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Summer is a great time for self-paced learning

4 min read

Voice of the Educator

SmartBlog on Education will highlight summer learning and enrichment for educators during June. In this post, English teacher Starr Sackstein shares some of her favorite summer professional development events and resources. 

No longer confined to the inside of a classroom, now the world is the learning canvas. Teachers from all over the country use the summer to extend their learning and relax as they recharge and prepare for the next year.

With a variety of learning opportunities both face-to-face and virtual, teachers can plan a plethora of experiences to change their practice and network with folks who can become a vital support system in the future.

Edcamps and other Edcamp style conferences

If you haven’t tried an edcamp yet, no better time than the summer. These “unconference” meet ups, seek to put the learning in the educators’ hands, trusting that when you put a room full of teachers together, people will make the most of that time.

Attendance is free to all who come and the schedule of sessions is determined on the day based on the needs of the attendees. Whether participating as a session leader or participant, the opportunity to share ideas is abundant.

Because of the laid back nature of the planning, teachers are free to “let their feet do the judging” of the success. No one is expected to stay in a space that isn’t working for them; attendees are encouraged to go where they need to be, independently making decisions.

After you’ve attended an edcamp it is recommended that you reflect on the experience, either micro-blogging on Twitter and sharing as you go or by writing about it your experience on your own blog to share the learning and more importantly how you plan on applying it in the future.

Face to face national conferences

If edcamps aren’t your thing, and you’d like something a little more organized, there are many learning opportunities like ISTE2015 or EmpowerED conferences, planned by major organizations, providing an impressive line-up of educational thought leaders to share information on the most important trends in education.

Attendees pay to go to these conferences, but expect to bring back new ideas for practice. They are more structured in their approaches to sharing information; schedules are pre-prepared. Sometimes schools will even pick up the cost of attendance.

So if you read a great book that has inspired you to try something new, check out the programs of these major conferences and see if your favorite educational leaders are in attendance. Sometimes the informal face time can be more valuable than the sessions.

Twitter, online conferences and books

Not everyone can afford to travel to conferences, so perhaps virtual conferences operated by teachers are a better alternative. Teachers can attend live webinars addressing particular skills or topics they are interested in learning more about.

Want something less formal even than that? Consider participating in a Twitter chat for an hour on any given day or night. There is a formal list of current chats here: Twitter chats address all kinds of topics and some are regionally located. New topics every week allow you to interact and get ideas from educators from around the world. They have something for everyone.

In addition to great online chats, teachers can find great books that address their individual needs. Want to learn about becoming connected, there’s a book for that, an entire series (Corwin Connected Educator Series). Want to give up grades or change assessment, there’s a book for that. Depending on what you want to accomplish, there are great lists of teacher reading to consider at your leisure.

Just because teachers aren’t in school, doesn’t mean the learning has to end. Get invigorated, network and grow to get ready for the fall.

What will you do to gear up for next year? Please share.

Starr Sackstein currently works at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, N.Y., as a high-school English and journalism teacher. She is the author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective and Blogging for Educators . She blogs for Education Week Teacher on “Work in Progress” in addition to her personal blog where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #jerdchat and #sunchat and contributes to #NYedChat. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education, throwing out grades and BYOD, helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared. Follow her @MsSackstein on Twitter.

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