Dive into Summer Professional Learning – and More!

Whether summer brings you time to relax, an opportunity to bolster your credentials, or some extra work to help balance your checkbook, you’ll likely want to keep at least one toe in the education pool. We have suggestions to spur your cogitation and avoid any professional “summer slide.” Plus have some fun along the way.

Here’s a quick preview:
Find a nearby edcamp. Summer camp isn’t just for kids, anymore!
►Write for ASCD’s Educational Leadership and the ASCD Express.
►Add to savings. Here’s how Mary Tarashuk spent her summer.

summer-jump2Books and Videos to Savor

Anticipating some deep relaxation? Ready for neural stimulation? If you’re looking for just the right professional read, don’t miss MiddleWeb’s large collection of book reviews – now well over 200  –  arranged by category (or you can just browse).

Want to be a MiddleWeb reviewer yourself? You can select a professional book from our current list and send us your review before summer’s end. Find the details here.

You may want to take on this year’s version of the Book Whisperer’s summer reading Book-a-Day Challenge. “Any book qualifies,” says the Book Whisperer (aka, fourth grade teacher-author Donalyn Miller), “including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, poetry anthologies, or fiction–children’s, youth, or adult titles.”  Get the 2014 details here and check by #bookaday and #nerdybookclub. 

Edutopia blogger and MiddleWeb contributor Elena Aguilar has some summer book suggestions at her Edutopia blog —for 2012 it’s a mix of professional and personal reading ideas with lots of added ideas from readers.  Her 2013 selections play into her concerns about education and society: dystopian science fiction and challenging nonfiction. Also at Edutopia, Mark Phillips describes his favorite summer reads for educators. Among them, a fresh look at bullying and possibly the next Hunger Games.

Teaching coach Lisa Dabbs provides more suggestions in a post at her blog, Teaching with Soul. Of special interest are summer reading ideas suggested by folks in the new-teachers hashtag group that Lisa facilitates (#ntchat). Teachers, coaches and consultants share their picks for summer reading in two Choice Literacy posts.

The NYT Learning Network shares a different sort of education summer reading list: best sellers for K-16 with a very wide definition of education. You may disagree with some of the authors or want to skip the ones about life on college campuses, but browsing the list will likely spur some additions to your must-read stack.

To travel beyond the world of pedagogy, whether on vacation or on your deck, you can find lots of super fiction and nonfiction reviews at NPR’s Book page (@nprbooks). And don’t miss New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin’s stack of titles selected for the beach. The Times reviews lots more new books for summer – from thrillers to cookbooks – here. Travel around the world and through time with summer reading recommended by Washington Post foreign correspondents: current events, recent history, biography, satire, lots of fiction from abroad.

For a visit with magical books, view “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” from Moonbot Studios LA, LLC. This winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2011 is available in a $5 interactive version posted at the iTunes store.

Go Beyond the Book

The next time you are online and missing your school year chats with middle graders, drop by This American Life for their audio hour on students’ perceptions of middle school life.

In the past two years  TED-Ed has posted video lessons featuring collaborations between teachers and animators — and tens of thousands of ‘flipped’ TED (and other videos) by teachers. Drop by to soak up ideas (be sure to take the TED-Ed Tour to see how it works) and learn how you can ‘flip’ the videos into your own lessons this fall. And think about lessons you could submit for the TED-Ed animation treatment.

And while we’re talking video: remember the multitudinous videos and blogs from the Teaching Channel are just a click away, including lots of STEM resources and their special series on Deeper Learning with your students.

woman swimmingReady to dive into tech-augmented learning? Summer may be a great time to review your use of web tools and connected learning sites and plan for the future. Writing for Edutopia, Nicholas Provenzano has suggestions to get you started.

For a quick overview of how online resources can make teaching more efficient and effectiveread Mary Blow’s Scholastic blog post. Richard Byrne at Free Tech for Teachers always has great ed tech ideas to share, including this challenging post from 2012. (Another possibility: sign on for Byrne’s  mid-July  2014 second annual Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp in Maine.) And get a succinct overview of The Epic BYOD Toolchest (51 Tools You Can Use Now) by Vicki Davis at Edutopia.

Take a Course or Three

Educators can benefit from free PD at Coursera, the massive online open classroom (MOOC) of free college courses from leading universities. Launched in April 2013, Coursera’s teacher PD category and related courses already offer quite a few selections. edX is another option.

To browse the relatively short history of MOOCs and get a late 2013 view of their place in education, read Audrey Watters’s take on MOOC issues at her blog, Hack Education. And for more learning at home, tune in to BAM! Radio to catch helpful discussions from educators for educators, including the growing Classroom Q&A series hosted by Larry Ferlazzo and featuring many MiddleWeb contributors. 

