I have posted the following entry to the TechLearning blog, but am cross-posting here in case there are still commenting problems there. In that event, please comment here!

For educators living in the northern hemisphere, summer is approaching fast. Today I had an opportunity to visit with about fifteen elementary teachers in a rural Oklahoma school, and the topics I was asked to address were:

  1. Internet Safety
  2. Wikis
  3. Blogs

Less than one-third of the teachers in my presentation had high speed Internet access at their home currently, and none were acquainted with web 2.0 tools and websites. This context provided a formidable and yet inviting challenge, which I can paraphrase as a rhetorical question:

If you could spend just sixty minutes talking with a group of elementary teachers who have not had much prior exposure to blogs, wikis, educator social networks, or other web 2.0 tools, what would you choose to discuss and explore?

A basic challenge for this context is LIMITING the information. There are SO MANY web 2.0 tools and learning possibilities presented by our digital information environment today! I have heard conference keynote speakers start their presentations by asking, “Is anyone overwhelmed by technology and the possibilities it offers? Well hang on, because we’re going to explore even more today!” The presenter then launched into a litany of tools and sites, which likely left attendees feeling even more overwhelmed than they had previously felt.

My goal today with these teachers was NOT to overwhelm them, but rather to invite them to explore some of the ways they could use websites and web 2.0 tools for PERSONAL uses over the summer. I am convinced (along with many others) that as teachers learn to use technology for personal purposes, we are able to better understand the instructional and learning applications of these tools for ourselves. This is a gradual process and takes place at different rates and in different ways for each educator, but I’m convinced this is a constructive path to follow in trying to help teachers learn effective ways to utilize technology for learning.

For today’s after-school presentation, I created a single page handout (available as a PDF) for ten different options teachers could pursue this summer for digitally powered professional development. These options are:

  1. Join a local (state) online learning community.
  2. Learn about wikis and create one.
  3. Create and share digital stories with VoiceThread.
  4. Start using social bookmarking.
  5. Join an online professional learning community like Classroom 2.0, and attend the 2007 K-12 Online Conference.
  6. Share photos with family and friends on Flickr.
  7. Watch and share outstanding videos online.
  8. Videoconference with family and friends using Skype or iChat.
  9. Create and read a customized digital newspaper. (With Google Reader.)
  10. Learn to text message from a patient teenager.

Remembering that this presentation was for an audience of elementary teachers who were not previously acquainted with web 2.0 tools and technologies, are there any topics or tools that you would have substituted for any of those I selected here? (So the list of options was still kept to ten.) This was a fun challenge, and one informed by a workshop I’ve shared previously entitled “Powerful Ingredients for Digitally Interactive Learning.” I did create a wiki page for the teachers which includes links to all the resources we discussed.

We did NOT, in fact, have time in sixty minutes to discuss all these options. We started with VoiceThread, proceeded to talk about wikis, explored the Classroom 2.0 Ning, and wrapped up by watching part of an online video. (Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity in Schools.) Even though we didn’t cover ALL the content I had prepared, I felt good about the time we’d spent together overall. I don’t think the teachers felt overwhelmed, and many of them were enthused by the possibilities they saw for some of these tools (especially VoiceThread) for helping their students safely publish their work online.

I was a bit surprised, however, how many of the teachers expressed fear when I showed them the Classroom 2.0 social network and the ways teachers are and can connect with each other to share ideas and collaborate. The “fear and death” message of social networking has sunk deep into the fabric of educator consciousness, and a proposal to JOIN and USE online social networks for learning strikes many as heresy.

When I have chances like today to visit with teachers who have very limited prior exposure to web 2.0 tools and the powerfully constructive ways they can be used to facilitate student learning, I am simultaneously struck with feelings of frustration as well as optimism. On the one hand, it is frustrating to see how entrenched many classrooms remain today in an isolationist, 19th century paradigm of teacher-directed and textbook-dominated learning. On the other hand, it is exciting to see what amazing opportunities we have to help teachers as well as students take “a great leap forward” into the flat world of 21st century learning and collaboration.

There are many things our schools desperately need, but professional development should figure high on anyone’s wish list for schools. Although our time together today was short, I am glad to have had a chance to cross paths with those Oklahoma educators today. If even one of them goes on to use VoiceThread or another tool we discussed and share it with their own family and/or with their students, then I think my time today was well spent.

Systemic education reform truly is advanced one conversation at a time.

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On this day..

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10 Responses to Summer Professional Development Ideas

  1. Yes, yes and YES! I agree with all of what you’ve said here. Technology IS overwhelming, even for me, and I am completely immersed in it almost 24-7. And professional development must be at the core of everything, but if it’s not done carefully, you just lose people. I really like your “list of things to try” idea. My idea for next year’s PD is to start an afterschool tech club for teachers. I have done this for students this year (MUCH easier than teachers 🙂 and it’s gone well, so I got the idea to try with teachers. I am planning to survey the teachers to find out what they want to learn. I will plan the sessions around their own personal productivity (things like using their digital cameras, or ical or google calendar) and then slip in some social networking ideas and blogs, as I really think teachers should be reading blogs.
    Yesterday I had a great feeling of success when working with a teacher one-on-one. She has come such a long way in her comfort level with tech. She asked about google calendar and I showed her the basics and then watched as she explored and figured it out on her own. My goal for PD is to take more teachers to this level of comfort with technology.

