We must all keep on striving to learn — to make us better in our jobs, for the sheer pleasure of acquiring new knowledge, and to reduce the possibility of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s. (That’s not a flippant comment, by the way. Having seen what it does to the sufferer and their family and friends, I regard minimising the likelihood of getting dementia as quite important.)
I know it’s hard to find time to learn though. When I was a schoolteacher, work took up all my ‘good’ time until I decided to limit the hours I spent on it to something more reasonable. So here are 14 suggestions, some of which ought to be relatively easy to take advantage of, at least to some extent. When writing the list I had in mind teachers of Computing or ICT co-ordinators, but for the most part the list is pretty generic.
Low hanging fruit
Read about technology in different magazines
I read articles about programming and teaching programming, and articles about applications that work well in the classroom, and the odd computing or technology magazine. However, I find it interesting to read about technology in magazines that are not mainly about that subject. For example, I’ve come across some really interesting articles in New Scientist, Foreign Affairs and even Philosophy Now. Try it, if you haven’t already, because you’ll often get a completely different perspective from the usual sort.
Reading different magazines even without the technology aspect
I think the brain is like a muscle. You wouldn’t keep on doing exactly the same exercises every day, or you’d just get fatigue in some areas of your body. In the same way, I think it’s useful to make a concerted effort to read stuff other than technology. For example, I read The New York Review of Books, because I get to find out about all sorts of things I didn’t know about, or didn’t know I’d be interested in. When I’m out and about, I usually browse through the magazines section of newsagents, looking at periodicals about history, say, or politics.
Listen to some great podcasts…
I’m sure you already do this, but I thought I’d mention that I recently wrote an article about 8 really useful podcasts for primary (elementary) school teachers.
… and watch some great video channels
There’s another list of podcasts (10 this time) and 10 video channels that I wrote for secondary (high) school teachers, here: Podcasts and videos for teachers of computing. There’s a bit of overlap with the primary school podcasts, but not much.
If your school allowance it attend different departments’ CPD
I came across a great professional development system in a school some years ago. The senior leadership team stipulated that everyone had to do a certain amount of training after school — on average about an hour a week. However, staff could attend anything they liked. This was besides the usual subject-based training of course. Teachers could offer sessions in whatever interested them. For instance, if I’d been a teacher there, I’d probably have offered a training session on solving cryptic crosswords. What a brilliant idea!
Arrange having someone from another department give your CPD your training
Something I did when I was head of ICT and Computing in a school was invite teachers from other subject areas to give my team and me some training, from their perspective. For example, I asked a science teacher to train us in using a particular database application. It was very interesting, because she had a much different perspective, and examples of use, than we did.
Join a useful group in Facebook
I realise that social media can be a real time sink, but there are lots of groups there full of lively discussion and useful information. A group I belong to is ICT & Computing Teachers, and that’s invaluable.
Follow interesting people in Twitter
I was going to say “useful people” but that sounds too mercenary. What I mean is, follow people who have interesting and useful things to say. How do you find such people? Find one person (such as me) and see who they follow, and then follow those people yourself. Then create a list of them so you can find their tweets quickly and easily.
A higher level of commitment
So much for the low-hanging fruit. If you have the time, inclination and energy to do a bit more, maybe one of the following will appeal to you.
Attend courses if you can
I try and attend a course each term. For example, I attended a two day introduction to Spanish during August 2018, and now I can not only exchange pleasantries and ask for directions, but also buy a tee-shirt and haggle over the price! Perfecto!
Sign up for an online course
If getting to an evening class or the fee is an issue, there are some great courses online, and some of them are free. For example, have a look at the Futurelearn website.
Attend conferences if you can
If you can get to one, conferences are a good way of learning new things in a very short space of time. The third edition of my book about how to get the most benefit from education conferences is in production. If you’d like to receive a direct email when it comes out, and probably a special offer in the first few days, sign up to my newsletter, Digital Education.
Join an organisation
I’ve never really understood those people who won’t join an organisation like a subject association unless their employer pays for it. I have always regarded it as an investment in my future, and if my employer wouldn’t pay then I’d feel no obligation to share any useful information with them, or guilt when I got another job!
Even greater commitment
Sign up for a diploma or even an MA course
If you can, I’d say definitely do a more formal course leading to a recognised qualification. Yes, I know it’s a major commitment, and yes I do know what it’s like to have to go to a class after a hard day’s work and find time to study during the week on top of all your other commitments. But boy is it worth it. I found that I really enjoyed delving into the subject more deeply, reading books and articles I’d never have come across, having brilliant discussions with other teachers. And on top of all that, the qualification at the end of it (an MA in Education) I am fairly certain helped me get interviews for jobs I applied for. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? If the only discernible difference on paper between two applicants is that one of them is more highly qualified, it’s likely that that person will receive the invite if places are limited.
Well, that’s my two-pennorth — or 14 pennorth! Just a reminder, if you’d like to find out when my Conferences book comes out, plus read news, views and reviews and the odd rant, sign up to my free newsletter, Digital Education.