Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Just-in-time, Just-for-me Professional Development

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." ( 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

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 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.


Freire, Paulo. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.

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
pogobat (Brown, Dan). (2010, February 22). An open letter to educators. You Tube video. Retrieved from


  1. Thanks Ruth for providing us with a very clear idea of how your technology professional development has evolved...and for clearly articulating that much of what you have done in terms of tech PD has been of your own initiative, rather than as a formalized PD program. I think you raise some important points, particularly about the fact that school sometimes gets in the way of 'real' learning. Hopefully that changes, for teachers and students.

  2. In the summer of 2009 I tentatively logged in to Twitter out of curiosity and found pages of expletives and nonsense. However, on about my third or fourth visit, I saw a question that you asked, and I knew I could answer it. I started following you, then @courosa, then @catspyjamasnz, and then, and then..... Your baby steps in web 2.0 encuraged me to explore and try things I had been too nervous to do before. I learned to look for subjects I was interested in, like Le Tour de France bicycle race, then follow the experts who regularly tweeted about it. Through you, Alec Couros and Joyce Seitzinger, I entered the post-retirement world of life-long learning about web 2.0 and the direction that 21st century education is headed. For this I thank you, and hope you realize that even on your sabbatical you acted as a teacher.
    Though I still value the simpler days when children went outside and "played" with eachother, I'm now not afraid of what our children will be missing in a world of e-schools and e-tainmnent.. I'm only afraid for so many of our teachers who entered the profession more than a decade ago and do not have the tools and training to learn to live and teach in this new environment. I come from the times when white boxes were tossed at us without any accompanying training, when even such a simple statement as "close the window" left teachers frustrated because this was all so new that no one had told them how. Now we research, we do lesson planning, we do marks, but in so many places, that is all. The simple level of full-class access to computers is not a daily given. And though Canada is one of the most computer-saturated countries on the planet, not all of my students had one at home. Some parents were poor. Some parents were luddites. Some parents chose to emphasize different types of learning, work or entertainment at home. And also, some teachers dismiss explorations into web 2.0 as frivolous or worse.
    Until our teachers are all comfortable with web 2.0, and until our students all have daily access to the physical 'box', we will have an increasingly two-tiered system and will be educating two different types of graduates.
    In the meantime, your professional development has launched a new direction to my life-long learning. Thank you.

  3. Lynn,

    Thanks so much for this comment. It means so much to me that I helped you on your learning journey. When you responded to my question on Twitter and then followed me, I was still quite new to Twitter. I am so happy that the digital ripples spread from me to you. Could I use your comment in a class assignment? As well, would you like to do a guest blog post for my blog? (or maybe you have your own blog site now). Let me know.