A collection of virtual events, social media communities and digital resources to help teachers continue learning and growing in the summer.
By Nancy Penchev
Teachers have been thrust into an online learning event that few anticipated or were quite ready for. Even teachers with experience in online teaching and learning (such as myself!) had many struggles due to the overwhelming nature of the pandemic. As an avid social media user, I have been impressed and grateful for the amazing personal learning network I have found on Twitter and Facebook and how it has supported teachers during this time. Below is a collection of virtual events, social media communities and digital resources to help teachers continue learning and growing in the summer despite social distancing rules and canceled in-person events.
EdCamps and Online Showcases
EdCamp is known for its “unconference” professional development events. There is no set agenda, no pre-planned sessions. Teachers show up and say what they want to learn about and what they want to share. Then, the leaders create a board of sessions. You follow the “rule of two feet” which means if you go to a session and it is not for you, you can go find another one! There are facilitators in the sessions to help lead the session and make sure notes are taken to share with others. I have been to EdCamps all over the state of Florida over the past two years to learn more and make connections with other educators.
As EdCamp has transitioned to offer online events, I was excited to attend an online EdCamp titled “Powerful Learning at Home” recently. I co-facilitated a session on technology tools and connected with teachers across the country as we talked through issues and celebrated successes in our work.
Florida educators are hosting EdCamp Quarantine on June 27, and many other states, such as Kansas and Massachusetts, are hosting virtual EdCamps all summer long. Check out the virtual EdCamp calendar for more!
Other organizations have also rallied around helping teachers and students during this time. PBS stations across the nation have adjusted programming to align with curriculum standards and are providing lesson plans and resources for teachers and families to use during this time. PBS SoCal, for example, has developed a series of educator webinars to help teachers understand how to transition to home-based learning that may include technology, projects, and more.
CUE, an education nonprofit, is offering daily teacher trainings on various topics related to remote teaching. The schedule includes sessions on Microsoft, lesson planning, remote learning ideas, and more.
The Teach Better team continues to host webinars to build teacher’s capabilities in the online teaching world. Experts in the online teaching world have come together to share ideas, planning, and pedagogical content with teachers around the world. Check out their website for a schedule and other resources.
Many educators have fallen in love with Flipgrid during school shutdowns because it allows them to see their students and hear their voices as they explain their thinking. Flipgrid also has amazing free PD opportunities year-round! I attended their first Flipgrid Live event in Minneapolis and again in Orlando in 2019. This year, they are moving to an online event. You can sign up here for free!
Many free online conferences have already happened, and you can watch archived sessions online. Great sessions on tools and teaching are available from the May presentation of MADPD (Making a Difference Professional Development). In July, the EdChange Global conference will take place with presentations from across the world. You can look up the schedule of events like this and find what sessions work best for you!
Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and more educational organizations have opened their doors and invited teachers to share and ask questions during this unprecedented time in education. You can find the organization for your subject area or grade level and start making connections to help you learn and grow.
Many teachers and administration leaders have stepped up to share their resources with others for free during this time as well.
Author Catlin Tucker is a part of my learning experiences year-round. She has great content for blended learning (an approach that combines online learning with in-classroom experiences) and small group instruction, which has become invaluable during the time of home-based learning. One of her recent posts discusses using video conferencing in different ways to help students. I highly recommend digging into her resources and building your understanding of blended learning, as I feel it will be a major part of our future.
Another great follow on Facebook and Twitter is ISTE STEM Award winner David Lockett. Lockett has an amazing array of connections and ideas that he eagerly shares with everyone, including links to NASA, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, grant opportunities, game-based learning, and so much more. Follow him at @DavidJLockett and learn with him as he explores more about education as an Albert Einstein Fellow!
A major help in my classroom planning, before and during the pandemic, has been Chris Woods. You may know his work from his Daily STEM website or podcast. Or maybe you have seen his multiple lists of STEM at home ideas. Chris also produces a DailySTEM newsletter that combines reading and STEM. He shares many resources and amazing ideas created by both Woods and others who share their work with him. Check out @dailySTEM on Twitter.
Jenna Mercury has started a Science vlog with great content and fun ideas for kids. You can find her on Twitter @Science4Us and watch her vlog on Facebook at Sneak in Some Science with Ms. Mercury or on her YouTube channel. Her 15-minute videos cover topics like matter, light, and motion in fun ways.
Social media communities have been a bonus resource for many teachers during this time. Facebook groups have taken off with educators across the globe. A few to check out: Global Educator Collective (127,500 members), Teachers Using Google Suite for Education – GEG Virtual (75,000 members), Social Studies Network (10,100 members), STEM Teachers (31,000 members), Nearpod Educators (12,000 members), and Technology Tips for Techie Teachers (8,100 members). There are groups for different subject areas, grade levels, states, and more. You can find humor, tips, answers to questions, and great ideas!
When this fast track to home-based learning began, I started grabbing every resource I could find and wanted to share with my teachers. We started with a Google Doc, which quickly became overwhelming, so I opened a new page on my website with the resources (and then another, and another). I now have multiple pages dedicated to teacher resources, parent resources, grade and subject level, tool-based pages, and more. Check out my website for more information on home-based learning and more. I have created a few learning challenges for teachers to use and families to enjoy, like Let’s Read S’More, which has a different weekly theme with related reading and activities. I also made a Summer Reading Bingo you can take and modify to work for your community. You can also find maker challenges for early childhood all the way to upper elementary.
Outside of the Formal Education System
Zoos, museums and other organizations are also stepping up to help schools and families.
The New York State Museum is hosting Facebook tours of their collections, including their fire engine collection!
ThingstodoDC.com has hosted virtual scavenger hunts in the Smithsonians.
Scholastic Book Clubs has begun hosting book clubs, author chats, and more. Check their Facebook page for the weekly schedules.
Author Dan Gutman is one of my all-time favorite authors. My students love the Weird School series. He is reading from his books daily on Facebook at 2 p.m. EST.
Everglades National Parks, along with other state and national parks, continues to share lessons including a reality tv styled show about camping in the Everglades.
The Florida Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Explore Live Cams, The Greenville Zoo, and the San Francisco Zoo all have live cams or virtual field trips to help teachers and families expand their learning during the home learning time.
The Kids Should See This is a free collection of more than 4,500 kid-friendly videos, curated for teachers and parents who want to share smarter, more meaningful media in the classroom and at home. TKSST is curated by Rion Nakaya with her 9 and 12-year-old children. Check out their site for great videos and explanations, including an amazing story of how flowers grow.
One of my favorite new follows on Facebook is the Cincinnati Museum Center. They have daily shares with activities for students and adults, not only about their collections but so many other amazing things! You can learn about fashion history, learn to make bird feeders, and about animals! You can submit questions and ideas and learn along with their curators.
During this challenging time of home learning, teachers and the public have rallied to offer support and make sure our kids can continue to learn and grow. My hope is that people continue to look to see how they can help schools and teachers expand their learning, even when we go back to school!
This article was originally published on PBS SoCal’s At-Home Learning initiative.