Tag: professional_learning

PD Scatter-Shooting

In my district, as in many others these days, opportunities for sharing technology-focused PD are very limited. Schedules are

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/add1sun/3511681984/

tight, district PD days are reserved for other training, after school works for some, but not for many, etc. Probably the biggest challenge is the size of my staff…one. I believe it is absolutely necessary, therefore, to focus not on the traditional model of professional development, but instead to squeeze as many learning opportunities into as many times and formats as possible. Realizing that not every staff member is going to attend the in-person workshop or watch the webinar, I’ve taken a sort of scatter-shooting approach, where I’m utilizing a range of tools to get the information to those that need it. I wanted to share what I’m using in hopes it might help others in similar circumstances (most of us). The following resources are among those I’ve been using:

  • Traditional, in-person training. These sessions are led by me or by some fantastically talented teachers and campus technologists. They are in the summer or after school throughout the year, and they are 3- or 6-hours in length. I’ve tried to include a focus on how each technology will be applied in the actual classroom or campus, although I am not 100% satisfied with that process just yet.
  • Newletters (November’s newsletter). I’ve been putting out a monthly newsletter, the Matador Digital Learning Digest. It basically consists of a focus article on some trend or technology, app recommendations, technology research/statistics, news, and a variety of web-based tools. I send this out via the district’s email system and share it on the department website and social networks.
  • Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SeguinDigitalLearning). I probably share more information through FB than any other tool at this point. I share informative articles, useful resources, events, distance learning opportunities, contests, and anything else that I believe can benefit teaching and learning here. This one is slowly gathering followers, and I’m hopeful that it will become a go-to resource while simultaneously demonstrating the great possibilites of social media sites as tools for learning. I’ve got some convincing to do there.
  • Twitter (https://twitter.com/matadoredtech). I use Twitter very much in the same way as I use Facebook, to share resources, learning opportunities, announcements, etc. I’ve been a little surprised at the lack of Twitter users in the district, but my brainwashing has only been happening for a few months, so that will change. I like the idea of using a resource that can be checked in a few seconds on a smart phone, making PD quick, painless, and portable.
  • Blogging. The real purpose of this blog is to teach and share through my rambling reflections. I’ve returned to a previously successful strategy this year by re-inventing the tech challenge that I used a couple of years ago. These are short, narrowly-focused technology lessons accompanied by a simple task to get our folks familiar with the resource and its possibilities. I’m even bribing them, as I’ll be offering prizes through a drawing for participants in the spring.
  • YouTube. Screencasts and other short, instructional videos are a great way to share a concept or start a discussion. I’ll share the link via email, our department web page, in newsletters, on our social media sites, etc.
  • Online courses. At this point we are offering 2 tech courses online, a 3-hour course on Challenge Based Learning/Digital Storytelling and a 6-hour course on iMovie. I’m developing a Google Docs course, as well. We use Moodle for our learning management system. Participation has been pretty limited, but I see signs that more folks might be interested in giving it a try.
  • Podcasts (http://www.spreaker.com/show/mossfreeshow). I’ve just started doing the regular podcasts, and am only up to 4 episodes. I am focusing on a specific topic, such as the most recent episode’s focus on communication. I’m also hoping to include interviews with teachers in the district as often as possible, and to use this as an opportunity to put the spotlight on our folks who are doing powerful, innovative things with technology. I’ll also include interviews with great educators from outside of the district whenever possible, such as a recent interview with Diana Laufenberg.
  • PLCs. This one is in the soon to be implemented state, but it needs to be included. As we move towards a spring implementation of BYOD, I’ve started talking to my BYOD committee about using less formal, after school sessions with groups of interested teachers. I envision that these sessions would take on the form of collegial conversations, discussing and sharing over coffee and snacks. They might occur during planning periods or after school, depending upon participants’ needs and schedules.
  • Webinars. This is one that is in the developmental state. I have used webinars a few times in the past, and participation was pretty good. They are beneficial because of the facts that they can be scheduled at any time, viewed from any place with an Internet-connected computer, and archived for later viewing. I plan to start offering some of these opportunities during the spring.

I’d be curious to hear what other methods and resources are being used for PD in other schools or districts. What have I not listed that has been particularly effective for you?

2-Minute Tech Challenge #1: ifaketext.com

The select few who have read this blog for a few years now might remember the old, 12-Second Tech Challenges from my previous life. These were (EXTREMELY) short video intros to some tech resources, followed by a challenge to find a way to integrate it into the curriculum. Well, 12seconds.tv doesn’t exist anymore, which is good and bad news, probably. On the negative side, 12seconds was a really cool site and community. On the positive side, I won’t be limited to just 12 seconds (No, that is not the negative side..ahem!). Still, in order to respect the time of the reader, I’ve vowed to myself to keep each video under 2 minutes.

Here is how this 2-Minute Tech Challenge thing works.

  1. Watch the video
  2. Use the resource.
  3. Share your result as a comment.
  4. Seguin faculty who participate will be entered to win some cool stuff! 1 entry per challenge + 1 bonus entry if you or your kids use the resource in the curriculum–be sure to specify.