You can find quick doses of immediately applicable PD via ASCD and Ed Week, including free new and archived webinars.  Educators can also order other ASCD courses and Ed Week courses for a fee. You’ll also find invigorating summer learning opportunities at Powerful Learning Practice (e.g., Creative 21stC Lesson Plans) where eCourses combine digital resources with pedagogy at a range of prices. You can settle in anytime for a free archived webinar on the power of using video in professional development. Led by Jim Knight and filled helpful strategies and practical guidelines for video use, the session was recently added to Learning Forward’s collection of webinars which are free to members or can be viewed for a fee.

If your search for summer PD takes you beyond your front door, eSchool News provides a look at options across the country, most with fees, some free. Writing for Scholastic, 4th grade teacher Meghan Everette shares ideas for funding PD and offers a brief how-to for grant searches. For really low-cost DIY-with-others PD, find a local edcamp. It’s face to face, school- or district- or region-wide, sometimes wi-fi’d, led by attendees after lots of planning by volunteers and held in the US and beyond. Find out more about edcamp in this MiddleWeb Resource Roundup.

boy swimmingHave a Go at Grants

To go beyond your summer PD and augment your classroom’s resources, scout out grant opportunities during the summer months. For a quick overview of foundation grants, visit The Foundation Center’s Philanthropy News Digest which, thankfully, is searchable. 

Even if your school or district doesn’t participate in The School Funding Center, you can still view a list of current opportunities and get a monthly listing of who is offering education grants.  By providing your email address, you can search the site.  SFC also provides a blog and a collection of articles on grant research available through Grants4Teachers housed at Teacher Planet. 

And we always scan the latest grant info at the LAEP NewsBlast. Published by the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP), the newsletter is packed with the latest ed news as well as links to funding sources.

Share Your Voice

Have an itch to write about your educational practice and learning issues that matter to you? Summer can be a good time to plan or launch a blog.  At Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne offers a collection of how-to videos and evaluates hosting platforms. Another way to share your thoughts is to post comments at prominent blogs and ed organization websites.

For writing opportunities you can add to your vita, consider ASCD’s Educational Leadership and the ASCD Express, which solicit articles from educators by theme. And of course MiddleWeb welcomes book reviewers and proposals for guest articles about innovative classroom practice.

bigstock-synch-swimmersYou can also raise your voice by joining an online professional community. Among the many options are the large and lively ASCD Edge, and Edutopia’s special interest groups, which range from Games and Technology Tools to more general areas like Middle School, Elementary School, Social & Emotional Learning, Education Leadership, New Teacher Connections, and more. Education Week also offers opportunities to share your experience.

And what about Twitter? Sign up for free to start posting your 140-character observations. Get a preview of other tweeting educators to keep up with at Edudemic’s top educational hashtags as well as their list of tweeting education leaders. Both lists were posted in 2012; find more on educators using Twitter from Edudemic here.  For a quick guide to Twitter, visit Powerful Learning Practice’s guide for teachers.  If you’re uneasy about coming out from behind the curtain to express your ideas and opinions, be sure to read Opening the Curtain on Lurking by 4th grade teacher Stephanie Bader.

Summer Income: Roll Up Your Sleeves

You can put your teacher expertise and communications skills to work in the summer. Last summer our Kids on the Cusp blogger Mary Tarashuk shared her plans for a summer reading group.  For her intense, week-long book study of Firegirl she brought together several former students. Her goals were to build her understanding of working with a small group around  critical thinking skills development — as well as to bolster her income by charging a small-group tutoring fee.

Writing a book to share ideas and increase income beckons many teachers. Get a hands-on look on what to expect as a first-time author from sixth-grade teacher and author Bill Ferriter in a post from his blog, The Tempered Radical: Five Things Busy Teachers Need to Know about Writing a Book. His insights will last long beyond the summer, but the balmy days away from the classroom can be an ideal time to actually get that book started and enter the realm of writerdom. Indeed, book writing is one suggestion in former teacher Stacy Zeiger’s  long list of summer employment possibilities posted at Help Teaching from Tribio.  And at Edutopia blogger Ben Johnson shares summer work search strategies that have worked for him.

So many options! Which fit your interests and your calendar? We invite your comments on what makes summer fun and meaningful for you.

Susan Curtis

Susan Curtis co-edits MiddleWeb content and writes our Resource Roundups. In the past century she taught middle grades students, provided human services referrals and publications, wrangled the reference desk in libraries, and wrote.

2 Responses

  1. Susan, thanks for this great compendium of resources! If I may suggest one more, folks looking for good books might want to check out my “Only Good Books” blog (hopefully self-explanatory) at: http://onlygoodbooks.wordpress.com/

  2. dogtrax says:

    And can I add the Making Learning Connected MOOC (massive open online COLLABORATION – not course) into the mix?
    This is our second year of the #clmooc and we (facilitators affiliated with the National Writing Project and its partners) will once again nurture playful exploration of digital media, the conceptual tinkering of the Maker’s Movement, and exploration of Connected Learning philosophies — all rolled up into regular Make Cycles that you can enter as you wish or have time for, with no guilt for either just watching (we love lurkers) or needing to leave because it’s summer and you’d rather be away from your computer.
    Whatever you choose is fine.
    And it’s free!
    See you on the Web,

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