Traditionally professional development is organized by schools and organizations. However, with the wealth of online opportunities that are available, teachers can expand their own personal professional development as they choose. They can determine what professional development best meets their needs and interests and engage in learning wherever, however and whenever they choose. This essentially ‘flips’ the approach to ‘professional development’. Consequently, PLN means both establishing a Personal Learning Network as well as Professional Learning Network.
What online sources and services are available to support do-it-yourself professional learning?
The foremost website fpr this purpose is the Online Curriculum Center which provides discussion forums, teacher resources, the most recent IB publications for all four IB programmes. There is also a special discussion forum focused on Web 2.0 in the IB classroom where educators share experiences and resources. The OCC is the most important source of professional learning for all IB educators.
However, there are many sources for IB-specific professional learning. These include:
- LinkedIn – specific interest groups and also groups created by the International Baccalaureate and IB schools. The screenshot show 38 results.
- Vimeo videos posted by the International Baccalaureate as well as videos posted on the International Baccalaureate website. Simply search for International Baccalaureate on those websites.
- IB Newsletters and IB World magazine (subscribe)
- IB Professional Development – Search for both IB online and face-to-face workshops
What resources exist beyond those supported by the IB?
In order to engage in professional learning and curate information on a specific topic, most educators simply use a search engine such as Google or Yahoo and enter the keywords that they think will link to desired results. This is to varying degrees successful depending upon:
- effective use of keywords in the search
- ability to use the advanced features in search engines. Advanced search features many times go unnoticed.
- awareness that there are many more search engines than just Google and Yahoo. Simply enter a search for ‘search engine’ to get a list of many other search engines with specific features (i.e. bing, webcrawler and others) or search for subject specific search engines i.e. enter ‘math search engine’.
There are also many other sources that can be searched for topics of professional or personal learning that are essentially “invisible” to search engines. This means that searches must be conducted using the search features within these online services and also by ‘following’ specific persons or topics.
- Pinterest – create and share visual bookmarks which are pinned to collections (boards). The following screenshot shows the collections (boards) from a well known educational technologist, Kathy Schrock.
- Diigo – tag and share websites
- Slideshare – share presentations. Often presentations contain links to resources. For example, Global Collaboration in the Classroom by Julie Lindsay is a presentation with many links that focuses on collaborations between classrooms worldwide.
- YouTube and Vimeo videos relating to IB programmes and specific topics.
- Linkedin – specific interest groups
- Facebook groups and organizations. For example, the IB Theory of Knowledge group.
- Professional organizations that are not IB-specific, but have subject specific professional articles, interest groups and resources. For example, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) and their special interest groups form Professional Learning Networks that are invaluable sources for integrating and implementing technology.
- Joining Nings and wikis were persons with like interests share ideas and resources. These include Classroom 2.0 and the Learning Revolution. The Learning Revolution also maintains a list of free webinars and conference events.
- Online tutorials and training from companies and professional organizations.
Teachers now have many possible ways to engage in professional learning. Statements such as the following demonstrate its recognized importance in some educational communities:
‘…every teacher is expected to have a career-long commitment to professional learning which brings maximum benefit to themselves as practitioners, to children and young people as learners, as well as to their colleagues, the impact on their individual school and across the wider learning community.’