A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.” ~ Grace Hopper

January is when we are most motivated to accomplish goals, and motivation is the key to accomplishing any goal and improving ourselves. Unfortunately, staying motivated throughout the year is tough. Four years ago, I found my answer by developing a Personal/ Passionate Learning Network (PLN). What’s a PLN? A PLN consists of the people we choose to interact with and derive knowledge from in our various social networks and online learning spaces. Every day, millions share the narratives of their lives through written words, images, music, audio, and video they post on various social networks. These exchanges make us reflect on our beliefs, philosophies, and self-image and often influence our behavior and decisions. Below are events, courses, webinars, conferences, and online projects where you can learn with other language teachers and learners online. Try at least one and see how the experience helps you grow as a teacher. Then revisit us in a few months and let us know how it helped enhance your teaching year.

Free Online Learning! Courses, Webinars, Sessions, and Conferences

#ELTchat- Join several language teachers worldwide on Twitter to discuss various topics you get to vote for and suggest. You can also just lurk or look at past archives for great lesson ideas and resources. This ELTON-nominated chat takes place every Wednesday. The times alternate each week at 12:00 p.m. GMT and the following week at 21:00 GMT.

EVO Sessions- For five weeks in January and February, English language teaching experts and teachers in over 100 countries engage in collaborative online discussions or hands-on virtual workshops. Find this year’s list of over 15 to choose from with topics such as teaching young learners, with drama, with mobile devices and creating your own digital textbook.

Crafting the ePerfect eTextbook Session- In 5 weeks, create the beginnings of a digital textbook that meets your students’ needs and is engaging. You are the author and make the choices. Get feedback and support from over 500 teachers worldwide and 15 moderators who are experienced and well-known in publishing and materials design. They include – Lindsay Clandfield, Chuck Sandy, Özge Karaoglu, Jason Levine (Fluency MC), Jennifer Verschoor, Janet Bianchini, Sylvia Guinan, Debora Tebovich, André J. Spang, Jackie Gerstein, Terry Freedman, Jake Duncan, Dave Guymon, Shelly Terrell, and Rubena St. Louis.

The 30 Goals Challenge- We are a community of teachers who suggest 1 to 30 goals related to education to accomplish in a year. You choose to accomplish 1 to 30 of your choice and post a reflection on your blog or at our Facebook community.  These are short-term goals that can be accomplished in one day, such as thank a student, share a lesson idea, or dare your students. Our theme this year is, Make a Difference. Over 10,000 teachers have joined the challenge since 2010.

SEETA Courses- The South Eastern Europe Teachers Association offers several week courses with a guest author or expert in the field. You will have to register, but the courses are free!

The Teach English Facebook Community hosts regular Facebook discussions with some incredible language teachers, bloggers, and speakers worldwide.

#ELTMOOC- Throughout the year, the incredible Jason Levine (Fluency MC), organizes free online courses for teachers. Over 24 instructors provide instruction on listening and pronunciation. Follow the hashtag to see when the next event takes place.

Free Friday Webinars- Every Friday attend a free 30 minute online webinar with Shelly Sanchez Terrell about an ELT topic at 3:00 p.m. CT, 4:00 p.m. ET, 9:00 p.m. GMT, 10:00 p.m. CET, Sat. 8:00 a.m. Sydney, and Sat. 6 a.m. Tokyo. Check your time zone here! Join the sesson by clicking on this link and joining as a guest: http://americantesol.adobeconnect.com/terrell/

Receive a certificate, find resources, and watch recordings to over 150+ sessions here: http://bit.ly/ELTLINKs.

Teach English Webinars- Each month the British Council offers free webinars from various ELT authors, teachers, and trainers. Topics have included online teaching, designing a lesson, and emotional approaches to teaching with technology.

BELTA Sunday Webinars- Each month attend a free webinar on Sundays, which is sponsored by the Belgium English Language Teachers Association. You can attend free. Topics have included games to mobile learning.

CO14 Connecting Online E-Conference- February 7th-9th 2014 join this free online conference with various topics and speakers worldwide. Hosted by Nellie Deutsch.

Reform Symposium E-Conference- July 11th to 13th, 2014, join this free online conference that features over 100+ presentations from teachers, plenaries, and musicians worldwide. If you would like to present, please let us know at ReformSymposium.com. You can catch the free recordings from last year’s conference that featured speakers like Dr. Sugata Mitra (Ted Winner and founder of the Hole in The Wall Project), Nicky Hockly, Chuck Sandy, Tara Benwell, and a musical performance by Steve Bingham and Jeremy Harmer.

The Virtual Round Table Language and Technology Free E-Conference- Each year Heike Philp and others host this ELTON-nominated conference during March, April, or May. In the past keynotes included ELT allstars like Jeremy Harmer, Lindsay Clandfield, Chuck Sandy, Luke Meddings, Gavin Dudeney, Nik Peachey and Nicky Hockly.

Edublogs Live Events- Every week, attend a free webinar on various topics. Usually, Jo and Phil Hart host these free webinars that cover effective use of web 2.0 tools or instructional methodologies.

Classroom 2.0 Live Events- Every week, attend a free webinar with an expert in a field or listen to some great authors speak live and ask them questions.

Simple K12 webinars- Attend free webinars with experts on various topics.

Places to Find ELT Conferences and Events

The ELT Calendar by Tyson Seburn features events, physical and virtual, from around the world. It’s one of the best resources I’ve found for keeping current. You can also submit any event you know of including physical ones, like conferences and workshops. They don’t have to be free but many are.

Shamblesguru’s Ezine of Teacher Professional Development is updated regularly with free courses and events.

Graham Stanley has listed various sites to find out about ELT conferences taking place across the globe.

What are your favorite ways to learn online? Did I miss any other great professional development opportunities?

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, author, and international speaker. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and the Social Media Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has co-founded and organized the acclaimed educational projects, Edchat, the ELTON nominated ELTChat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. Visit her award winning blog, Teacher Reboot Camp, for resources for effective technology integration. Keep an eye out for her book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Eye on Education. She has taught toddlers to adults English in various countries including the US, Germany, and Greece and currently travels around the world training teachers.   Website: http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/   Twitter: @ShellTerrell