$5.69 Professional Development

Welcome to the online discussion about Professional Development on a shoestring budget! When reflecting on Rehab Rajab’s article I thought a lot about the ways in which I participate in low cost professional development activities. I have to admit although I don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In account (shocking – right?!) I do visit blogs, wikis, watch online webinars, and, most important, I value my Professional Learning Community. Rehab stated it best: “A PLN is . . . everyone and everything around us that we learn from.” With that definition in mind I’d like to describe a recent conversation I had with a colleague.

On a recent trip to Boston I had the opportunity to carpool with a colleague of mine to a workshop we were both attending. She picked me up, I treated for two coffees and two donuts ($5.69), and we were on our way. The conversation started by catching up on just about everything–life, kids, our careers, shopping, my daughter’s Spanish III class, her daughter’s duel language school, and eventually academic language. Of course academic language fits in there nicely! She told me about professional development she had recently organized within her district, who the facilitators were, what they did and what the participants got out of the sessions. She even offered to share the handouts and PowerPoint presentations with me.

We really connected on several points that morning: the need for highly engaging relevant professional development; experts who are approachable, personable, and willing to mentor our generation of educator-advocates; and having a genuine desire to improve the lives of English learners.  That was the best $5.69 I’ve spent in a long time! I recently received an email from her about a handout that she wasn’t able to receive from our workshop. I quickly emailed the lead presenter and forwarded the handout to her. She replied  . . . Thanks Ayanna :-)

I really value my PLC. Can you tell me about yours?

About Ayanna Cooper

Ayanna Cooper
Ayanna Cooper, Ed.D. is an independent educational consultant who specializes in English language teaching, learning and assessment. Dr. Cooper works closely with educators in various states and has taught graduate level courses focused on teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners. In 2009 she was selected as a TESOL Leadership Mentoring Award Recipient and a 2010 ASCD Emerging Leader. She is currently serving a second term on the TESOL Professional Development Standing Committee and is a past president of Georgia TESOL.
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9 Responses to $5.69 Professional Development

  1. Elia says:

    Hi all,
    I just came back today from a really good Professional Development day. As well as Ayanna, I had the opportunity to carpool with three ESOL colleagues that I don’t get to see very much. Indeed, sometimes conferences and workshops can be very expensive. On our way to the workshop, we exchange ideas, strategies, websites, and talked about school issues, challenges, parents and students. The hour and a half that we rode was very fruitful. I also have PLC’s at my school that supports our need to learn and grow professionally, but I feel a little isolated if I don’t meet with my ESOL colleagues to talk about what is important to us and our ELL’s.
    What are auditing courses?

  2. Christina Quartararo says:

    One thing I have become increasingly sensitive to is that there still remain many people who are technology-phobic (or even borderline anti-technology) who are still excellent teachers that deserve and want good PD. Trying to get them to embrace the digital tools that are available to us and very much a part of the world our students inhabit is a big challenge. Creating a PLN in the way the article discusses *is* simple–if you are already comfortable with technology. I do not think any of the tools mentioned are difficult to use, but require buy-in from faculty. To this end, I think there are lots of ways to engage faculty who are reticent about using these tools. The author mentions webinars and podcasts–there are many universities that host lectures and workshops that are posted on YouTube. In the past, I’ve gathered instructors together to watch one of these lectures, and then have a face-to-face discussion about what we’ve seen. It’s a great “safe” way to introduce people to what is available in the virtual world.

    • Ayanna Cooper Ayanna says:

      Hi Christina,

      I just received an email about a free Neuroscience webinar, \”What Teachers Don\’t Know About Neuroscience\”. Here\’s the link: http://www.mybrainware.com/webinars

      I agree with you. Everyone may not be comfortable with using advanced technology as part of PD. I did not have a smartboard when I taught and have not been out of the classroom that long!
      For those who enjoy face-to-face interaction, how about auditing a course for low / no cost PD? Has anyone had experience with auditing courses?

      Ayanna

      • Christina Quartararo says:

        Thanks for the webinar recommendation, Ayanna. Auditing is an interesting idea, too. Not always accessible to faculty, depending on their status at the University, but something I think I’ll look into.

