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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

Virtual Conferences and PLC’S

By Peter DeWitt — April 12, 2012 3 min read
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“As school leaders, we must recognize that no matter what programs we introduce or seek to strengthen, our most important work is to improve the people in our schools.” Todd Whitaker

In the old days if teachers and administrators wanted professional development, they would have to take a day from school and head to an alternate site to get some hands on training....or sit through a speaker who may not be very engaging. Although we still get multiple mailings now, we used to have to wait until a professional development opportunity worth our time showed up in our mailbox. Those days are not as important as they used to be. Good conferences are always worth attending but while educators are waiting for the next great one they can log on and get some quick, authentic PD right away.

With the internet and social networking sites like Twitter, educators can get on demand professional development just by turning on their computer. One of my favorites is Todd Whitaker and I can find him on Twitter and connect which is always an awesome opportunity. Not to mention all of the principals, teachers, writers and researchers who are on there sharing their knowledge as well. This on-site professional development changes the way leaders lead and the way teachers teach. It’s closing the gap between educators and their students who used to think they were twenty years behind. Educators are actually using the 21st century skills they preach about in the classroom!

This brings many benefits to our students. They see us model good teaching practices, and they feel less disconnected from us. There are times when educators and their students share with one another through these same social networking sites and it creates a richer experience for both parties.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC’S)
If you’re on Twitter you already know about PLC’s. If you’re not on Twitter, you should be because there are millions of educators talking to, sharing with, and teaching to their colleagues near and far. There is nothing more powerful than meeting educators across the globe who share the same passion for education that we do.

Many of these colleagues are taking what they learn from one another and instantly using it in the classroom. Even better than that is the fact that their students are becoming pen-pals and are meeting each other through e-mail, classroom Facebook sites and Skype. How great it must be for students to meet peers from across the U.S. and abroad, especially if they have never had the opportunity to travel outside of their own town.

A long time ago, when I was much younger my brother moved to Saudi Arabia. He was an Ex-Pat living abroad for fifteen years. Although he came home once a year, we wanted to stay in contact with him as often as we could. My mom and I would call him and it would cost about $4 a minute. My friend gave us a calling card which knocked it down to $1 a minute. That all seems so long ago now because of the internet!

My brother has since moved to Bahrain and we talk through Skype. When he moved into his new apartment, he walked around with his laptop to show me what his new place looked like. There is nothing better than seeing someone you love live on a screen. It makes it feel as though they are not that far away. These devices are opening up new worlds for educators and their students.

Virtual Conferences
Organizations like the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) are catching on and using the internet to connect with their members from around the world. From May 3rd through the 11th ASCD will be hosting a Whole Child Virtual Conference (WCVC)...and it’s free! Every day, educators can connect with presenters, authors and educators who will provide professional development and no one is required to travel of take a day from school.

Virtual conferences provide the same great professional development without the concerns about being out of the office, classroom or school. Virtual conferences and PLC’s have been a game changer for educators, especially those who work in school districts that lack the necessary funds to send educators to conferences. If you are an educator who is self-driven and want to connect with other educators from around the world, attending virtual conferences and being a part of a PLC is the way to go.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

Peter will be presenting Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students on May 8th from 1:00 - 2:15 p.m EST time at WCVC. The presentation will focus on creating an inclusive school environment for all students.

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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.