Being Intentional in Using Web 2.0 Tools to Support Professional Learning

With Digital Learning Day upon us, I’ve been thinking about how we can best tap digital learning to support teacher learning. I don’t want to suggest that we should allow technology tools to define our learning experiences, or let the tools take priority over the information we're attempting to make meaning of.  However, Web 2.0 tools give us the opportunity to amplify the social nature of learning in what can be a very isolating profession, if we are careful to not simply slap new technology onto old and outdated professional development practices.

The difficulty in finding time to explore probably prevents many of us from taking a risk when it comes to making web 2.0 tools a part of our own professional learning. When we do have a bit of time, our tendency is to think in terms of how something might be useful in our classrooms. In fact, it seems we're often surrounded by blogs, magazines articles, and tweets letting us know about "the latest and greatest”  to support classroom practices and student learning.  If only we had the time and resources to support our own professional learning to the same degree!

I am fortunate in my position in the Office of Professional Learning at NCTE to be able to sit alongside and learn from many smart educators who are using free tools to support and enhance teacher learning. I'll mention a few tools I’ve seen in action, to get this conversation started, but I hope you'll consider this not a list but an invitation, and follow up by telling me what web 2.0 tools you have found to be effective in supporting professional learning.

  • Here on the Literacy in Learning Exchange, there is a group (free login required) that came together around common interests in digital literacies. Because of the diverse levels and interests of the participants, I requested to “follow” the group to learn from the processes they used. It was there that I first witnessed the collaborative possibilities of a platform called Lino.  Facilitator Bill Bass invited the group to name their question or interest in a shared space. Lino's free sticky note and canvas service allowed the group members to share, collaborate, and categorize their questions and interests, and to quickly identify common interests among group members. If you are not familiar with Lino, I encourage you to give it a try. Or, take a closer look, if perhaps you've used it for your classroom but hadn’t thought about it as professional learning tool.  You can request to follow this group (from their group page) to see how they use this program, or view a quick demo from the company’s website at  http://en.linoit.com/
  • The second tool I wish to highlight, Wordle, may already be an old favorite for you. It's the way it was recently used to launch a collaborative effort that caught my attention. The Nevada Striving Readers Group invited me to a meeting that was intended to be a kickoff to a 3-year effort across several school districts. The leadership team used Wordle to create images from what were very lengthy grant narratives from each school district to illustrate the commonalities across their work. While it can normally take hours if not days to help people to see intersections in their work and goals, four images from Wordle was all it really took to help these educators across the state of Nevada see how they could work together.  The group realized that despite serving very different populations in their state, they shared more agreements about literacy and how to best serve students than they realized. A special thanks to the group members for being willing to share these examples here.

  • TodaysMeet originally came to my attention when I learned that some elementary teachers were taking it up to use with their classes instead of Twitter. Admittedly, I tend to keep my professional and personal online identities separate. (I know it's naive of me to think I am really doing this!) But for this reason, this tool really appealed to me. The free website allows the teacher to create a room where students can contribute to a discussion thread in 140 characters or less. With options for a transcript and projectors, it offers an additional way of sharing thoughts/reflections during a live event that may result in greater participation, and is a great example of a backchannel for learning.  I saw immediate potential for this tool in professional learning. I’ve set up a test room at http://www.todaysmeet.com/thoughts so you can see the possibilities yourself in one click. This room will be live for one month before I archive it. Stop by and share some thoughts and reflections about this blog post.

I've described a few of my recent discoveries and I'm hoping we can continue the conversation. Web 2.0 tools have a way of tearing down the walls and opening our eyes to what is available to us professionally. Can I ask you to use the Comments feature below to share some examples from your own experience of using Web 2.0 tools for professional learning? Thanks in advance -- I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say!

Topics:
  • Capacity Building: Inquiry Stance, Systemic Support
  • Selected Literacy Topics: Digital Literacies