        Christina

  3. Jayme Adelson-Goldstein says:

    PLN’s are a perfect fit for a constructivist, MI-aware, androgogy-loving, 21st century adult learner! I especially appreciated Rehab’s suggestions for ways to “harness” the information we receive from our various network resources through aggregators. My trick for managing the mountain of post digests that I receive from the list servs to which I subscribe is to open and then “house” the posts in files on my desktop mail server. That way I have an archive of searchable material I can use when I need to research or explore a particular area (and even when I’m without Internet. The key is marking the digests as read before putting them in the file.)
    The nature of my work requires me to spend long periods of time “on the road” and yet I’m very much an interpersonal learner so I look for ways to move beyond the post-respond model. Collaborating in the cloud via Google Docs (soon to be Google Drive) has been a wonderful asynchronous and synchronous tool and so has Moodle chat (where so many electronic Communities of Practice have chosen to reside.)
    It will soon be evident (thanks to this article and our discussion) that there’s more PD on a shoestring available than we can absorb. In dealing with the plethora of learning opportunities, it’s appropriate (and great fun!) to explore what’s available, but I would strongly advise setting a specific PD goal and time frame so that you can insure effective professional development. Of course, the different elements of our PLN (the tweet, the blog, the list-serv, the eCoP) can serve us in different ways, but it’s important to be aware that 21st century learning is not about who has the most information, but rather how we can organize, synthesize and make meaning out of all the information that we can access.

  4. Mira Malupa-Kim says:

    “Professional Development on a shoestring budget” is an eye-opener indeed! Many of us associate professional development with participating in workshops, attending conferences, and others; this is why we often hear teachers say, “I don’t have time” , “I’d rather spend the weekend with my family”, or “I’m tired”. Well, opportunities for (low-cost) professional development are out there— only if we are willing to seek them! I also believe educational institutions/ organizations play a significant role in encouraging and supporting educators in this endeavor.

    When I was supervising a group of language teachers, one of the first things I established was our own PLC. Even though we had professional development opportunities within the institution, I felt that building relationships within my team was essential as well as building confidence to share and interact with colleagues– Doreen mentioned in her post about not having the confidence to join listservs or online interests groups: my team felt the same way. Creating a PLC made weekly meetings more interesting and productive. My team and I first agreed on a set of rules: let’s face it, teachers could get competitive and unsupportive of each others’ ideas! Not in our PLC.

    Another thing I discovered recently is the gmail hangout! I have recently connected with former colleagues, both overseas and domestic, via video chat. Nothing beats face-to-face (in real) time, but it is the next best thing. My colleagues and I talked about what they were up to, shared favorite websites and apps and, of course, teaching!
    We instruct our ESL students to write an English journal—journaling works for us, too! One of the things I wish I had kept on doing was a teaching journal. I have always encouraged my teacher-trainees to keep a record of what worked and what didn’t work AND what they have learned from their students and co-teachers. In a year’s time, they have a record of their own learning and progress—and it’s “share-ready”, too! Low cost? Priceless.

  5. Doreen Ewert says:

    I truly resonate with Rehab and Ayanna. We are in a time where it is absolutely essential to find creative and inexpensive ways to keep up in our field. Although I highly value the face-to-face professional development of conferences and conversations over tea, I have added webinars and blogs to my PD toolbox. However, I remember when I was newer to the field, the personal relationships had not been well-established yet and (although I didn’t have the options of blogs and wikis then) I didn’t have the confident to join listservs or online interest groups. I’m sure I missed out on a lot of PD opportunities during that time. More recently, though, I have found a model that might provide a way for newcomers to the field to avoid such problems. It’s actually my students who motivated the activity based on a classroom assignment I had required. On several occasions, I have used an email exchange as an assignment for graduate students in a methods course in which one student forwards a question to the class to which everyone responds.The initiating student then summarizes all the responses and sends it out to everyone. On more than one occasions, students in the class have asked whether we could continue this kind of exchange after the course was over as a means to continue their professional development with others they have come to know and without any costs other than their own time and interest. Some groups really gel and can carry this one for a while and others don’t, but I see it as a way to build confidence for participating in virtual communities. My students in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 are just starting up their own “Teacher’s Lounge” on WordPress. I think it’s a great blend of personal connections and virtual space for professional development.

  6. Ayanna Cooper Ayanna Cooper says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Can you tell me how to access the group? When will it become available? I have never attend a CALL session but have it on my “to do” list.

    Thanks!
    Ayanna

  7. One of the best PLNs around is sponsored by the CALL IS. It’s the Electronic Village Online, and it’s free to anyone with an Internet connection. We’ve had many people return annually in Jan-Feb to renew online friendships and learn about the latest techniques, whether in mobile learning, gamification, teaching as mentoring, digital story-telling, drama in the classroom, etc., etc.

    We’re just getting started with proposals for this coming round of online sessions, but we hope everyone will join in. Did I mention it’s free? But for once, you get a lot more than you pay for. This is the best of volunteerism, and sessions are generally conducted in a hands-on, constructivist learning environment. You’ll meet people from all over the world, and you’ll find a community of practice that is supportive of your work, whether global or local.

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