Saturday, June 04, 2011

Continue Your Learning This Summer - A Guest Post by Mike Soskil

Mike Soskil is a fifth grade teacher, has presented many professional development sessions on educational technology and mathematical concept development, and is the writer of A Teacher’s Life for Me, a blog focused on improving educational practices.

When summer comes, many of the sources of stress that drain your physical and emotional energy during the school year disappear.  Along with having some extra time to do some of the things you love other than teaching, it’s a fantastic time to learn, share, and find new inspiration that will make your classroom more enjoyable for yourself and your students.  So, when you are not taking a little time to enjoy camping in the woods, lounging on a beach somewhere, or whatever it is that you do to relax, here are five ways to continue your learning during the summer:
  1. Participate in a Professional Learning Network (PLN) – Nothing that I have experienced in my career has taught me more or inspired me as much as my PLN.  Whether through collaboration using social networks like Facebook, Plurk, and Twitter, seeing different points of view on the blogs that I follow, interacting with those that follow my blog, or learning through my membership in professional organizations, I am constantly gaining insight as to how to better do my job.  During the summer, all of those resources are still available.  
  2. Read a Book – It’s often hard to find the time to read during the school year.  During the summer, though, I’ve been able to read some great books that helped me grow as a teacher.  If you’re not sure what to read, ask your PLN. I’m sure they’ll have great ideas.  Another option is to join a book group on a site like Goodreads.  Two of the more influential books on education I’ve read are The Element by Sir Ken Robinson and Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen.
  3. Attend and/or Present at a Conference – Educational conferences are fantastic places to both pick up new ideas for your classroom and network with other professionals.  Many take place during the summer months to make it easier for educators to attend.  Presenting is an extremely rewarding experience that often comes with the benefit of a free or reduced registration fee.
  4. Browse Through Bookmarks - During the school year I am flooded with great new websites and web 2.0 tools that are shared by my PLN.  Many I save in my Delicious account and never get the chance to play around with to see if they are useful in my 5th grade classroom.  There’s just not enough time.  Summer is a perfect opportunity to spend some time playing with these tools.  You might discover something you love.
  5. Download Content from iTunes U - Many people don’t realize how much free content is available on iTunes for teachers.  There are over 350,000 free lectures, videos, and films available covering just about every possible topic.  The best part is that you can listen or watch them while you go for a run, garden, lounge by the pool, or even while you stick your feet in the sand on the beach.  

Photo Credit:  www.freedigitalphotos.net / graur razvan ionut  

6 comments:

TracyF said...

What great reminders of the possibilities we have as teachers in the summer! I love my Plurk PLC, and goodreads has been a place to connect with other readers. Wish I were going to ISTE, but it's not in the cards this year. I am attending a more local training, though. Thanks!!

room divider nyc said...

Its really important to keep summer time busy on learning with fun.

loonyhiker said...

Great post! I do #1,2,3 but I need to do better with #4 and 5. This was a great way to improve my learning! Thanks.

Cinda said...

Hi. My name is Cinda. I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently majoring in Secondary Education. I have really enjoyed reading this blog. I believe that PLN’s are great ways to continue learning through the summer. To stay connected with others and to be able to share ideas and possibly concerns for the coming up year is great for teachers. The summer is great period of time for teachers to reflect on the previous year and to gain perspective on what they as educators could improve on. Doing this through a PLN is great because, as you said, you gain insight from other educators who themselves want to improve their teaching techniques.
I really love the idea that you present on attending some sort of conference. It is hard for teachers to leave their students with a substitute during the school year, so being able to attend in the summer would be great. I feel like conversing with other teacher is the best way to learn new methods of teaching, considering these teachers have already put these methods into practice and can really tell you from experience whether or not they are effective in the classroom.

Paige Ellis said...

Hi Mike!

These are great ways to continue learning...not too overwhelming, and seemingly stress free (other than presenting at a conference, but that’s just me!).

There is only so much downtime that I can honestly enjoy, and summer learning offers a great time to catch up on things that caught your attention during the hectic school year.

Thank you for the “Browse through Bookmarks” suggestion. All year long, I consistently bookmark sites of interest or potential use in my classroom, but rarely find the time to revisit. Great suggestion that I look forward to engaging in over the next three weeks.

Paige Ellis
EDM 310
University of South Alabama

Michael Soskil said...

Cinda,
Thanks for your comment. My PLN has undoubtedly been the most influential thing in making me a better teacher over the past few days.

Paige,
Summer can be a great time to learn, as you mention, and also is an important time of renewal for teachers. A bit of relaxation goes a long way! Thanks for your comment!