This tangent ties in closely with our final grad school prompt of the semester: In what ways has (or can) free virtual PD helped you become a better educator? Free online professional development is an alternative for those who cannot or do not want to shoulder the enormous financial burden of attending a conference, which usually includes not only registration fees but travel, hotel, and car rental costs, as well.
In an EduMatch interview with Tara Linney, she said, "When you connect with others, you build on your own professional practice and grow so much..." While it is fun to meet with other educators at conferences, we can connect just as well though free forms of PD. The Twitter chat I referenced above is just one example. There are hundreds of chats online every week on Twitter, and every educator can find one that relates to what they are doing in the classroom. Even better, each educator has the choice of what chat to participate in, and thus the intrinsic motivation to learn from one of these chats is even greater. I have become a huge fan of Twitter chats because they connect me with like-minded individuals who really want to explore educational topics. By choosing three or four weekly Twitter chats I enhance my own practices through engaging with others, sharing practices and ideas, and incresing my PLN nationally and internationally.
|Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/social-media-3d-render-bubble-2636256/
In a chapter of EduSnap17, Christy Cate and Cathy Wolfe discuss creating new visions in education through Voxer. Voxer is a free walkie-talkie app that allows educators to connect asynchronously. I have used this platform to connect with large groups, such as The Innovator's Mindset book group, and smaller groups, like my graduate school cohort. Like Twitter chats, educators choose which groups to join, and in seeking out their own tribes, they can better their own practices with no cost to them, while at the same time connecting with fantastic educators.
In our final reading of the week, a chapter of EduSnap16, Dr. Nikol Howard and Dr. Sarah Thomas write, "Instead of traditional conferences, where organizers usually serve as gatekeepers and must approve which kind of knowledge can be provided by whom, edcamps work differently. Conversations are the platform for the sharing of information. The key to it all is that edcamps cultivate a space filled with choice and voice. For years, teachers have been told what they need to learn, where the learning will take place, and how they will apply the new knowledge."
|Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gatekeeper_(8633805365).jpg
They bring up two exceptional points here. First, at conferences, we are limited by what the organizers deem the most appropriate sessions and vendors. Free PD like Edcamps allow us to choose what sessions are best and what topics deserve attention. Second, teachers have choice and voice at Edcamps. Too often, excellent educators never get the opportunity to deliver an ISTE keynote or present at a major conference. At Edcamps, however, everyone has the chance to share and to learn, and this is a hallmark of the free PD model.
I love a good conference, but part of being a teacher is being paid just enough to get by. And so I have to be conscious of not only my desire to learn from other educators but also my checking account balance. Fortunately, through Twitter, Voxer, Edcamps, and other forms of free PD, I have been able to connect with exemplary educators and learn on my own timetable and without paying an arm and a leg for the privilege. While I certainly won't stop going to conferences like ISTE, having free options is not only nice but is a necessity for many teachers.