School Librarians = Self-directed Learners: Resources for Online Learning & PD

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ~ Eric Hoffer

Keeping up with the continuous changes within our profession is a challenging yet vital task. As this quote from Eric Hoffer indicates, school librarians must find ways to continue to develop professionally not only to remain relevant, but also to ensure their role as educational leaders within their school communities. To do so, school librarians must be the models of what we encourage and hope our students develop into: independent, self-directed, lifelong learners. While traditional professional development models can be limiting because of scheduling conflicts, topics that are not of interest, distance or cost, any self-directed learner with access to the Internet has many options for relevant, worthwhile free or inexpensive professional development as well as the opportunity to connect and collaborate with and learn from peers and thought leaders in the field. The opportunity to pursue your own learning on your own time is more accessible than ever!


Twitter has revolutionized professional development. At any time, Twitter offers access to the knowledge, advice and resources being shared by colleagues around the world. While Twitter is an amazing place to learn about new resources and professional information and articles, one of the best uses of Twitter for professional development is Twitter chats. Twitter chats offer the opportunity to connect with peers in real time to participate in online, focused discussions with school librarians and other educators. Twitter chats are a perfect vehicle for developing an online Professional Learning Network with innovative and inspiring colleagues from across the country and beyond. There are educational Twitter chats happening every day. Use this handy Twitter chat calendar created by Richard Byrne or this Education Chats on Twitter list to see when different educational chats take place. The Massachusetts School Library Association’s #MSLA Twitter chat takes place from 8-9pm on the second Tuesday of each month. Check out the schedule of upcoming #MSLA chats as well as the archives of past chats to see what colleagues have been discussing and sharing. New to Twitter? Find information about how to get started here. To get the most out of Twitter, consider using a tool such as Tweetdeck  or Hootsuite to set up columns for following specific hashtags such as #MSLA #TLChat, #edtech, #tlelem, #edchat and others for a direct connection to many of the today’s educational thought leaders.


edWeb is a professional social and learning network that offers educators the opportunity to not only connect with colleagues with similar professional interests, but also to participate in free professional development webinars. edWeb is organized by communities of interest. Once a member joins a community they will receive notice of upcoming related webinars. One community of interest to librarians is LMC @ The Forefront: A Collaborative Community for Library Professionals. Some of the webinars are vendor-sponsored, however all of the webinars are led by school library leaders and offer valuable information on school library topics. For example recent school library-related live webinars included Dynamic Databases: Revolutionizing Today’s Research, Teaching, and Learning presented by Joyce Valenza, and Makerspaces: The Now Revolution in School Libraries presented by Leslie Preddy. Community members not able to participate in the live webinar are able to view these webinars at any time; and a list of archived webinars is also available.


Are you a member of AASL? If so you have access to a valuable professional development resource, eCOLLAB. AASL members or eCOLLAB subscribers have access to upcoming and archived webinars on a variety of school library topics presented by leaders in the school library profession. There are a number of upcoming webinars scheduled through June including Transforming Teaching and Learning With Digital Tools by Melissa Jacobs Israel and School Library Collaborations: Making Them Work to Improve Student Achievement with Charles Hockersmith.

TL Virtual Cafe, #TLChat and TL News Night

Connect and collaborate with some of the most innovative thought leaders in the school library profession! TL Virtual Cafe hosts “conversations about teacher-librarians, educational technology, and collaborative connections to facilitate meaningful and lifelong learning skills.” Upcoming events include Makerspaces with Shannon Miller & Diana Maliszewski, Telling Your Story with Elissa Malespina, and Classroom Cribs with Erin Klein & Al Juliani. Join #TLChat on Twitter on the 2nd Monday of the each month at 8pm. Also, check out TL News Night on the 3rd Monday of each month with archives available.


OCLC’s WebJunction features free webinars on a variety of library-related topics presented by leaders in the field. Certificates of completion are available upon completion of the webinar.

Booklist Online and SLJ Webcasts

Booklist Online and SLJ Webcasts offer a variety of webinars (including archives of past webinars) on new and subject specific book titles, literacy topics, digital resources and more, usually sponsored by publishers.

Some of the free webinar offerings are often sponsored by or underwritten by publishers or other vendors so keep that in mind when viewing the content.

Want to take an education course or learn something new just for fun? There are many opportunities to do so online. Try an online course or MOOC through what I think are some of the best quality online learning sites (listed below). Happy Learning!

Annenberg Learner seeks to advance the art of teaching through more than 100 multimedia courses and workshops. Graduate credit is available for a fee.

EdX connects learners to interactive online classes and MOOCs from the world’s best universities, colleges and organizations.

Canvas Network offers free, online courses taught by educators.

Coursera is an education platform that offers free online courses from top universities and organizations from around the world.

MIT OpenCourseWare is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content.

Open Culture provides access to online courses, MOOCs, content and more.

Open Yale Courses includes lectures and other materials from selected Yale courses.

Udacity provides mostly free technology courses developed in collaboration with industry experts such as Google and Facebook. Fee-based courses for credit are also available.

WebCast.Berkeley provides online video and audio content from UC Berkeley courses.

And don’t forget Google Video, iTunesU, SchoolTube, and YouTube or YouTubeEdu for online courses or quick instructional videos.

Amy Short is the Assistant Director of Library Media for the Cambridge Public Schools


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