With in-person conferences canceled, travel restricted, and gathering in large crowds still uncomfortable, our options for professional development have dwindled. Despite organizations trying their best to provide online conferences (shout out to my favorite people @SHAPE_America and their #SHAPEVirtual conference), and with one eye on planning for next school year already, you might be finding yourself eager to ‘fill your cup’ and hone your craft.
If you do find yourself looking for free, contactless professional development, that doesn’t require filling out a health screener and wearing a mask, here’s my Top 10 list.
#1 Read A Blog – Free, easy to access on your device and also easy to collate using the Feedly app, there are a wealth of excellent teachers out there willing to share their resources with others. Take time to read a blog or too – my current favorite is Jeff Bartlett‘s “I’m Behind on Grading“. If you want to take this one step further, why not consider writing a guest blog post, or start a blog of your own?
#2 Listen to a Podcast – THIS is my free PD of choice as my commute to work is 70 minutes, and the return is 90! I recently switched to the Stitcher app as my podcast player as it allows users to create playlists. My lists include ‘Favorites’, ‘Podcasts to Binge’, ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Education’. If you are interested in incorporating podcasts into your classroom, check out the model used by Podcast Brunch Club, with their themed playlists and associated reflection questions. Additionally, I encourage you to consider making podcasts with your students. It’s much easier than you might think.
#3 Watch a TED Talk – Available in audio and visual format, the TED talks continue to churn out awesome resources that can be used for professional development or used in your classroom. Three questions I always ask after a TED talk are – how did I connect with it emotionally, what did I learn from the talk, and in what ways was this presentation novel? If you haven’t done so already, please check out my recent TEDx talk – it might be the thing of which I’m most proud as an educator.
#4 Check Out Your Library – It may have been a while since you checked out your local library. They’ve moved into the 21st century with audio books available via apps. You no longer need to visit the library (but I suggest you should) and you NEVER have to worry about books being overdue as they drop off of your device when your loan period is up. My local library and my school library use different apps and I have the Libby and Hoopla apps available for me to listen to or read books on my iPad or Kindle. My local library also allows me to watch documentaries via the Kanopy app.
I have been collating a list of awesome book suggestions if you are looking for inspiration.
#5 Access a Webinar – There are so many great health and physical education webinars available for you to access from the comfort of your own home. I’m currently loving the materials being released by HipHopPublic Health as part of their #communityimmunity campaign. There’s SHAPE America (free to members…you ARE a member aren’t you?), and of course the Physedagogy video’s are still available on YouTube for you to work your way through. My tip for webinars is to sign up whenever you get an email reminder. Often that allows you to go back and access the content at your leisure.
#6 Find a Mentor or Mentee – This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career development. I sought out a young teacher and we bounced thoughts and ideas around via the Voxer app. We have since met at a number of conferences and I continue to be inspired by all of the great ideas that he has. I encourage you to get paired up with another professional and develop together, at your own pace, in your own time.
#7 Subscribe to Newsletters – Click ‘subscribe’ to some of these great organizations, sit back and watch your inbox fill up with resources that can be used immediately or saved for another day. Many of these free subscriptions can be refined to reflect your needs, or stopped if they prove to be irrelevant. My favorites include the CDC , ETR, and ASHA. You might also like the newsletter from my good friend Scott Todnem.
#8 Outsource Yourself – Not everyone has spring break at the same time as you so there are many of your peers still working hard in their classroom. Why not consider helping them out by skyping into their lesson? Check out how Adam Llevo did just this and taught a PE lesson in America….while being based in Saudi Arabia.
#9 Collaborate Online – Got an idea? A question? Consider starting the conversation on Twitter….or taking it deeper by engaging with other teachers on Voxer. Look out for twitter chats, and search for the chat hashtags to work through the conversation at a slower pace. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed online discussions based around the books “The Joy of Movement” by Kelly McGonigal and “Permission to Feel” by Dr. Marc Brackett.
#10 Extend Your PLN – When engaging in chats online, follow those with whom you engage. Also make sure that you are following people with different views, ideas, and skill sets that will push you to become a better educator. Social media doesn’t work so well when you live in an echo chamber. If you are looking for health teachers to follow, Christopher Pepper has a list of Health teachers on twitter for you to follow that will keep the PD conversation going until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
This post has been revised from the original posting in 2020, but it’s all good.