Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Rise of Online Professional Development!

This past weekend (September 6 & 7), CUE and the Learning Revolution Project held the first ever Online Summit Featuring Google for Education. This was a paid online event which used Google Hangouts on Air to host live and recorded keynotes and presentations. In leading up to, during, and after the event, I found the whole thing to be well organized and well managed by an amazing task force!

Over the past year or so, I've noticed an increase in the amount of professional development opportunities occurring online, including EdcampHOME, EdcampONLINE, Connected Educator Month, and the multitude of conferences by the Learning Revolution Project, like the annual Global Education Conference and the 2013 Global STEMx Education Conference. The popularity and the need for such PD is growing quickly. In my opinion, there are 4 reasons why this is happening.

  1. Cheap & Free! Who would be crazy enough to pass up a learning opportunity that is either extremely cheap or, in most cases, completely free!? The Online Summit was only $40 and included a 1 year membership to the CUE organization, and gave attendees access to more than 40 keynotes and presentations, both live and recorded. Conferences organized by the Learning Revolution Project, have always been free!
  2. The Technology Advances Quickly &  is Easier to Use! To have a successful online event, the technology needs to be readily available, easy to set up and use, and must fit the needs of the presenters and attendees. That technology exists today and is quickly becoming main stream. The Online Summit used Google's Hangouts On Air, which is a very popular videoconferencing tool, which allows for live events, but also records straight to Youtube. Learning Revolution conferences utilize Blackboard Collaborate for live sessions and recordings. These technologies are easy to use for both presenter and attendee and are free!
  3. What I Want, When I Want! Another important reason for virtual PD becoming so popular is because it allows educators a choice in how we want to learn and grow. We no longer have to only abide by the choices that our districts and schools make for us. If I want to learn more about Google Apps, I don't have to go and speak with my administration about PD, I can find it quickly and easily on my own. And in most cases, I can access the content on my own time after the online conference is said and done. And the content is usually available indefinitely.  I can also refer back to it over and over again. The experience is very different from attending a physical conference, where you would attend sessions, take some notes, and forget what happened the next day. With online conferences it's always available.
  4. The Driving Force Behind Virtual PD is Passionate Educators! I know that a lot of the paid physical conferences that I attend are organized and led by those with a passion for education, but the conferences can also be expensive. Maybe the cost is due to a need to make a profit, or to pay for the location, or to cover the cost of bringing in presenters. But I love virtual PD, because in most cases, they are led by people who simply and only have a passion for education, for sharing, and for helping teachers learn and grow. That's why I help plan Edcamp Honolulu! Because I just love it! And I know that the people behind other online conferences, like the Online Summit and the upcoming Gaming in Ed conference, love it to. They do it out of love and passion for the profession. And because of this reason, I choose to participate in many of these online professional development opportunities, because I know I'm going to gain so much more from these experiences.
If you haven't yet participated in online professional development, now, more than ever, is the time to start! There are so many great opportunities that exist for those in the education profession and you have so much to gain from them, like me!

Here are just some of the current online PD opportunities:
If you know of any other opportunities, please add them in the comments!

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