10 Minute PD for Busy People

Professional development isn't something you go to, it is something you do every day. Lifelong learners have an edge. Brian Tracy says that the top 10% in their field read an hour a day in field. This number is hard to achieve but, at a minimum, I make sure during most days I take 10 minutes for PD.

A well-thought out PLN and media diet
can impact your destiny by bringing you timely opportunities.

Serendipitous Learning

Set yourself up to harness the power of serendipity and pull technologies. (Julie and I discuss pull technologies at length in our “Efficient Learning Strategies for the 21st-century Teacher” on page 35 of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds.)  Serendipity is:

an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.”

Embed professional development in your daily routine to be energized and to put encouragement into your day by intentionally designing the start screens of your web browser, your tablet device, and mobile phone to serendipitously bring information to you. Happy accidents are often the results of putting yourself at the intersection of good, timely, useful information. Taking time to strategically set up your PLN does that.

Harness the Power of Pull

There are two basic ways to extract things from the web:

  • Push – Push technologies require the push a button like on a search engine or search query. You have to go out and do something by yourself. IF you don't do it and push the button, it doesn't happen because no automation is involved.
  • Pull – Pull technologies can bring information to you. The most important PD decision you make is your start page on the Internet. Many of us have been using igoogle for this, but are switching to Netvibes or Symbaloo because Google has (shortsightedly, in my opinion) decided to suspend iGoogle some time in the future. Pull can also be the alerts you choose to enable on your mobile device, but note that the usefulness of alerts goes down, the more alerts you enable.
The difference between push and pull is shown in a rowing team. When you create a portal to pull information to you including hashtags of popular conversations, feeds of information, and good sources of up to date information then it is like being on a rowing team. You're not alone in your efforts, your efforts are multiplied because you have jumped in the boat with some powerful partners – the automated services and people in the PLN you have built. You still have to work but have multiplied your efforts. You still have to get in the boat, but the boat goes faster because you're jumping in a boat built for more than just one person. This is what pull technologies can mean to your learning. You have to decide who gets in your boat.
Every bit of my PLN is well selected for the power it adds to my own efforts because I don't have a lot of time.

How to set up 10 Minute PD 

Warning: It takes more than 10 minutes to set up 10 minute PD. It took me 2-3 hours to set up my intentional PD platforms the first time and then every three months I take 1-2 hours to maintain and tweak my settings based on my objectives.

Here are my favorite ways to have 10 minute PD. Some of them require a bit more than ten minutes to set up, and I typically do this every few months as I tweak and prune my own media diet (as Mark Hurst mentions in his book Bit Literacy. )

Step 1: List the people and the type current information you need in your life to be successful.

First, make a list of the things that you believe are important to have in your mind and life.The two things that transform your life on an ongoing basis are the people you meet and the books you read. (I'd update to say – the people you meet and whatever you read.)  What you read is the link because you are what you think.

Take a piece of paper or a spreadsheet and divide it into two columns. On the left heading write “people” and on the right column write “timely topics.”


I choose people who are excellent, thought provoking, and optimistic but not necessarily those that are an echo chamber for my own thoughts. (See How to create a circle of the wise.) You may already have some names in mind, or you may have a category of person. (i.e. “I want to find the thought leaders in mobile learning or I want to find influencers in the field of literacy education.”)

Timely topics.

A good recipe is not made with only one ingredient, so I find a mix makes me a better thinker. I look for three things: motivation, inspiration, and information. So, my folders in Google reader are designed with this in mind:

Folder names in my Google reader

The times on the folders are the times that I had Diigo autoposting blog posts on that topic. While it worked well for a while, I've cut back and post two extra posts a day: news and another specifically for teaching and classroom ideas. I still use the folders.

The topics I want to monitor include: news, education news, technology news, edreform news, top books (from Goodreads) and free ebooks (Kindle Nation Daily), Eduapps and mobile learning, free cool things, classroom stories from teachers, lesson plans, elearning and global education, Productivity, blogging, inspirational Christian authors who live it every day in a positive way, and things across the internet where I, Flat Classroom, or my book Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds are mentioned.

