Take Ownership of Your Professional Development

When many teachers visualize “professional development” they likely envision a regularly scheduled event that shows a group of teachers being guided through the implementation of a specific initiative, strategy, or framework.

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This may also include small group meetings like PLCs where teachers are scheduled a time to collaboratively analyze data and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction in their classroom.

This type of professional development certainly has its place in schools. However, it is often criticized for not meeting the individual needs of teachers.

As educators, we recognize the importance of differentiating in our classrooms, but we also know how challenging this can be.  Consider the challenge it is for an administrative team to lead an organized professional development that addresses the needs of every staff member in its building.

While participating in building and district professional development is important, as educators, we should consider additional ways to take ownership of our own professional development to create relevant and useful learning opportunities.

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This does NOT mean a teacher should plan to spend every waking hour researching the newest strategy or looking for the latest technology app… a healthy balance of professional and personal life is very necessary. Be sure to find the balance.

I am fortunate to work in a district that gives its teachers many opportunities to pursue the learning they want or need and to develop these professional skills through conferences, books studies, and district organized courses (Read more about this: CBU allows teachers to sharpens skills).

However, there are many opportunities for teachers to seek personalized professional development that meets their needs.

Whether you can dedicate 1 hour a week or 15 minutes a day, there is a way to take ownership of your professional development.

1. Create a Personal Learning Community using Social Media 

Connecting with other educators on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or other platforms can give you an opportunity to learn from others who are faced with the same challenges as you on a daily basis. While you are catching up on the latest pictures posted by your friends and family, you might also come across a shared blog post about a great classroom management strategy. Delve into the article right then or save it for later when you have some downtime or are ready to try it! 

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Recently, I’ve really enjoyed reading articles by Edutopia on Facebook and have been finding lots of great things through #edtech and #edchat on Twitter.

2. Attend Education Conferences

Need some new ideas or inspiration? Conferences can be the best place to listen to what is working for other educators and consider ways to make it happen in your classroom! Even if your school doesn’t have a budget to send you across the country, search for local conferences on whatever interests you… technology? content? educational leadership? Conferences can be an awesome place to connect with others and get a new perspective! 

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I have had great experiences at NCTE and ISTE conferences!

3. Find a Book

Sometimes reading a new perspective (or being reminded of great ideas from the past) can be the inspiration a teacher needs to recharge. Ask your colleagues or administration for a reading suggestion and challenge yourself to take something away from the book. It can be even more powerful to read it with colleagues and collaborate on how to integrate it into your instruction. (Recently, I gained many ideas and insights from Making Thinking Visible & Guided Instruction.)

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I like to browse the ASCD Reading List to find a new resource or idea!

4. Find Free Online Training

You can find free inspiration, courses, and materials all over the internet. Follow some education blogs, search for free materials, or find some tutorials on YouTube. 

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Right now I am loving the Google for Education Training that I am working on!

Think of your professional development as a state of mind, not an event. 

 

Read more about taking ownership of your professional development:

Keep the conversation going…

  • How do you take ownership of your own professional development?
  • What hashtags do you follow to stay recharged and fresh in the classroom?
  • What challenges are there when managing your own professional development?

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter!

Giving Students Feedback with Google Apps

It is important that students receive quality feedback in a timely manner in order for it to be useful in improving their skills or understanding.

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If it takes two weeks for a student to receive feedback on an assignment… they have likely moved past the point of it being useful to them. This is not timely. 

As often as we do it, writing “Good Job!” or “Needs Work…” on an assignment does not give students specific enough information to advance their understanding or improve their skills. This is not quality. 

 

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Must be TIMELY and QUALITY

 

Students need specific feedback on things they are doing well and places where they can improve… and they need them in a time frame which allows them to make these improvements.

However, especially at the secondary level, when you see 100+ students a day, this can be difficult for teachers to manage. 

 

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So how do we manage giving timely and quality feedback to students?

