A very dear professional friend of mine (+carmen blyth TheTeacherWhisperer @teacherwhispers) once gave me some excellent advice. After she had taught for many years across the globe, whilst casually swimming along and talking about how I could improve my professional development...she left me with two very profound and eye-opening tips:
1) You must take charge of your own professional development yourself. You are on your own and don't expect anybody to put it on your lap. Do it yourself!
2) Wear great clothes, do your hair, put on a pair of heels and flutter your eyelashes! It's true that this works wonders! Do you look like you're trying to impress anyone?
There comes a time in everybody's career when you feel stuck. You've got so far and don't know where to turn next. I was so inspired by my friends words which were so simple. I knew I could at least manage point 2 very easily, but I pondered on point 1 for a few months. How can I take charge of my own professional development? The kind where I am improving my practice on my own. We all know as teachers that getting out of the classroom and onto a training course is hard and happens rarely. Yes, we may have great systems in place to share practice within our school, but how could I access peers beyond my school?
The answer was simple: THE INTERNET! Online networking.
When talking about twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr with my peers at work, I was surprised to find so many people still not using these networking sites (myself included). At this time in my career, I had still only mastered Facebook and used this only for personal reasons.
I had no professional online identity.
I had started a school blog to help my students communicate their success and achievements to their parents at home and this was my first step. Having spent time in school learning how to create and set up a blog using Blogger, I thought to myself, I can do this for my PD. So I did. Having begun this task, I quickly found myself discovering other teachers doing the same thing. Looking for ways to improve their knowledge and practice online. This small step opened up so many new paths and connections that I can now honestly advice all teachers/professionals to do the same.
Investing in yourself is the best way to achieve success. I was thoroughly excited writing my very first blog post, THE BLOGFOLIO - Have you got one?
What I have learned though on this journey are many peers have either still not discovered these great networks, or know they exist but haven't found the time to explore them.
So, below are my TIPS to help you achieve this goal within your own time. It's easy to do but the most important thing to remember is that you are doing it for yourself, for your own enjoyment and discovery, on your time when it suits you.
I hope you find them useful :)
IGNITE your own professional development - KEY TIPS
1) Create a Google+ account from your own already existing gmail email account. If you don't have one, create one. Enjoy completing your new Google+ profile. Once completed, link with your family and friends and start creating circles for yourself. Once you start following people, they will start following you.
2) Join some Google+ communities that interest you. Are you a teacher by day but a passionate photographer at the weekends? You can find great communities full of people who share your interests. Comment and connect with these people. The more the merrier. The same applies to joining professional communities related to your field too. This is how you start building connections and sharing great practice ideas.
3) Once you feel confident that you feel familiar with Google+ and have started creating connections, start your very own BLOG. My article The BLOGFOLIO - Have you got one? explains the importance of building yourself an online profile and gives you tips on how to do this well. I prefer BLOGGER because it is very easy and completely idiot proof which is good for me! I'm no techy!
4) Start creating posts to share your expertise and ideas with your new peers/connections on Google+. Every time you post, you can automatically share it with all your Google+ followers, circles and communities. It couldn't be easier! Hey presto, you are now officially a blogger/writer and in charge of your PD.
5) From here you can now look into other networking platforms to share your articles and find others. I really love using twitter for this because I can quickly and easily share and follow links with all my followers. You can also still use FACEBOOK for this, but I have found twitter to be easier. Also, share with popular bookmarking sites...
6) Create a LinkedIn account! It seems that everybody who is anyone is on LinkedIn! I haven't quite got to grips with this one myself, but already I can see that it is a huge hub for professionals marketing their CVs. Many employers are now using this platform to hunt for new colleagues/recruits, so create an account here too. Again, you can write message updates with links to your blog so you can use it as another way to share your articles.
7) Use Pinterest to pin great articles, resources that you find online. This excellent platform allows you to collect all of your online pins onto your own pin-board which you can share as well as follow others. One of the best teaching resources I've found that has now become invaluable!
How do you manage all of these account? Where's the time to do this?
9) Update your email signature: Here you should include your blog address and any other links you feel important as your email signature. This way, every time you send an email you are sharing your online profile and increasing your view rates.
10) Enjoy it! It's fun and something you're doing for yourself!
"Expand your mind, challenge yourself, learn more, do more and try more. Get enthusiastic, passionate and excited about the unknown. Try something new, visit new places, dance to the latest beats. Simply get out and give it all and you will never stop growing, smiling and loving life."
How have you improved your professional online network? Share your journey as a comment...
Other related articles that may interest you:
It's the Final Climb...You've nearly reached the summit!
The BLOGFOLIO...have you got one?
Stickiness By +carmen blyth
Have your say - In response to Gove!
The Learning Log - An excellent homework idea!
Teaching Tips - Success Check Points