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Sneaky ways to fit professional learning into a busy schedule

I loved this title, Sneaky ways to fit professional development into a busy schedule from a blog post that talks about how, as busy professionals we can access mobile technologies like smartphones, to up-skill ourselves via articles, blogs and multi-media (videos, podcasts), on the fly. 

Enabling e-Learning screenshot

The VLN/Enabling e-Learning community groups is a social hub also designed for NZ teachers/educators to access anytime, anywhere, anyhow - to ask questions, respond to requests, share resources/ stories, reflect on practice – ideally to help influence the way we think and act, which may very well result in changes in classroom practice.

On 26 March, we hosted a webinar on, Ways to build your online professional learning network using VLN/Enabling e-Learning communities. During the webinar, some participants wanted to know more about how others have used the VLN/Enabling e-Learning groups – what’s worked well, the successes they’ve had and how this has helped them in the classroom.


On the 9 April, 3.45- 4.45pm, Josie Woon will join us to talk about her perspective on, The power of online professional learning communities.


This webinar is designed for an informal meet/greet with Josie, so please come with your questions for Josie – pedagogical, practical or other. This session becomes even more powerful, if you share your own stories as well, so come prepared to tell us what works for you in the VLN/ Enabling e-Learning community groups. REGISTER NOW!

Look out for Josie Woon in the latest Interface magazine, in an article titled, Peer Support in the Country’s biggest staffroom and watch out for soon-to-be-released videos in the Enabling e-Learning Media Gallery.


  • Justine Hughes (View all users posts) 28 Mar 2014 2:04pm ()

    This looks brilliant!  Love the title too.  It's an area I'm incredibly interested in as my final Masters' research is around developing an engaged online CoP.  Might not be able to make it for the live event as I'll be out at a school but I would be very keen for the recording.  Just reading the article in Interface now.



  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 28 Mar 2014 3:21pm ()

    Ohh Justine, it's a shame we couldn't have you there with us! Undecided

    I'd love to know more about your Masters research on Communities of Practice and I'd also be very interested in your perspective on this post, Why build an online community?

  • Justine Hughes (View all users posts) 28 Mar 2014 3:38pm ()

    Thanks for the link - that's fantastic and I'll go and read it shortly.  With your permission I'd love to share it with the TeachThought community as well.

    I was having a think about the webinar and it might even be a good idea to set it up so that the teachers I'm learning with could join in as well - will get my thinking hat on with that one.  Smile

    The research was initially on around developing CoPs with students in a Year 8 class but, because I'm not n the classroom now as a teacher, I needed to change focus and adapt it to suit the community I'm trying to develop through TeachThought - added challenge in that it's completely web-based and global and there are 15k people in it.  Developing a CoP could be a very interesting challenge with those aspects.  (I'm completely challenged when it comes to time zones, so that's my first obstacle!!)

    Once this research is finished I'm still very keen to adapt what we do as adult learners in a well-functioning CoP to using this with students - of all ages.  Very excited about the possibilities and would so love to be able to develop and explore this in the near future.


    Justine Smile

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 31 Mar 2014 11:10am ()

    Hi Justine, all permissions given. Smile You've peeked my interest and I've gone off to find out more about how TeachThought might be able to help us in this e-learning community - as we seek ways to discuss using e-learning tools and pedagogies to help raise acheivement for all students. Just wondering if I arrived at the right place - http://www.teachthought.com/

    If you, or anyone else is interested in using the VLN groups for COPs (Communities of Practice), or ways to support others to engage online, then two more links might be useful as well.

    They do have a focus on blended learning though, with some focus on face-to-face- events, as well as virtual support.