 

Here are some ways to use Google Apps to give timely and quality feedback to students:

1. Email feedback to students as they give presentations

Try setting up an email template for your feedback prior to students giving their presentations– this could include a rubric that you mark or something as simple as: “Two things you did well were…” and “Something to think about for next time is…”  Then you are able to just focus on entering the individual feedback for students as you fill in the template. You can complete this as students give their presentation or as the next student is setting up. When you are finished, hit “send” and students have their feedback!

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Use an email template to be efficient with your time!

2. Use the “comment” feature -one time

While sometimes necessary, it can feel tedious to leave MANY comments all over on students’ work… it probably appears somewhat overwhelming to them as well. When possible, consider leaving one detailed and quality comment towards the top of their Google Document or Google Slides. Again you can use a template that you copy into each student’s comment and individualize it based on the student’s performance or revision needs.

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Give one comment that covers the main skills students need on the assignment.

3. Copy and paste a rubric -color code it

Try pasting your assignment rubric at the bottom of a student’s Google Document — this can also be done on Google Slides by adding a “new slide” to the end of a presentation and pasting the rubric there. You can highlight (or change the table cell color) where a student falls in the different areas of evaluation. I usually leave a spot for some specific comments or feedback as well.

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Paste in your rubric with color coding to give student specific areas to work on.

4.  Give more feedback to small groups

If you are really struggling with managing the amount of feedback you need to give, consider giving more group feedback. You can do this in any of the ways suggested previously with emails, comments, or rubrics. This way students receive feedback promptly and are able to discuss as a group ways to improve. Note that it is important to establish a classroom atmosphere where students are comfortable with one another and know how to productively work together.

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For all of these strategies, it is important that you prepare students by helping them to understand that feedback is a positive thing and that it helps them to improve.

Remind students to embrace a growth mindset by considering feedback and always striving to do better. 

Read more about giving timely and quality feedback:

Read more about using Google Apps for Education:

Keep the conversation going…

  • How do you manage giving students timely and quality feedback?
  • What strategies for giving feedback have worked or not worked you?
  • What problems do you see with giving students digital feedback?

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter!

 

Keeping the Conversation Going: The Learning in Teaching Blog

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I can’t believe it has been nearly two years since I’ve written about beginning the journey
of graduate work through Morningside College. It has truly been a challenging and rewarding experience.

The work I have done in my master’s program has provided me with skills that have proven to be invaluable in my teaching career. By learning more about collaboration and leadership, I have been able to transform my role as a teacher-leader in my building and district. 

This program has taught me to be a more reflective, purposeful, and focused teacher. It has helped me to encompass the growth mindset both when considering my students as learners and myself as an educator. I am able to model for my students the mindset that I wish them to approach learning with. With this mindset, comes the insatiable hunger to learn more and continue to improve as a teacher.

While I expected to learn an extensive amount about myself as a teacher and a learner, I was surprised to find that my master’s program taught me a lot about myself as a person. My confidence and self-worth have been highly impacted by the work I have done in this program. While the idea of a growth mindset has carried into the lessons I teach my students, it has so strongly centered itself in the way I live my life. As my study in this program is coming to a close, for the first time in my life I have found myself thinking: What else am I capable of?

Where I am going… Where WE are going…

The work from my master’s program has instilled in my mind so many ideas, concerns,
and questions about education. While I have to admit I am looking forward to a little more free time, I do not want the conversations about education to end! The most powerful learning occurred for me when communicating and collaborating with my classmates …which brings me to the Learning in Teaching blog.

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My hope for this blog is that it will keep the conversation going. I want this blog to create more of these conversations through my ideas, concerns, and questions to an audience of brilliant people and educators that have ideas, concerns and questions of their own. We are all in this together and in a time where collaboration and communication are vital… we must make that happen. The power of collaborative educators is a force to be reckoned with… let the voices be heard!

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