We have all seen it: a great idea has gone stale. Do you remember when the hot toy was Webkinz by Ganz? It was an ingenious marketing plan: purchase a stuffed animal for $14.99 and gain access to an online world where you care for your virtual version of the stuffed animal. My girls went nuts for it; we had Webkinz all over the house, purchased with their own money or accepted as gifts from doting grandmas. They played with them a lot but then suddenly—nothing. Ganz still makes them, but they are not the “buzz” that they used to be. Why? Something new came along.
Fads in toys come and go. Fads in education come and go. That is ok. In education, we do not need to embrace each fad that comes and goes, but we do want to keep our teaching fresh.
That brings us to a paradox. There are so many places and ideas out there that we could get sucked into a black hole of ideas. How do we know what to choose?
Allow me to make a few suggestions:
- Set a time limit. Use a timer and schedule a set period to look for and gather ideas.
- Use those bookmarks. Whatever book marking tool you like best, use it wisely. I like Pocket as it allows me to view my bookmarks on multiple devices and is easy to set up folders/tags for different areas that I am looking at. A few bookmarks that I have that are clicked on often are:
- Edutopia: George Lucas Educational Foundation’s space.
- eLearning Industry: Current trends and information specifically for eLearning.
- Online Learning Consortium: A professional organization offering best practices, resources, and professional development for online teaching and course development.
- cK-12: Online community and materials.
- SAS Curriculum Pathways: Online materials and community
- Select specific Twitter feeds, LinkedIn feeds, and blogs. Find those that fit your teaching situation and follow them for ideas and inspiration. TeachThought has a list of 52 educational blogs that are arranged by type and 10 educators’ Twitter feeds. Those two articles are a nice starting point. #CSI4EDU is a twitter chat that occurs Monday evenings. This is a great place to see what is going on in the Christian Schools International community and participate in the conversation.
- Get out there. Attend conferences. There are regional and national conferences aimed at blended and online learning. Gather ideas and connect with other educators.
- Take a course. Choose one that will stretch you and encourages you in practical ways. Make it something you can USE in your classroom, whatever that may be.
Allowing yourself time to look and learn, setting up parameters for what you are looking for, subscribing to (pertinent to you) feeds and blogs, and then allowing time to think and be creative are elements that will assist you in keeping your teaching fresh.
Becci Zwiers is the assistant director of instructional design at Inno-Versity in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has her BA in Education from Calvin College and her MA from Grand Valley State University. Becci has spent more than the last decade working with K-12 and higher education to design robust online learning courses. In addition to her work with Inno-Versity, Becci also works with CLC Network as an AT consultant who often teaches the online courses she helps develop. Reach her on Twitter via @BecciZwiers.