That’s it. Sometime in the spring, I’ll tally up all of the entries and give away some useful, technology-related prizes. Just remember, it only takes a few minutes, but you have to do a little work to win. This first one will get you off to a VERY easy start!

Now, create your own. Think of how this might be used as a conversation between historical or literary characters, scientific things such as atoms, cells, etc. When finished, share the link to your fake text conversation by posting a comment to this blog post. That’s it! I look forward to seeing your creative responses!

 

Facilitating Lifelong Learning by Teachers: The PLN

We in education are fond of using the phrase “lifelong learners” as a primary goal for our students. Certainly, if such a goal is truly worthwhile for our students, it would logically be worthwhile for us, as well. Much of the learning that educators engage in is based upon traditionally presented staff development opportunities, usually selected by administrators. Much rarer is the self-initiated type of learning that might be characterized as the “teacher-scholar” model. I would assert that this type of learning is actually the most beneficial, as it will be focused on the educator’s own needs and those of his/her own students. The challenge is in the creation of an atmosphere that encourages such independence. Certainly, creating the time needed to practice such learning is difficult, and there is a need to provide guidance, showing teachers how to locate and evaluate resources, and how to critically apply new knowledge in their classroom practices.

Internet visualizationOne of the greatest benefits of social web technologies for me and thousands of other educators has been the ability to build powerful personal learning networks, or PLNs. These are groups of educators, consutants, researchers, and visionaries whose ideas and input help one another grow professionally by asking questions, prompting discussions, sharing resources, etc. Much of what I have learned and put into practice in terms of technology has come as a direct result of the interactions with my own PLN, accompanied with independent research and the input of my talented co-workers.

The question of how best to creat a PLN is certainly a wide-open one, and there are perhaps as many answers as there are individuals. However, I would suggest a few tools that facilitate connected learning as a means to begin.

  1. Blogs. Blogs are powerful tools for creating PLNs. As a tool for self-expression, they allow a user to share ideas or ask questions of a global audience. The types of responses a blog generates depends largely upon the types of questions or concepts shared. However, it also depends heavily on becoming an active member of the blogging community as a reader/responder. The new blogger should seek out blogs that address similar topics to their own, read as many as they can, and offer inciteful responses or ask questions that extend discussions. Blog response forms include the ability to link to a responder’s own blog. Very often, a thoughtful reply will cause a reader to click through to the linked blog, generating traffic and adding new members to the blogger’s PLN. To locate relevant blogs, a search tool such as Technorati or Google’s Blog Search can be used. Additionally, most blogs contain a blogroll, a list of recommended and related blogs, which can be very helpful in locating outstanding resources. Utilize RSS readers, such as Google Reader or Bloglines, to help keep readings manageable and organized.
  2. Professional networks. A wide variety of professional networks exist that focus on various educational subjects. Facebook, the social networking site, has many groups focused on education, and these groups can be easily found through a simple search. Facebook groups often engage in online discussions of topics or issues of interest, host online events, or arrange live meetings. Ning has numerous groups focused on educational issues. One of the largest is the Classroom 2.0 group, which has grown to over 15,000 members. Members share resources, blog posts, discussion forums, participate in online events, and more. If a Ning group does not exist that meets an educator’s needs, it is a very simple process to create one of their own, focused on their own goals, and to invite other professionals to participate in the PLN.
  3. SharingShared bookmarks. Participating in onling bookmarking communities has provided me with literally hundreds of useful sites, online articles, new blogs, and more. Two sites I have used are Delicious and Diigo. Diigo has become my personal favorite, as it has tools that easily facilitate the creation of and participation in groups. I have discovered and shared resources as a part of local, state, and global groups using Diigo.
  4. Twitter. I’ve certainly addressed the usefulness of Twitter before. Twitter is a microblogging platform that is used for everything from documenting/sharing the relatively insignificant details of daily life to finding answers to questions posed to broad audiences to sharing valuable resources. The usefulness of Twitter can be enhanced through the use of Tweetdeck on other, similar tools, which go beyond sharing or reading updates to the creation of groups, which allows messages or questions to be sent to specific Twitter followers.

George Siemens, the creator of the theory of learning called Connectivism, has identified several key trends in learning as it is occuring today that are important for teachers to consider, not only for their students, but for themselves:

  • Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
  • Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.
  • Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.
  • Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.
  • The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased attention to knowledge management highlights the need for a theory that attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.
  • Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
  • Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).

Wired brainI highlighted terms that are particularly relevent to the use of technology tools to create PLNs. Siemens also proposes that learning involves making connections (networks), accessing a “diversity of opinions,” knowing where to find information, and being able to ensure that information is current. If, indeed, these ideas are the way of the present and immediate futures for our students, then they should also be the applied ideals for our own, professional learning. It does require a dramatic paradigm shift, from the traditional practice of absorbing knowledge that is force-fed by school administrators, knowledge that is often well-founded in research but not necessarily applicable to all recipients. It also requires a new level of personal responsibility and effort. Fortunately, technology offers many useful tools to facilitate this type of learning efficiently. By utilizing these tools, I would assert that the rewards for both the student and the educator are greater, and both will remain better-equipped for the future that is evolving before us.

What say ye?

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