I recently watched a video posted to YouTube by Dan Brown (no not the author).
An Open Letter to Educators video
Dan talked about learning and about why he recently dropped out of university. He said, "My schooling was interfering with my education."(pogobat, 2010) I have experienced this strange phenomenon for myself. At the present time, I am a full-time student in the Masters of Education program through the University of Saskatchewan. (I graduate on June 2, 2010--Yahoo!) In the September to December term of 2009, I found that the requirements of my university classes were interfering with the learning that was intriguing and engaging me. I had to pull away from the concepts that were important to me in order to focus on what my professors said was important to them. Often my professors have commented that it is great to see how I have made connections to my own life and current experiences in my assignments BUT where was the evidence (quotes, references) of the learning from the readings I was asked to do for class. If the concepts really resonate with me, if they are going to be sticky (new term for the take-aways from a learning experience), don't those ideas need to connect with me on a personal level?
I'm going to jump off my soapbox for a while to discuss what professional development (PD or pro-D) has looked like in the past for myself as a teacher. Generally it has been a top-down model in which either at the school board level or at the school level, someone has determined what the priorities for teacher learning should be. Then an outsider is brought in to teach us about that subject.
Unfortunately this type of PD did not always resonate with me. At times I was reluctant to leave my classroom for the day and go to learn about what someone else said was important. "The schooling was interfering with the education" (pogobat, 2010).
Recently my school division has encouraged us to set individual learning targets in the areas of most interest to us. This is a step in the right direction but most of our PD time is still devoted to our school board's priorities. It still feels like a "banking model" of education which is Paulo Freire's concept. Paulo talked about the teacher who knows everything and the learner who knows nothing. The teacher must fill up the learner just as coins would fill up the empty piggy bank. Of course, Paulo disliked this idea. He wanted educators to honour the worlds and understandings of their students. (Freire, 1970) (Anti-banking chapter) Paulo said that stopping people from establishing their own lines of inquiry was an act of violence. (Freire)
It is a balancing act. I have a boss who tells me what the priorities of my job are for the year. Possibly next year it will be a focus on problem-solving (which could be applied within each subject while encouraging students to determine their own questions). Teachers are asking for PD related to board priorities. Is there a way to make the PD rise up from the teachers in the classroom rather than being imposed from the board room?
I would propose the model of just-in-time, just-for-me professional development. There may still be large group PD sessions to build foundational understandings. However we need to move away from the "sage on the stage" in order to engage learners in the subject matter. As David Weinberger said at the Building Learning conference: "The smartest person in the room isn't the person at the front of the room. It's the room." (http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2609/3867578091_40c0f0ded6_s.jpg) How can we tap into the wisdom of the crowd?
I believe that part of accessing the wisdom of the crowd is participating in online learning through your Personal Learning Network (PLN). (Collection of many PLE/PLN diagrams http://edtechpost.wikispaces.com/PLE+Diagrams)
I like this PLN diagram from D"Arcy Norman (link)
As Mickaleh said in response to pagobot's video (2010), "One of the greatest transformations that's happening because of the internet isn't access to knowledge; it's access to people." So how does one develop this PLN? I will share my story with you of how I developed my PLN.
In the summer of 2009, I took an online University of Alberta class in the use of Web 2.0 tools . My professor shared about a live-streamed Elluminate session that was taking place with George Siemens and Dave Cormier. I decided to attend the session as a virtual attendee. Everything happened so fast in the session. The conversation zoomed from topic to topic and the chat room was full of articulate guests who typed their thoughts while asking and answering questions. I timidly entered the conversation. One of my questions was answered by another virtual attendee while one of my questions was not answered until months later. (See my blog post and read the comments where Dave Cormier answers my question several months later.) That night I learned about the Open Education Conference that taking place in Vancouver the following week. I attended this conference as a virtual attendee (my blog post about this experience). Since that time I have found many live-streaming conferences to attend. At each conference, I have met some new virtual friends (like Alastair Creelman [@alacre] in Sweden and Joyce Seitzinger [@catspyjamasnz] in New Zealand). I joined an open education class taught by Alec Couros (@courosa) at the University of Regina. This class had 20 for-credit graduate level students and 200 not-for-credit students. Through each online learning setting, I added more people to my Personal Learning Network. I added many more people via Twitter which has become an easy tool to augment my learning and to share my learning.
In the future, I will continue to access my PLN in order to discover new options for learning. I will pursue my passions and interests by following the virtual rabbit trails (or "link flow") through blog posts, YouTube videos, and TEDTalks. I will check out live-streamed conferences such as TEDxOntarioEd (taking place on Friday, April 9) and use this wonderful list to find other learning opportunities.
So this takes care of my own technology professional development. What about other teachers who also want to learn about the use of technology in education? In my own school system, I believe that we have enough computers however "technology infusion without professional development wrapped around it just doesn't work, and can backfire" (Ketterer, 2008). If you had a digital projector and a classroom pod of computers but didn't know how to integrate technology into your teaching, how would you feel after watching this video?
You Can't Be My Teacher video (made by teacher in Saskatoon)
After watching this video, I would feel guilty if I did not know how to integrate technology in my classroom. So how can those of us with this expertise help those who want to learn to use technology in the classroom? We need to be willing to take on leadership roles in this area. McLeod (2007) talks about the need for technology experts to learn more about being leaders. So how should or could we share with others? We need to discover the "felt needs" of those teachers and support the use of technology tools that will help them meet that need. It may be teaching the use of social bookmarking so that the addresses of their favourite websites travel with them from computer to computer. It may be teaching the use of an RSS feed like Google Reader so that the content comes to them rather than them needing to search for the content. It may be teaching the use of Google Docs so that they can access their document without the use of USB keys or emailing documents from one computer terminal to another.
Manitoba Education created a worksheet for technology experts who are visiting classrooms to help with technology integration. (Needs Assessment for ICT for Teachers http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/tech/lict/resources/needs_assess.html) This article (Hargadon, 2010) has more suggestions for technology PD. We could direct people to our blog posts on various educational technology applications to give people some foundational information about the Web 2.0 tools. Jesper Isaksson has created a mind map with many Web 2.0 tools on it. (E-Learning and Web 2.0 Tools for Schools) I have shared this mind map with teachers who wanted to learn to use some of the tools.
My new ideal for professional development is just-in-time, just-for-me learning when I need it. I am willing to be a leader in scaffolding this kind of technology PD for my teacher colleagues. Only with this type of "where the rubber meets my road" type of learning will digital immigrants become comfortable in working with the digital natives in all of our classrooms.
Hargadon, S. (2010, March/April). Educational Networking. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools. 17, 2, 10-15. ProQuest Journals.
Ketterer, Kimberley. (2008, June/July). A professional development menu. Learning & Leading with Technology, p. 11. ProQuest Journals.
McLeod, Scott. (2007, November). An absence of leadership. Learning & Leading with Technology, p. 17. ProQuest Journals.
mickeleh. (2010, March 2). Re: Re: Re: Dan Brown's open letter to educators. You Tube video. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFeiiPdTibE
pogobat (Brown, Dan). (2010, February 22). An open letter to educators. You Tube video. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P2PGGeTOA4