Lifelong Learning

Oct 18, 2017

Renee Cunningham

I have been bitten by the green eyed monster...envy. The fall is an exciting time for educators as there are lots of professional learning opportunities, continuing the “back to school” buzz and excitement. As I am scrolling my Twitter feed I see posts from several conferences that I have attended in the the past, and while I’m envious of colleagues attending, I’m also greedily reading their posts to soak up their new ideas and learning.

I think being a lifelong learner, and engaging in a growth mindset is invaluable in all fields. I am never content to repeat projects/lessons and am always eagerly searching for new ideas. Just as we would not want a doctor to do a procedure the same way it was done in 1975, as educators we can not be content with “that’s what we’ve always done”. Evolving to meet the needs of students is essential. Luckily there are lots of opportunities for professional learning.

NCFL presentation

I have been so fortunate to present, and attend, a number of professional conferences. This time last year I was in Detroit for the NCFL Summit, an amazing opportunity that united educators of all levels, non-profit leaders and supporters of all kinds all the goal of literacy empowerment. Just a week later I was in North Carolina to present at our state library conference and connect with amazing people in the same role as me to share ideas and build partnerships. Professional organizations in all fields, grade spans, and subject areas have national and state organizations, and most have an annual conference. Some people immediately dismiss conferences as too expensive and impossible to fit into their schedule, but I would challenge this thinking. Many conferences allow free or reduced registration for presenters, and I would venture that nearly everyone lives within driving distance of a professional conference that could be a fun road trip.

ncslma presentation

A trend of the past few years has been Edcamps--the “unconference”. These popular 1 day events, usually held on a Saturday, are completely participant driven. There is no cost to attend, and the agenda is established by attendees that morning. The goal is to unite educators from a local area to share ideas, discuss trends, and make connections. The casual atmosphere of Edcamps makes them a great place to troubleshoot issues and build local partnerships.

edcamp logo

21st century technology allows professional learning to happen everywhere...even on your living room couch! A lot of companies now hold webinars and online trainings, so if your district has a subscription or you’re using one of the many free webtools you have an opportunity to develop your skills. Another emerging trend is ambassador programs in which teachers can use the tools in their classroom, and then share ideas and troubleshoot in a community of other users.

Lastly, no discussion about professional growth would be complete without Twitter! This amazing social media tool is a mecca for sharing ideas, getting questions answered, and connecting with other educators. There is a Twitter chat for nearly every grade, subject level, and school position. Check Participate for a schedule of what chat happens when. Leveraging hashtags can spread your post or question to a broad audience, and you will likely end up with new {virtual} friends.

There are so many opportunities for professional growth available, but ultimately it begins with a desire within. A desire to learn, grow, and WONDER.


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