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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Indiana State Education Dept = Awesome E-Learning Conferences

By Peter DeWitt — June 20, 2013 3 min read

We ALL need professional development. I don’t care how good you are...you should always have the goal of continuous improvement. One way to find professional development is through social networking outlets like Twitter.

First and foremost, if you’re not on Twitter...you should be.

Seriously, you are missing out on some of the best educators to add to your PLN. After being on Twitter for almost two years, when I meet with my PLN in real-life, it’s like a reunion. Yes, it’s really that good if you’re using it the right way. It’s fast and always-evolving.

Educators looking for the most current information and engaging educational practices will not find a better outlet than Twitter. That is, of course, unless you do not know what you are looking for in the first place. Take an hour to set up an account and begin finding friends and people you admire. Follow the feed and you will never regret joining. Try Cybraryman’s website for step by step directions.

One of the reasons I get on Twitter is to get good ideas for blogs and great practices to use as a principal. I find the best articles to send out to staff. It doesn’t take the place of a good conference but we all lack the money to go to expensive conferences. Please! The flight and cost of a carry-on can leave you broke before you ever get to your destination!

As I spend more time on Twitter I began to learn more about edcamps and e-conferences. Edcamps and e-conferences are cheaper than your average conference. They are a bit less formal and offer the opportunity for many educators to share their knowledge. They are super-interactive and are just as much about camaraderie as they are about learning.

Indiana State Education Department Summer Series
Recently, as I was cruising through my Twitter feed looking for inspiration, and noticed my friend Chris Wejr was Tweeting from a conference in Indiana. He was one of the keynote speakers. Chris was using #elwave and I was immediately intrigued. Typically, if Chris is talking about something, I find it interesting so I jumped on the site to find out more information.

I was really blown away...

The Indiana Education Department is offering a plethora of opportunities for educators in their state (and others) to learn from some of the best educators out there. If you click on this link, you will notice it says, “8,000 educators, 17 different e-conferences and 1 great state.” I have to admit...I was kind of jealous. I wish my state education department spent their time putting together these types of events!

They have a list of on-line webinars plus the opportunity for educators to see keynote speakers and presenters such as Robert Marzano, Will Richardson, George Couros, Alec Couros, Dean Shareski, Yong Zhao, Eric Sheninger and Heidi Hayes Jacobs. However, there are many other speakers to choose from as well.

Attendees can learn about flipping classrooms, being connected, negotiating Twitter and all things educational technology. It’s a great opportunity to learn over the summer and bring back some really great ideas when the school year begins. Unlike most conferences though, you can reach out to these presenters after the conference to get more information.

And the conferences mostly take place in high schools! That is a symbolic way to bring learning back where it belongs...in the school!

State Education Departments Should Prioritize!
The Indiana State Education Department has clearly done some proactive thinking to put all of this together. It’s something that all state education departments should be offering to their educators. After all, the job of state education departments should be to offer great professional development opportunities. Some states only offer websites for professional development!

The federal government has offered competitive grants through Race to the Top (RTTT) and the money that states receive could clearly go to providing professional development to staff. What’s great about Indiana State Ed is that they are focusing on integration of technology and the benefits of being connected at the same time they are building a statewide PLN.

If you live in or near Indiana and have access to any of these conferences, you are crazy to not take the opportunity to go to at least one!

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.