type in your main interests and it will suggest sources of content for you. Once you approve these you will get a daily e-newsletter delivered to your email inbox with summaries and links to any new articles from around the internet that match your interests.
If you have a Facebook profile you can easily join special interest Facebook groups of teachers that share links to resources from around the internet. There are countless groups related to ELT, ESL and teaching, so it’s a good idea to be reasonably selective. Once you join be sure you allow notifications – the groups will then feed new content into your timeline as it is posted to the group.
Many people who start using Twitter give up quite quickly. This is largely because Twitter’s interface isn’t particularly user friendly, but if you create an account and then manage it through TweetDeck you will find that you can much more easily separate the streams of information that are useful from the vast majority that is irrelevant. You do this by setting up search columns based around hastags. These hashtags only pull in content related to the specific theme of the tag. This makes finding interesting content much easier. Hashtag searches also work independently of who you follow, so you will find information posted with that hashtag even if you don’t follow the person who posted it.
This site started as a place for hosting digital CVs and resumes and developed into a huge job search and recruitment portal, but it has now become much more than that. Nowadays LinkedIn is more like a professional version of Facebook with a huge community of teachers and a wide range of teaching related special interest groups. LinkedIn is especially useful because it also provides you with your own simple-to-use blog-type publishing platform, where you can share your reflections on your teaching, development experiences, and also build a following. This can really enhance your career prospects as well as giving you a place to share reflections on your teaching practice and interact with a global community of English language teachers.
Tips for making the most of these tools
Of course having access to all of these tools and resources is great, but in order for them to be effective you have to plan and ensure that you take advantage of them. So here are a few tips for that:
1) Make a specific time each day when you will read and look at the some of the information you are finding. It doesn’t have to be very long. You can achieve a lot in ten minutes each day.
2) Be selective. Look at the titles of the articles and choose only the ones that interest you.
3) Scan read. You don’t have to read all of everything or anything. Scan articles for the main points and then decide if you want to read in more depth.
4) When you read something that interests you, do something with it. Try ideas in the classroom, share it in your staffroom and talk about it. Share it through your Diigo groups. Write a blog about it. All of these things will help you to develop and embed what you are learning.
5) Make procrastination learning time. When there are tasks that you want to put off or avoid, spend the time looking through blogs and information feeds and then you can feel good about procrastinating!
Make sure to take a look at Nik’s previous articles to harness your digital literacy in the classroom.