  • Justine Hughes (View all users posts) 31 Mar 2014 11:41am ()

    Hi Tessa - that's brilliant - think you so much.  Smile

    Yes, that's us - the website.  It's the FB page I'm trying to turn into a genuine Blended Learning Online CoP.  In the past it's been a repository, if you like, for posts which were really interesting and could have an impact on what we do in learning and teaching but there hasn't been any genuine interaction - just posts which have been 'liked' or shared.  Now we want to engage through discussion, having a wiki to store resources - this will be very diverse given the diverse nature of the global community on there (huge challenge!!).  We've got ideas about using Google Hangouts, etc to promote engagement.
    In the short time I've been running that side of things, we are starting to get more engagement which is fantastic.  We've also created a Google Doc for the community to add their Twitter details to - slowly growing and it will take time but I'm finding it's a fascinating way to incorporate my research.

    I'm really interested in your suggestion about using the VLN for an online CoP - might be more manageable for my research (and easier to figure out time zones - I'm sure I have a time zone disability of some sort!!)  I think an online CoP on here might be the way to go in terms of being able to connect people in more remote areas - or who are in sole-charge positions.  It would be fantastic if this could work - I've got my thinking hat on again for this one!!

    My ultimate goal is to create a blended learning Online CoP to meet current teacher needs in eLearning.  What do you think?  Possibilities?  Everything I've read about the most effective and rewarding CoPs lies around having a blend of face-to-face and online activities and participation.


    Justine Smile

  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 31 Mar 2014 3:28pm ()

    Hi Justine and Tessa,

    how I can building capactity for teacher learning in blended ways in rural, isolated schools is my professional inquiry for the year. I would love to touch base with you about this some time :)

    Many thanks, Monika

  • Justine Hughes (View all users posts) 02 Apr 2014 5:48pm ()

    Hi Monika - couldn't think of anyone better to work / learn with!  Will email you soon. Smile

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 01 Apr 2014 10:19am ()

    Hi Justine and Monika, great discussion thank you. Smile

     I can relate to the concern, can we get the likers/lurkers to take that brave step and get involved in online discussions? That’s why I think Josie’s story is such a good example, because she also talked about, how initially

    Josie Woon interview …there was some hesitation to jump in and get involved (in the VLN) because she could see existing community members had been there for a while and thought they might ignore her, and instead only talk the people they already knew.

    But when she did finally pose her questions, there were several responses back - straight away.  This reaction was identified as a positive tipping point for Josie. She discovered she could put comments/queries online safely and that people were going to respond back and ‘not think she was asking a stupid question’. It also affirmed that, she not only had the confidence to engage online, but that she was knowledgeable enough to share too.


    In the spirit of sharing, I have some resources that might be useful for you both. Smile This material has helped the thinking behind the purpose/potential for the Enabling e-Learning community groups too. Ideally we want our Enabling e-Learning community members to engage more with each other, to help define/discuss/debate e-learning theory, pedagogy and practice, so this can have a beneficial impact on classroom practice. 

    As online facilitators, several people who have helped influenced our thinking including, Gilly Salmon and Étienne WengerGilly has a Five Stage Model, that was designed to help scaffold online learning for students - but is equally useful for adult learners.

    1. Access and motivation
    2. Online socialisation
    3. Information exchange
    4. Knowledge construction
    5. Development

    You can find out more about Gilly’s thinking around this model in this interview.

    Facilitating online discussions, often needs cognizant, deliberate and scaffolded processes, to help support and mentor members, so they feel comfortable enough to 'jump in' themselves. This may happen when:

    • People can identify with the community (purpose is clear) and see themselves as part of a COP
    • People come together with similar demographic traits, habits and are passionate about the same topics – either needs based or areas of expertise
    • Activities/events/themes are timely, where members want to interact about relevant themes that are often - biggest problems, most time-consuming, aspirations, evoke emotion, appeal for problems to be solved

    A 'successful' Community of Practice, is one where people feel safe enough to share and reveal thoughts/feelings/experiences about professional related topics. We do this in our own social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc), we can do this professionally too. 

