Seven ways to learn with Common Sense Education this summer.

During the school year, the professional learning we receive can be very district- or campus-centered. Although these learning paths are important to the implementation and attainment of district goals and initiatives, the beauty of summer learning (and summer vacation) is that you can turn your attention toward your own professional learning and growth. According to Malcolm Knowles' theories in adult learning, we should:

  • Be task-oriented -- not only focused on memorization.
  • Take into account the variety of backgrounds and experiences of teachers.
  • Allow learners to discover and explore and have guidance and support.

Common Sense Education provides teachers, librarians, and education technology coaches with a variety of ways to customize their learning over the summer. If you are a classroom teacher, the following learning paths or opportunities may be ideal for you.

If You Are a Teacher:

Start with some bite-sized PD. Common Sense Education provides many valuable resources focused on helping teachers identify how they can use tools and technology to assess learning in the classroom. From polls to digital tools, the articles, resources, and videos can help reshape or clarify the role technology plays in everyday assessment.

Visit the standards. If you're a math or English language arts teacher, you can launch the Common Core Explorer to find technology tools you can integrate into your lesson activities to help you address that learning outcome in a new way. STEM, STEAM, or science teachers can browse hundreds of games, apps, and websites tagged for NGSS with the NGSS Explorer. Once you click on the app you want to learn more about, you can read the Teacher Reviews and review the Lesson Plans to learn practical ways to use that digital tool in your learning environment.

Explore Lesson Plans. Looking for new ways to address a particular topic? Or searching for a fun project idea for a particular unit of study? Just type the keyword in the search field and then refine or filter your results by clicking on Lesson Plans. Then, you can peruse the tech-rich Lesson Plans contributed by teachers just like you. When you're comfortable using digital tools, add to the community by creating your own Lesson Plan. 

Play with some new tools. Every teacher should have a strong tech toolbox that is updated frequently to ensure the best fit into the classroom. Take time this summer to explore new tools or use familiar tools in new ways. Check out some of the reviews and ratings of Common Sense Education's Top Picks.

If You Are a Librarian or EdTech Coach:

Start with the Digital Citizenship Curriculum. Whether you're a new librarian or one with lots of experience, let's face it: The world online continues to grow and evolve! This summer, evaluate some of the most popular digital tools to keep our students engaged and safe online. Start by picking a target grade level, then the unit you believe your students need the most. You may even want to find some digital tools to help your students "show what they know" at the end of the lesson. 

Take a deep dive. Sometimes we hear about so many different tools from conferences, edcamps, and workshops it can be a little overwhelming. This is when I turn to the EdTech Quick Take videos. These short videos compare two digital tools such as Kahoot and GoFormative to show their features and help you decide which is better for your needs. For me, as a digital learning specialist, I can then recommend to teachers the best tool for the task -- not just the one I know and love.

Consider becoming certified. One of the ways I've learned so much about a variety of digital tools is from becoming Common Sense Education certified. With this certification, I have met some outstanding educators (librarians, tech coaches, and classroom teachers) who use digital tools in their learning environments with students and teachers. I've written Teacher Reviews to pass on what I've learned, made Collections on topics of interest, and created Lesson Plans for activities that I plan to use soon or that my students have loved. If you are passionate about digital citizenship or digital learning tools, then you will definitely want to consider the path of certification.

Summer is a time to recharge our batteries, but it can also be a time of rebuilding and re-tooling! This time away from the busy schedule of teaching can be a great time to tailor your learning just for you. By doing so, it will be more meaningful, more relevant, and more hands-on.

Rachelle W.

Rachelle Wooten is a Digital Learning Specialist with Fort Bend ISD. She is also an Edmodo Certified Trainer, Adobe Education Trainer, SMART Exemplary Educator and a Certified Microsoft Innovative Educator Trainer. She is a former Speech Communication Teacher and Debate coach. Her passion is facilitating a professional development experience that empowers teachers with innovative solutions to reach their students. She has presented at Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA), SXSWedu 2012, Region 4 Education Service Center (Houston area), Rice University, and recently at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). She is the author of the iBook, Mission ‘Pod’sible: A Teacher’s Guide to Podcasting.