With the spring conference season already in full swing, and having just wrapped up our coverage of ed-tech conferences in both Texas and Florida,I’m reminded of how important these kinds of experiences are for the professional growth and development of educators and school technologists.

Education can be an isolating profession, as there isn’t a lot of time during the school day for interacting with colleagues and sharing professional knowledge. And after the final bell rings, extracurricular activities, parent-teacher conferences, staff meetings, grading, and planning all have to be done. While there are no shortage of workshops, conferences, and seminars to help foster professional learning opportunities, these experiences require time and travel that often can be hard to accommodate.

Fortunately, eSchool News Online can help. Though we’re known primarily for delivering breaking ed-tech news and information to the education community each day–which, by itself, is essential to helping you do your job effectively–we also offer indispensable opportunities for professional development like those you’d get at conferences and seminars.

For starters, there’s our Conference Information Center (CIC), which is a virtual hub of information linking you to the insights shared at major ed-tech trade shows. The stories you can read on pages 30 and 38 of this issue are just a small sampling of the extensive breadth of our reporting from these shows. Our complete coverage from the Texas Computer Education Association conference and Florida Educational Technology Conference, as well as information from other upcoming conferences, can be found here: http://www.eschoolnews.com/cic

Be sure to check out our Conference Correspondent reports from these shows. These are reports filed from conference workshops and breakout sessions by your colleagues, who have put a great deal of time into sharing the wisdom they have gleaned at these events. I want to call your attention to one entry in particular from FETC. LouAnn Bigsby, program director for teacher grants for the Polk Education Foundation, reports on how a recent federal law has spurred the creation of a valuable new resource for disabled students:

“One great aspect of the session was the new information on publishers providing electronic versions of their textbooks. Every student who is [judged] to be print disabled will be able to access a new web site, http://nimas.cast.org, to locate a media version of [his or her] text. This federal special education law, NIMAS, provides a national clearinghouse for these texts. Each state is responsible [for having] a designated position to oversee the textbook repository and to make it available to educators and students identified as print-disabled. It is a new law, and there are not many texts accessible yet; however, one suggestion to district and state textbook adoption committees was to ask publishers to make available the media versions of their texts–this would be much more efficient than scanning each text…”

You can find LouAnn’s entire entry, as well as many more Conference Correspondent reports, at our CIC.

Another great benefit of conferences is the sharing of best practices: seeing how colleagues have solved ed-tech challenges that are similar to your own. At eSN Online, our current edition of Best Practices in School Technology is available for viewing in PDF format, free of charge, from our home page. This publication is updated twice a year, so be sure to check it out.

Finally, there is the hands-on learning you get at conferences–the “how to” of technology use and integration. And at eSN Online, we provide that as well.

Through a partnership with Atomic Learning, we offer online, weekly video tutorials that help answer the common questions teachers–and students–inevitably have when learning new software. “Show Me How, Now!” addresses such software skills as adding action buttons to PowerPoint presentations or using the “magic wand” feature in Photoshop. “Show Me How, Now!” is updated every Wednesday afternoon, and can be viewed by visiting: http://www.eschoolnews.com/marc/showme.cfm

In addition, each edition of “Show Me How, Now!” is prominently placed in our “Tools for Schools” eMail newsletter, which is a weekly roundup of grants, industry news, best practices, and more. You can sign up for this free eMail newsletter at: http://www.eschoolnews.com/emailprofile

If you like what you see, I encourage you to visit the Professional Development area of our site. Here, in addition to a listing of Atomic Learning resources (and a link for a free, one-month trial of the service), we have links to other robust, subscription-based resources, including online technology journals from Element K. These journals investigate the features and benefits of major software applications, including time-saving tips and techniques. You can find these journals and more here: http://www.eschoolnews.com/erc/professionaldevelopment

The densely scheduled nature of most educators’ workdays can make it hard to find opportunities for professional growth. And that’s where eSN Online can help. I hope you’ll take advantage of our wide assortment of online resources to further your professional learning at your own convenience.