I've intentionally designed my PLN to laser focus on the things important to me and my job and my work here on this blog so that I can learn and share more quickly and more productively.

Step 2: Set up your Google Reader

Google reader is the powertool of researchers and savvy 21st-century information literate professionals. It not only lets you subscribe to blogs and organize by folders, but if you create some well designed searchers using Google News (https://news.google.com/) and Google Blog search. (Sadly Google Scholar only lets you create email alerts and won't put it to RSS.) You can also look for reputable RSS feeds using http://ctrlq.org/rss/. I use it to pull in the education feeds from many major media outlets. Just go to http://reader.google.com and sign in with your google account. It will suggest a subscribe button and you can use that as well to subscribe.

Step 3: Review where you share.

Sharing should be easy and automatic. As you read and go through your personal PD, you multiply your efforts when you share. You serendipitously attract others to the causes and topics you love.  When you become useful, people want you in their boat. The average person becomes more powerful to the extent that you are helpful and approachable.

Pick your networks

Some of the most popular social networks for educators right now include: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Diigo. While you may not want to share everywhere, you should at least protect your “name” so you can have the same userid across those platforms. I recommend making sure you have accounts in all six places, but that is up to you.

Make sharing easy.

Pick services that will automate sharing for you.
Diigo is on the list because it is so tightly integrated with sharing services that it is an indispensible tool for many of us. It will automatically post certain tagged bookmarks to your blog and is also powerfully integrated with ifttt.com. These two are essential tools to automate things. Tip: Keep a list of “recipes” or automation services and triggers you use to keep up with what you're doing, you will forget and trigger something you don't want to do!

Buffer app and Hootsuite are two tools I use to set up my Twitter sharing as well. Buffer lets me spread my tweets across the day and Hootsuite lets me schedule specific dates and times I want a message to go out. Using services like this are becoming increasingly important, although, as of the writing of this post, Twitter is doing things to lock down their api and keep all that data. Sadly, however, I've found that their mobile apps make it hard for me to see who is replying to me because I get so many @ replies on Twitter now, and Hootsuite helps me capture that.

Step 3: Leverage your Apps

I have apps and things that work together selected because they help me share so easily but carefully select the places I go to really push my thinking.
When I picked the ipad app for RSS reader, I started with my requirements. It had to work with Diigo, pocket, and evernote. That was required. When you pick your RSS reader, I suggest that you start with what it must interface with so that you can easily share, remember, and reuse as easily as possible.  At the time, Mr. Reader had the only Diigo integration, but is my favorite RSS app for the iPad. You just link it with your Google reader account.

2 – Reddit –> Alien Blue

Reddit is a fantastic but overwhelming behemoth of discussions. I couldn't really dig down into it until I got the Alien Blue app on my ipad. You subscribe to the categories you want to follow. Every time I go in this app, I learn something from the people there. This is a very people-driven app and not algorithm or company driven, so I like it for that reason.

I use the Alien Blue app on my ipad because it is a) on my i pad, and b) it is a powerful interface that lets me quickly sort through the noise.

3 – Pull Twitter Hashtags into Hootsuite or Flipboard

As I share in my 15 Fantastic Ways to use Flipboard, this is a handy app that lets you pull in popular hashtags from Twitter.

4 – A private VIP list on Twitter

You can make lists on Twitter. I have my VIP list, but choose to keep it private just so I can add anyone and everyone I want. Sometimes when you have a list on Twitter, others view it as an “endorsement” of the person. I don't agree with or endorse everyone on my VIP list, however, it is vital for me as a professional to subscribe to and follow a wide variety of viewpoints and thought processes unless I make my own private group-think opinion reinforcing pool of people just like me.

5 – Pinterest search

I love to search on Twitter to find people but have now found that one of the best ways to find very cool things on pinterest is through their search features. For example: http://pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=classroom takes me to pins about classrooms – I can find people and pins that have been shared quite a bit and find “the buzz/

6 – Recent activity on my favorite educational network
7 – Well Chosen Classics on my Kindle (kept in a folder)
8 – Pocket
9 – Well chosen push alerts on my iphone/ ipad
10 – A well-chosen book on my desk

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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