This summer I've had the opportunity to participate in numerous online PD sessions as well as going to NECC 2009 for some face to face learning. I realized that I've become a huge fan of the virtual conference, webinar, and other live (and archived) online professional development opportunities that are now readily available on the web. These online professional development sessions provide teachers and others opportunities to enhance their personal learning and grow professionally in ways that until recently were not available.
I've had the opportunity to attend face to face conferences since my first year of teaching. These conferences are always productive and educational, and I always feel like I leave those face to face conferences with something good. But face to face conferences are much different than the online PD sessions I have attended.
The key difference to me, between face to face and virtual PD sessions, is the level of participation by the attendee. Typically in a face to face environment you sit and listen to someone talk and share ideas. It is not until the end of the session that you have the opportunity to ask some questions. In the online setting you almost always have the ability to participate in the conversation via a backchannel or the chat rooms. The ability to participate in the discussion makes any PD session much more meaningful. I always leave the online (at least the ones that are interactive) discussions with the sense that I have learned more because I was not a passive learner but an active learner.
With all of this said, I do not advocate that all PD take place online. I do like talking and interacting with people in a face to face setting. And there is something to be said for the energy you get from being around people at a conference. But I do like the ability to participate in online PD.
If you have not had the opportunity to participate in any of these online PD sessions, I encourage you to do so.
I would recommend joining the Classroom2.0 ning and participating in some of their Elluminate sessions on Saturday's, 12 noon eastern time (you do not need to be a member to participate). These are some excellent sessions which will give you the opportunity to experince online PD. You can just go in and listen or you can participate in the chat room. If you are on Twitter and you see that someone is streaming a session...jump on in, and see what's going on. You just might learn something.
Some good upcoming Online Conferences and Webinars:
The K12 Online Conference