The informal gatherings allow teachers to collaborate and hone specific skills.
Where does a teacher turn to learn how to incorporate technology into her classroom or find innovative ways to teach reluctant readers? For generations of educators, the answer was to head to a big professional development conference that offered general resources. But thanks to the growing popularity of EdCamp, they're increasingly taking advantage of free, grassroots gatherings to organically collaborate and take control of their own learning by building specific skills.
The EdCamp model borrows from the "unconference" structure of BarCamp, participant-driven meetups of tech hackers that began happening around the world in the mid-2000s. In 2010, a group of Philadelphia teachers who had attended a BarCamp decided to create a similar space where their peers could hack the theory and practice of K-12 education.
A social media campaign wants to motivate teachers to make a fresh start in 2012.
New Year's doesn't mark the start of the school calendar for teachers, but that doesn't mean it isn't an opportunity for them to set new professional goals. But going at it alone can be tough. A new collaborative effort, The 30 Goals Challenge, invites educators to become part of a virtual community designed to help them change the way they view their classrooms and students.
Launched two years ago by influential educators Shelly Terrell and Lisa Dabbs, the grassroots effort has drawn 7,000 teacher participants from around the globe. The two founders set small, short-term goals designed to inspire teachers and help them improve their work incrementally. Last year, educators were challenged to make a list of "what you believe about learning," reflect on what an ideal classroom culture would look like, and set a goal to teach digital literacy.
Terrell and Dabbs—who founded two of the most popular education conversations on Twitter, #edchat and #ntchat (new teacher chat)—have long been advocates of the power of social media to connect educators and share best practices. They write posts on their websites about each goal and encourage participants to start their own blogs and do the same. Participants can also discuss the challenge on Twitter using the hashtag #30Goals, upload video reflections about each goal to YouTube, and post updates to the challenge's Facebook page. Although teachers are invited to join the challenge at any point, the formal kickoff will happen in early February.
The real problem isn't recruiting teachers. It's keeping them in the classroom.
The social media platform makes it easy to get instant ideas, links, and resources from a global community of educators.
Teachers are increasingly bringing the real-time communication power of Twitter into the classroom to help students learn. But I've come to the conclusion that it's great for helping teachers learn as well. Twitter has simply become one of the best places for teachers to collaborate, share solutions to common classroom problems, and discuss education policy. In fact, it might just be the best forum teachers have ever had.
As a classroom teacher I remember going across the hall to ask Mr. Sally for tips on getting kids to learn their times tables. His ideas were fine, but what if I'd been able to crowdsource my question to the global community of educators on Twitter? A teacher who engages with other educators on Twitter essentially has a 24/7 open door policy. Type the hashtag #edchat in the search box, and you'll see a real-time stream of discussion about an unlimited number of educational topics. It's pretty clear teachers are collaborating with each other by sharing solutions to their challenges—links to articles, resources and practical ideas: