So, you are a teacher, looking for some on-line CPD (Continuous Professional Development)… Where do you start?
I would like to recommend #ELTchat, which takes place on twitter each Wednesday at either 12.00GMT or 21.00 GMT. There you will find many English Language Teaching professionals happily sharing knowledge and experience.
The subject of this Wednesday evening’s discussion was ‘Essential/key tech resources in a developing teacher’s toolbox- memberships, gadgets, training, equipment etc. Recommendations for what to spend a personal resource budget on.’
Professional development can take many forms – it doesn’t really matter what we do as long as we do something, according to @theteacherjames. As long as we can define what is needed and choose from the available options we will be fine. But new teachers need a starting point, a way to access the information and inform themselves about the scholarships and conferences which could be open to them.
What should be in a CPD toolbox?
1. Social networking tools
We began by looking at twitter, and continued by looking at other social media sites. These are an excellent way to build your own PLN (Professional Learning Network).
We agreed that it takes time and patience to build your PLN if you want it to reflect your situational needs. A good place to start would be to follow the participants of ELTchat itself.
Twitter can help you find answers to professional questions in a very timely fashion.
Facebook was offered as another social tool; perhaps the character limitations of twitter could be a deterrent for some. Facebook offers the same PLN-building capabilities, and is also a useful way to share photos and video clips.
The professional site Linked-In was also mentioned. As well as containing some extremely good discussion forums aimed at teachers, it provides a great way to advertise yourself, or find out what is available in the job market.
Depending on your wishes, there are some free Nings and Yahoo groups worth investigating. And don’t forget Google + J
Reading blogs written by others provides a super learning opportunity, and commenting on them can be beneficial too. This makes your ideas known to a wider audience and gives you a shared sense of belonging. Of course, some teachers prefer to write their own blogs and these can facilitate reflective practice, as can any feedback from the commentators.
These are all great ways of networking with similar-minded professionals, and one of the advantages is the equality shared by all participants in the group. No-one stands on ceremony!
3. Conferences and webinars
Another benefit is that you will be made aware of any upcoming conferences and webinars, both face-to-face and online. You will find out about interesting articles and new approaches to teaching and learning.
The above are all free resources, making our toolbox a bargain in terms of cost versus effectiveness.
4. Membership of a professional body
But there is also the option to take out a membership subscription with IATEFL, an associate, or a similar, perhaps local, professional body. It was pointed out that the cost is not always within the reach of teachers in all countries, but fortunately there is free access to many of their webinars. @Shaunwilden pointed out that the elt publishers often run webinars too, and again, these are always advertised on whichever social media platform you happen to use. The problem is that there are so many opportunities around, it is necessary to control the information overload and decide which webinars to attend.
5. Online courses
In January and February the Electronic Village Online (EVO) offers free 5-week courses on a variety of topics of interest. This is CPD of very high quality, with an option to become a Webhead at the end of the programme. The Webheads run a CPD workshop every Sunday throughout the year, as well as having a Yahoo group, Wiki and a Ning.
There are also programmes which lead to CPD such as the CertICT or CertIBET, but these are an expensive option when money is limited.
There are journals where a subscription is necessary, such as ETP, MET and the ELTjournal. Signing up to the digital edition of ELgazette is free and there are many other online journals which do not cost anything.
ELTchat has a series of CPD podcasts available, http://t.co/OfBOH9W3hX
It is also worth looking in the i-tunes U collection for Open University podcasts. Just put English Language teaching into the search bar and it offers some interesting material.
How do you manage the sheer amount of material coming in your direction?
It would easily be possible to spend one’s day reading blogs or catching up with favourite articles. As most of us have a job to do as well, this means that we miss out on information, or would need to spend every spare minute glued to our internet access.
@theteacherjames suggested that you need to develop an understanding of what is relevant and useful to you, and what isn’t. It takes time to develop your own filters and become selective. Skimming what is available is fine, if you have the time to spare, but the key word must be ‘prioritise’!
A simple way to set aside material to read at a later time is to favourite it on twitter. It is then saved awaiting your convenience. James suggested emailing it to yourself- as long as you have a policy of clearing out your account regularly. @joannacre suggested flagging the messages to not forget or delete them by mistake.
Personally, I like Google for bookmarking and rationalising things I find and want to keep.
@Marisa_C has been collecting curation tools at the following address http://t.co/TXFBjxNIvJ
@knolinfos offered us a scoop it selection too http://t.co/d7d1g0WX7p
Some useful links
What is a Ning? http://t.co/vIxItYIhfw
IATEFL BESIG Ning http://t.co/BNkY6MgACQ
EFL Classroom 2.0 http://t.co/kBsxfqDfHu
A list of highly recommended Blogs http://chiewpang.blogspot.com
I hope that anyone just starting out will find our discussion helpful and will be pointed in the right direction. Just remember that the ‘experts’ are just teachers like you, who believe in sharing and will welcome you to #ELTchat any Wednesday you care to join in. We don’t mind if you lurk for a while either
This summary was contributed by Sue Annan (@sueannan) on her blog and is reposted here with her kind permission.