  2. […] Summer Professional Development Ideas » Moving at the Speed of Creativity […]

  3. Wes perhaps post this link for them – got this through Presentation Zen – interesting ‘cut and paste’ animation style – It is an excellent channel that covers
    loads of Web 2.0 apps in a clear and concise manner


    If you want to cut to the chase then here are the highlights

    Social networks in Plain English


    Wikis in Plain English


    Social Bookmarking in Plain English


    RRS Feeds in Plain English


    Pocasting in Plain English


    Photo sharing in Plain English


    Blogging in Plain English

  4. vejraska says:

    I was wondering why you didn’t put something about setting up a reader and reading blogs on your list? Too overwhelming to start with perhpas? I have done some presenting on web 2.0 for beginners recently, but I always wonder myself what to say about where they should start. I use myself as an example, having only been really into the web 2.0 world for about a year. I guess maybe I learn by reading and absorbing information, then I begin participating by commenting, using it with students, etc. But I always had trouble deciding which blogs to recommend to beginning web 2.0 folks, so as not to overwhelm. Any thoughts?

  5. Tucksoon says:


    Hi Wesley, I am Tucksoon from Singapore. Have been reading your edublog and what you have done so far has been amazing. This is my blog entry after reading ‘Summer Professional Development Ideas’, cross posting here for reference.

    As I looked at my school’s recent Internet usage survey, over 90% of my fellow school teachers had high speed Internet access at home. That is much higher than the figure of the rural Oklahoma school. However very few teachers in my school were acquainted with web 2.0 tools and websites based on my observation and conversation with them.

    I am sure some of the teachers have Friendster or Facebook accounts. I am also certain some of them have personal blogs. The problem is, only a handful of teachers are bringing the web technology into the classrooms. Why do I say that?

    There is a blog module in the school LMS. The good and bad news: Children are posting videos, journals and jokes, but in a rather haphazard manner without teachers’ moderation. The really bad news: Only a few teachers made use of it to teach (I must admit I am the only teacher in my school blogging ‘religiously’).

    I am not blaming my fellow teachers. In fact I cannot blame them at all because they are really competent educators. I think this situation can be improved by developing the mindset and skillset of teachers in terms of education technology. In other words, a professional development workshop like what Wesley did would be extremely beneficial!

  6. lhuff says:

    What if you had an entire day–six hours–to spend with a handful of teachers not using Web 2.0 tools? I’m lucky enough to get to do just that in about three weeks. We’re starting a small learning group of teachers to explore 21st Century Learning. Your list is helpful as I’ve been struggling with deciding where to start. I’m going to try to have them create a Google Reader account, subscribe to some other blogs and sites and create a blog of their own. I think, though, that I’ll give them a list of “ten things” like yours, to encourage them to play throughout the summer. We’ll be meeting for another whole day later in the summer and then meeting for one hour per month after school throughout next school year.

    Keep sharing; your work is most helpful.

  7. Not quite the summer but iNet online conference next week


    The third iNet educator online conference in the current series – on the
    topic ‘Personalising Relationships’ – starts next

    week on Monday 12 May at 12.01am ( *UK time ). We have gathered a collection
    of interesting papers, from around the world,

    and look forward to some stimulating online discussions on this important

    Access the live online conference website – after 12.01am on Monday 12 May –
    at: http://www.cybertext.net.au/inet/

    No log in, password or user names are necessary.

    All of the resources sent by education colleagues will be visible on the
    website, from opening time onwards. The message boards

    will be open continuously – day and night – until midnight on Sunday 18 May
    (UK time).

    If you have any education colleagues who you think would like to join us,
    please tell them about this professional event

    but please ask them to register first at:

    Best wishes,

    Debra Brydon

    iNet Online Conference Manager

    Email: brydon@cybertext.net.au

  8. Wesley Fryer says:

    Lisa: I’d use “Powerful Ingredients for Digitally Interactive Learning” as my curriculum I think:


  9. Wesley Fryer says:

    vejraska: I do have a link to Google Reader on the list, and have that as “Create and Use a Customized Digital Newspaper” I think. This can be a good place to start, but can be overwhelming too if it is just an awareness presentation. I think setting up a newsreader account on Google Reader or Bloglines is a GREAT workshop idea, but I think you definitely want to help teachers subscribe to several things on their accounts. If you are working with teachers or faculty who have iPhones or iPod Touches then this would be great to do as well. I didn’t mention this in my Thursday workshop but probably should have at least done so in passing. The entire idea of a digital newspaper that is customized to match one’s interests is VERY powerful as well as important. I think using Oprah’s definition for RSS, “Ready for Some Stories” would be good as well when introducing news readers.

  10. vejraska says:

    Thanks for the reply, and the list. I will be spending a lot of time this summer absorbing everything I have bookmarked from your blog and others! I appreciate the massive amount of time you take to filter and post these great things for our benefit:) I look forward to finally meeting you at NECC f2f 🙂

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