    A framework for support might look like this:


    Étienne Wenger's paper on, Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: a conceptual framework is an absolute must to read. It helps to clarify communities as learning networks, cycles of relationships and particularly looks at reflecting on the value the community has produced. How do we know our online communities of practice have had an impact? 

    As an online team, we also subscribe to the Feverbee blog, which regularly updates (via email) with top tips to consider when managing professional communities online. http://www.feverbee.com/

    There’s always so much to learn and everyday I am enlightened by the insight others have about mentoring and managing communities online. I'd love to finally see your Masters Justine and share in your inquiry in this space too Monika. Smile

  • Justine Hughes (View all users posts) 02 Apr 2014 5:47pm ()

    This is such a quick reply and won't do your fabulous sharing justice Tessa - absolutley love it and will answer in more detail soon - crazy day.  Will be back later on.  Wenger is my key research provider.  All up I'm currently plowing through 83 readings!!  (Frustrating thing is that, prior to surgery I'd read quite a few - and even made notes on them - but I can't really remember them and some of the notes are complete rubbish!!!).


    Just love this community.  Back soon.


    Jus Smile

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 27 Nov 2014 1:24pm ()

    Here's another sneaky/smart way to do your own learning when you're busy.

    When I knew I was driving out of town today (1hr 20mins), I thought... how can I use my time effectively when I'm on the road? So I downloaded a reading/research paper as a PDF file and opened it in my PDF reader.

    Then I selected the text I wanted to read and pasted it into a Word doc. When I chose the Text to Speech option, it was able to read it back to me. I set up my laptop next to me and activated the reader.

    It would have worked better, if I could have plugged it into car stereo, but it didn't work for some reason. If anyone can help me with that, I'd really appreciate it?

    Here's what I did.

    Step 1. Opened Systems Preferences and activated Text to Speech under the Speech option. Remembered the key combination. For me: Option + Esc.

    Text to Speech

    Step 2: Selected and highlighted the text in the Word doc.

    Step 3: Clicked Option + Esc. And away it went. 

    Here's a video to explain how to do this on a PC.

    I'm thinking there must be other ways to do this on a mobile device too.

    Does anyone else have any great ideas for 'doing PLD' while you drive, garden or vacuum the house?

  • Karen (View all users posts) 27 Nov 2014 5:45pm ()

    Brilliant Tessa. I really like that idea!

  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 03 Dec 2014 12:06pm ()

    Nice one Tessa! That's a great idea!

  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 27 Nov 2014 4:37pm ()

    That sounds like a lot of steps.

    Grab your iPad. Download vBookz PDF voice Reader- Boom! 

    Have it read the PDF to you.



  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 03 Dec 2014 12:33pm ()

    Or back on the laptop, here's an ever easier way... use a PDF reader like Adobe Reader with 'read out loud' options!

    Read aloud options in PDF reader

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2015 10:53am ()

    Kia ora tatou, here's some more sneaky ways to get access to FREE PLD with like-minded innovative educators from across New Zealand - using social networking tools like Twitter and Google Hangouts. Come and join us for the LIVE event below. Feel free to tell your friends and register now!

    Smile WEBINAR: Personalising PLD using social networks, 12 August, 3.45-4.45pm


    More and more educators are finding ways to meet their PLD needs through social networks like Twitter, Facebook as well as live webinars in Google Hangouts. These can be accessed in real-time or as archived, recorded events. Come and join Danielle Myburgh (EdchatNZ founder) and Sonya Van Schaijik (TeachMeetNZ fame) as they share the purpose, potential and practicalities for how Twitter and Google Hangouts can make the most of a growing teacher network - to help meet your professional learning needs. 

    Audience: Primary and secondary school leaders or e-learning leaders interested in connecting with other like-minded NZ educators via social networking. This webinar will be supported with thread in the Enabling e-Learning | Professional Learning group. Hosted in Adobe Connect with Nathaniel Louwrens. REGISTER NOW!


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