On April 21st, thousands of educators convened online for a completely free day of professional development. The Social Learning Summit 2012 virtual conference took place via live presentations using the Blackboard Collaborate synchronous classroom system. Most sessions were 30 minutes in length and accompanied by a great backchannel on Twitter through the #sociallearningsummit hashtag. With a theme of "the use of social media and Web 2.0 in teaching and learning," a primary goal of the event was "inclusion" as organizers encouraged everyone to participate not only as attendees, but also as presenters.
This event was coordinated through a partnership of two educator communities: Classroom 2.0 is a free, online community with over 66,000 members using the Ning platform, and the Discovery Educator Network features online resources and hosts over 10,000 events each year.
While the conference took place several weeks ago, you can still access all of the sessions through linked recordings online. Among the more than 70 sessions, you'll find a wide array of topics and participants from all over the world. Here are my top picks for higher education and online learning interests:
- Utilizing Social Media to Teach an Online Course: Led by Ann Gaudino from West Liberty University in West Virginia, along with several of her graduate students, this session presents their experiences using recorded sessions from Global Education Conference 2011 as a course text in a 100% asynchronous course.
- I Have an Avatar-How Can She Help Me with My Teaching: Are you interested in Second Life? Sandra Bassendowski from the University of Regina, Canada, presented a research project that addressed instructional strategies and interaction in a virtual world, particularly in the context of faculty-student inter-professional education.
- Research Remix: Planning research activities and assignments for students can include a lot more than writing papers. Biopics, blogs, timelines, and graphic novels are just a few of the possibilities Shannon Parker presented along with a variety of Web 2.0 tools used to create these formats. While K-12 classes were the focus of this session, the tools presented and ideas for assignments could be easily adapted for college-level learners.
- Modeling Lifelong Learning Through Technology: Torrey Trust, a doctoral student at the University of California Santa Barbara, shared her research about the use of personal learning networks (PLNs) to improve teacher confidence in using technology as a tool for learning. Collaboration and aggregation tools are included, as well as "survival tips" for dealing with the potential information overload.
- The First Truly Collaborative, Impromptu, Online Social Keynote in the History of the World: Hall Davidson from Discovery Education presented an interactive session that included participants uploading content to the live event through Google Docs, Flickr, and YouTube connections. This very different approach to a traditional keynote session demonstrated various apps and examples of how they might be used in distance education.
Note: To view each session, you will need to follow the download instructions provided when you click on the recording link. You can also download the slides from a session: after opening the recording, go to File in the main toolbar, then select Save, and Whiteboard, and follow the prompts.
Don't just stop at these five titles! Continue to explore the schedule for additional topics that may be of interest to you, and consider how your students may learn from these sessions as well.
A Different Kind of Conference
One of the great things about Social Learning Summit was the atmosphere of support and encouragement by organizer Steve Hargadon and his team of planners and volunteers. The sponsorship of two web-based communities allowed for a more continuous learning experience that began well before the one-day event through discussion boards. As a presenter, along with my OnlineCollege.org colleague Laura Milligan, I was even able to answer a question or two before our session on conducting live Twitter chats for class discussion took place. The conversations continue through the session recordings, new social networking connections, and participants' reflective blog posts.
Look for similar opportunities to enhance your own professional development and share your expertise as a speaker. This week I plan to attend several sessions at the Google Education On Air event – another free, one-day conference with live online sessions. This one will take place May 2nd using Google+ Hangouts.
What are your favorite sources of online professional development? Tell us about your experiences with virtual conferences and communities.