My Two Favorite PD Tools Are My Car and Twitter: My Journey Back from Burnout (Thing 22)

In my pre-web 2.0 world Professional Development (PD) could be basically be broken down into three categories:

A teacher writing on a blackboard.

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  • Local Professional Development:

A boring sage-on-the-stage, supposedly “inspirational,” district inservice. My main accomplishment was getting lots of papers graded.

  • Countywide Professional Development Day:

More conference like. Some years great, some years terrible. I got many papers graded.

  • Conferences:

If I wanted to go, I’d have to pay my own way. Also, time away from class not necessarily approved if district didn’t think attendance “fit” with their PD plan.

None of these had much impact on what went on in my classroom. Sadly, I lost interest in gaining inspiration and new ideas for my teaching. I began to do just what my administrator and the state told me to do. My teaching suffered. I couldn’t wait to retire, but I still have 12 years to go. I was becoming the type of teacher that I despised. My love of teaching waned. I learned the technology and programs the school said I hadto and figured out ways to use these for my personal benefit, but that was it.

I became more and more frustrated with the politics of education. NCLB and the State of Michigan no longer seemed to care about anything other than test scores. They had lost the focus on the student. Flexibility gone. Creativity gone. Teach the “programmed” curriculum. My learning disabled students were left to struggle through curriculum that was (and still is) not appropriate for them. I locked myself away from other teachers to avoid the politics. I just wanted to be left alone in my classroom. I was suffering from burn out. I knew something had to change or I might as well quit and go do else.

Then a miracle occurred. I discovered iTunes, podcasts, and Wesley Fryer. I started listening to Wes’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity podcasts. As soon as I began listening, my world began to change. Wes inspired

I'm here for the learning revolution!

Image by Wesley Fryer via Flickr

me to do more. He inspired me to start using technology as something other than a replacement for the typewriter. I began to think and care again. Ideas started sprouting. I began to figure out what I needed to do to become the teacher I wanted to be. The joy of teaching returned. (I hope Wes understands how much he’s improved my teaching and my life. Thanks Wes. Okay, enough with the fangirl stuff.)

I began to seek out more and more resources. I took charge of by PD for the first time in my almost 30 years in education.

I started using my twice a day 40 minute commute to learn from a number of wonderful educators. I’ve become so addicted to my PD in my car. I actually missed commuting over the Christmas break. I just wanted time alone in my car to learn. It has been a long time since I wanted to learn new things. (When I become passionate about something I develop an obsession-like focus. I must master whatever I am doing. It’s been years since that focus was my teaching. Now if the Special Ed paperwork would go away, my world would be idyllic.)

I started signing up for PD opportunities that were offered through the Monroe County Intermediate School District (MCISD), signing up for just about anything that Jim Dornberg presented. He mentioned this 23 Things class to me and I quickly signed up. I didn’t need the carrot of 20 PD hours, but is was a very nice bonus. I just wanted to know more!

This year when the Countywide PD Program arrived in my inbox, I quickly chose to attend Leslie Fisher’s gadgets session. (I’ve always loved gadgets.) In that session she formally introduced me to Twitter and the Professional Learning Community (PLC) that thrives there. I was hooked. During that session, I met Cheryl Lykowski (on Twitter she’s @clykowski) another Monroe County educator and I began to follow her. I also stared following Jim (@jdornberg on Twitter). From there my PLC has exploded. Twitter is an amazing resource to help locate some of the best resources on the web.

So this is my new definition of professional development:

Web 2.0 PD is a personal, flexible way to invigorate both teaching and learning. The learner controls what is learned, when it’s learned, and where it’s learned.

This definition is what I have adopted as my personal philosophy for my own, ongoing PD.

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(What follows is part of the Thing 22 assignment. This stuff didn’t really fit the the rest of the post.)

The main disadvantage is that there is so much material available that it can be difficult to locate and determine the most effective personal development plan. Carefully selecting your colleagues for your PLC is probably the best way to go about this.

As for future PD Offerings: I would love see another class like this offered through the ISD. I found it very helpful. The only thing I would change is to allow the end date to be more open ended. A few of the people taking this class dropped out because they ran out of time. Maybe this could be an continually ongoing PD opportunity.

Also I would think that offerings on each of these and other specific web 2.0 topics (Jim – like those on your Google Doc), would be another way to go. I would love an entire day devoted to face-to-face web 2.0 networking would be great.

Bringing Wesley Fryer in for the Countywide Inservice would be fantastic.

Now on to Thing 23

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Podcasting:Not Just for iPod People – Thing 19

One day I decided began exploring iTunes

iTunes 8

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when I discovered podcasts. Wow! I couldn’t believe all of the free content available.  There was, and still is, a wide variety of categories of audio podcasts.  So, I started listening to

NPR‘s humorous current events quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me on my computer. I was hooked.  I quickly decided that I needed an Mp3 player so that I could listen to podcasts while commuting 40 minutes twice a day. Being married to my cheap, i mean frugal, husband, I wanted to spend as little as possible so I searched and eventually settled on a 2 gig Creative Zen Stone Plus. So far it has worked better than I expected.

This fall I began started looking for more variety in my podcasts.  I started to explore and listen to a number of different educational podcast.  As I began listening to Wes Fryer’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity podcast, I began to get excited about educational technology and teaching again.  Podcasts have become my primary means of Professional Development! Since then I have sampled many different podcasts, and I have a created a page on this blog that lists and reviews podcasts,

Photo of a :en:Creative ZEN Stone. Originally ...

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I have already begun using podcasts of PRI‘s This American Life and NPR’s Driveway Moments podcasts to illustrate different genres.  I also used audiobook podcasts of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other short stories to support my struggling learning disabled readers.  I encourage students to covert all of their written work to spoken text using SpokenText.net to help them edit and revise their written work. This has really improved the revision process.

I have created a few of my own to help my students. I used Audacity to make an audio recording of The Crucible. My students thought it was neat that I was reading The Crucible to them through the computer.  At the end of last semester I used the same technology to record audio versions of the reading selections on the end of trimester Common Assessments that we use as final exams. This really helped to these learning disabled students.

The only problems I have encountered so far have involved technology. First, Audacity is a bit complicated and I need to become more proficient in its use. The second problem involves having access to enough Mp3 players/computers  with headphones/earbuds so that students can listen to the podcasts individually.  I solved the earbuds problem when I discovered that Walmart sold Maxwell earbuds for $1.50 a pair. I bought all that the Canton and Monroe, Mi stores had.  I hope they’ve restocked!

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