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I focused last week’s post on the top tool all college instructors should be using in their learning management system (LMS). In today’s post, I broaden my advice to some amazing resources I’ve come across while searching online for ways to improve my courses. My list doesn’t focus on online tools like Trello (Free Course: Trello Boards for Academics) or Kahoot, but rather websites with plenty to offer teachers who want to create innovative and engaging course content. If you’re interested in learning more about useful tools rather than online resources, here are a few blog posts I’ve written that are all about that topic (post 1, post 2). Once you check out those, though, I still recommend giving this post a read, as well! Here’s a teaser: there’s a huge catalog of college courses with all their materials listed just waiting for you to explore…
I came across this online resource earlier this year, and I was amazed by how much helpful material it has to offer. Have you been assigned to teach a new course next semester and you don’t know where to start? Start here. This site includes detailed course descriptions, required book lists, semester schedules, assignment sheets, etc. just waiting to be used for inspiration. You can see exactly who created each course, so you can credit them in your own work or contact them with any questions you have about their course materials. I actually haven’t used this site in this way yet, as I’m not teaching anything new this semester and I like my current course designs. I definitely plan to use it in the future, however, especially for any courses that have required elements I’m not as comfortable teaching yet.
I want to disclaim that I just came across this website last weekend during a free web-conference they had about using Google forms for pedagogical purposes (mostly assessment). This is a resource you need to pay for, either by buying individual lessons or purchasing a yearly subscription. I was offered a great deal during the conference which is why I decided to subscribe for one year even though I don’t teach in K-12 classrooms. There are thousands of hours of video lessons on this site, and they are about so many different topics.
I’ve included a screenshot below that showcases just a few categories from their catalog. As you can see, this site can be relevant for all types of teachers (and administrators). In addition to the thousands of videos, there’s also a forums sections and a “share resources” section. If you want to be part of a huge online community of teachers, this site might be the perfect place for you. It’s a professional development site, so you can also get tons of hours of credit for watching the webinars (which I know is a necessary element of PD for teachers of lower grade levels). It’s not a free resource, but I think it’s worth the price (especially if you wait for a free webinar and get a sales price offer!).
University/College Library Website
As a former library liaison for my department, I can’t stress enough the importance of checking out what resources your university’s library website has to offer. My university has a tool, for example, which allows us to request materials from other Illinois libraries. If available at one of these other colleges/universities, the text is sent to either our campus library for pick up or our library account (for PDF downloads). Of course, an example like this one won’t be found at all universities, but you won’t know until you look. From my experience in three different universities, though, library websites often have incredibly useful information and resources for teaching various subjects.
Personally, I’ve used the ISU Milner library website for sources about citation styles, for checking out ebooks about pedagogy (and also about the subjects I teach), for demonstrating to students how to find sources in the deep web, and for requesting the purchase of a new book for our physical library. If you teach research practices in any of your courses, the library website is definitely a fantastic, multi-faceted resource.
If you want to find communities of teachers to talk to online, blogs are a good option, but Twitter can be a more efficient platform. I’d like to think that blogs like this one can provide a lot of valuable information to teachers because they are a long-form genre of writing. But, blogs often don’t have a thriving community in the comments section, whereas Twitter is a community-based platform for short-form communication. Twitter Chats are a major element of the platform, especially in education and literary circles. For example, I’ve participated in multiple #TeachWrite chats, where teachers who teach writing (or really, any teachers who think about writing in their own lives and their students’ lives) come together and answer themed questions each month.
For getting future class content ideas, I love lurking on chats about children’s and young adult literature, even when I haven’t read the books yet. There are #edtech chats as well, for those who love using tech in classrooms or who are looking for information on what tech to use. [Here’s a blog post I wrote about tech in the classroom.] Really, the potential to use Twitter as a resource is endless. Take advantage of these chats as networking opportunities, and keep track of who you are connecting with in case you meet them at a future conference. [If you’ve never attended an academic conference before, here are some tips.]
[I won’t discuss here using Twitter as a pedagogical tool in the classroom, but I’m seeing designated class hashtags more and more as the years pass. Just type in a course you teach or in your university’s catalog (for example, #eng101), and see if anything pops up. Or, start your own hashtag for your classes or your personal teacher community!]
Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers
I have a Pinterest board dedicated to college teaching tips and resources. Yes, it’s not as common to see pins about teaching at the college level (there are SO many pins related to teaching elementary and middle school, and plenty for high school, as well). But, they do exist and they can help you find whole blogs devoted to pedagogy. I came across the Cult of Pedagogy blog because of Pinterest, and I’ll forever be grateful. Teachers Pay Teachers is obviously not a free resources site, and it also is more devoted to primary and secondary education, but it can be worth checking out, especially if your students are future teachers of those school years.
You can also create Pinterest boards devoted to the content you teach, rather than about teaching itself. I discuss this approach more in this blog post.
I hope I’ve introduced you to some resources you didn’t know about already. Here’s an additional resource I’ve created to help teachers keep their ideas and lesson plans organized in one easy-to-navigate tool. I’ll be on the look out for more, so feel free to add links to other resources in the comments section below. I hope to see you in a future Twitter chat!
Comment Below: What is your favorite online resource for teachers?
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