11/25/2013 02:37 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

360 Degree, 24/7 Professional Development... Done With Curation and Social Media

At the end of last school year I was once again looking at a long summer that I would not be with my staff. If you add in weekends, holidays and evenings, that is a lot of time apart for a team of educators who spend over nine months together educating our children. Daily, there are advances in educational research, neuroscience, best practices, new technology, new theories and so much more. All of this impacts our teachers and by extension impacts our students.

So what can we do to bridge the summer gap? How do you create an environment that has continual professional learning for teachers? How do you get the best research to them year-round? How do you find the best research?

The way I handled it was through the curation of educational topics and social media, mainly Pinterest.

On one Professional Development Day, before the end of the year, I did a presentation on "What Is Curation?" "A Beginners Guide to Pinterest" and "My PLN?"

1. What Is Curation?

Firstly we had a discussion on the value of curation. Curation is the act of organizing and collecting artifacts. For our purposes, it would be curating educational articles of interest. We went over how to choose a topic of interest and various apps and sites to use to find important information on your topic of interest. The most important part of this conversation was that you do not use every bit and piece of information you find. Just as a museum curator has to choose and select the best pieces for presentation, so does a digital curator.

2. A Beginners Guide to Pinterest

Many teachers are already aware of or use Pinterest. Pinterest is nice for a variety of reasons. It is visually interesting. It has a lot of educators already using this as a social media center for sharing information. We decided to use Pinterest as our primary social media hub. During the presentation, I showed the teachers how to create an account and create a board. I also created a few boards that we could all share and use. This created a 24/7 Professional Development experience. Teachers were sharing ideas they found on Pinterest with each other around the clock. I would post new articles or ideas on our board and then have discussions on those articles the next day. We call this our version of "Flipped Professional Development."

3. My PLN

Just for the purpose of review, your PLN (Personal Learning Network) is an entire collection of people with whom you engage and share information. The final part of our day was devoted to the possibility of getting educators from around the globe to collaborate, share and learn with us. Parents as well as other educators can also share ideas and see what ideas are brewing in school. This was the 360-degree portion of the experience.

An example of how this system works looks something like this:

It was Saturday evening,and I decided to check my social media sites. A friend of mine from Chicago was sharing some great ideas concerning literacy on Scoop.It. I liked the ideas and shared the link with my teachers on Pinterest and told them we could talk more about it on Monday. Sunday afternoon I already saw a discussion growing on Pinterest between my teachers and a few other educator friends from around the area. On Monday we already had a basic plan laid out and a lot of interest around the new literacy material. The week just started and we are already energized by a new idea because we have 24/7 360-degree professional development... and we're having fun.

This is a great way to keep professional development fresh and in the minds of your teachers. If you would ever wish to discuss this topic further, please feel free to contact me at any of the social media outlets or on my Pinterest Board (which is the same for my teachers) Instructional Technology Tools.