Sunday, November 18, 2012

10 Ways to Self-Direct Your Professional Development

Recent job action in Ontario has meant that many teachers in the province will only participate in self-directed professional development. For teachers struggling with what to do on these self-directed professional development days here are some options.

  1. Learn a New Skill

    Have you ever said to yourself "I wish I had time to learn how to..."? Use your professional development time to explore some of these avenues. Perhaps you want to learn how to use the photocopier (more effectively), a data projector, a document camera or a video camera. Or maybe you want to use images and videos in your lessons, learn to sketch (so that you can make better diagrams) or to program. Take some time to dive in and start learning.

  2. Redesign Your Learning Space

    Perhaps you're not happy with the way your classroom is laid out. Why not take some time to look at the classroom from a student's perspective? How can the decor be improved? Can the seating be arranged in a better way? Is there anything that can be done to enhance the learning opportunities for your students?

  3. Learn How to Use a Piece of Software

    There is a ton of software out there that simplifies our lives. The trouble is that it's not helpful if we don't know how to use it. Why not spend some time learning how to use a spreadsheet; edit photos, math equations, chemical equations; or to work collaboratively using tools like Google Drive or Evernote. The possibilities seem endless.

  4. 'Do' Your Subject

    If you teach math, find some interesting problems to work on. If you teach history why not visit a local museum or historical site to learn about the history in your area, which you can then share with your students. If you teach science do an experiment. Put yourself in a student's position and do some learning in your subject area.

  5. Read an Article

    Find a current article dealing with your subject area (or any other area for that matter). This allows you to keep up to date and you may find something that piques your curiosity and leads to further research along the same lines. Share your findings with your students. They will be excited to hear that you are learning along with them.

  6. Collaborate With Others

    Find a teacher or group of teachers to work with at your school (or within your district). Teachers may be in the same department if you want to focus on developing project ideas, assessment ideas, etc. Perhaps more interesting would be to work with teachers from other departments to work on skills that are transferable or to help each other see things from a new perspective.

  7. Read Blogs

    Spend some time finding education related blogs that are of interest to you. There are literally thousands of them out there. Read, comment and share the blogs that you find. Subscribe to the blogs and organize them in a feed reader such as Google Reader. If you're feeling ambitious, why not start your own blog.

  8. Develop Your Professional Learning Network

    Spend some time on your social network of choice (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) making connections to other educators, industry professionals, former students or anyone else that may be relevant to your teaching. Learn from them and contribute to the conversation.

  9. Attend a Virtual Conference

    Many organizations now stream portions of their conferences or conferences in their entirety. Spend some time as a participant in one of these conferences. If you can't find a conference that is happening when you want to participate you can often find recordings of past conferences. There is so much good material out there.

  10. Tinker

    Play around with things. Find out how things work. Take something apart. Build something. You will learn a lot and in the process you may be able to make something very useful for yourself or your class.

What will you be doing with your self-directed professional development time?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Poster Making

I've written about my poorly decorated room in the past. I also wrote last time about how there was a wizard theme in my room during multiple periods in one day. On advice from many of you and from teachers at school I decided to run with the wizard idea. I made up some wizard themed posters.  But I wasn't looking for normal sized posters. I wanted to go all out. So here's what I did.

I found images from various wizard themed books/movies. Then I used some imagine editing software (I used Gimp) to add a motivational quote from the book/movie to each poster. The posters looked good on the screen but I knew that a single sheet of paper wasn't going to be big enough. Time to find some software to upsize my posters. I looked at Rasterbator (insert your own crude joke here), but it didn't look straight forward on a Mac. I also found Block Poster which is nice because it's done online so there's no need for an installation. I wasn't sure I wanted my images uploaded to a server and my Internet connection isn't terribly fast so I kept looking. Eventually I came across PosteRazor. It's an open source, cross platform application that is easy to use and fit the bill. I made my posters, printed them, put them together and hung them up.

The most challenging part of this whole process for me was the cutting and glueing. I not an arts and craft person. When someone says cutting and pasting I'm more likely to think of Ctrl-x and Ctrl-v than scissors and glue. Since it took a while to do the cutting and pasting, the posters went up over a span of weeks. My students seemed to enjoy them going up little by litte and looked forward to seeing what the next poster might be. Some are even asking for more posters. The entire process was straight forward and now my room looks a little better with images that are about 1 metre by 1 metre. The posters might even make a good math questions for my grade nines when we get to the geometry section of the course.

Here are the quotes I used. Can you guess the book or movie?

1. "This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking party."         -Not overly motivational, but it was fitting
2. "Do or do not, there is not try."
3. ""It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
4. "I am looking for someone to share in an adventure I am planning...All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you."