Saturday, March 21, 2015
Professional Learning - It Is Ours!
I love having the opportunity to get together with colleagues and to share what is working, and what's not. There is such power in having opportunities to learn from one another and to share best practices, and yet, it seems that we don't make the time to do it as often as we could, or we should. We don't connect with colleagues in neighboring schools or districts, and miss the occasion to tap into our collective intelligence. There is so much that we can learn from one another! If you have ever attended an Edcamp you know exactly what I mean. If you have not experienced an Edcamp, do yourself a favor and find one. It will be some of the most rewarding professional learning that you engage in.
This morning I was able to participate in professional learning with colleagues in a neighboring district (West Genesee). I was asked, by Keith Newvine, to facilitate a discussion on blogging for educators and students (you can access the slide deck here). We had great discussions about the purpose of blogging in education, the many benefits that blogging has for both educators and students, and how we might overcome possible obstacles or roadblocks. While I was facilitating this discussion, two others were taking place, one on the use of Twitter in education (facilitated by Vicki Day) and another on GAFE (facilitated by Rob Leo). As we wrapped up the first session, it was clear that while the participants were interested and eager to learn both about Twitter and blogging, there was a real desire to go deeper with GAFE. It was at this point that one of the organizers approached Vicki and I about sharing our experiences with GAFE, and specifically Google Classroom, at the elementary level. It made sense to differentiate the GAFE session so that secondary and elementary participants would be better able to get precisely what they needed. It was such a positive experience. We were able to have meaningful, focused discussions, and participants were able to ask questions of us, and the group. We were able to share what we have learned, refine our thinking, and think about what next steps might be. It really was the perfect example of what professional learning could, and should be.
All too often professional learning is not driven by the learner, and their needs, and this is unfortunate. In my experience, the most influential and powerful learning comes when you have more organic learning and collaboration opportunities, and the reason is pretty simple - one size does not fit all. So, this is where educators need to take some ownership and responsibility. We need to advocate for our own professional learning, and we need to stop waiting for PD to be done for us, or to us. There are many easy ways for us to do this. We can connect on Social Media, and create dynamic Professional Learning Networks (PLNs). We can encourage small moment PD sessions in our buildings, in which we share our expertise and empower one another (read more about these in Pernille Ripp's book, Empowered Schools, Empowered Students). We can facilitate, and actively participate in Edcamps. We can blog and share our learning and reflection with others. Finally, we must be vocal in our respective districts, and let our administrators know what we feel we need to grow professionally. Now is the time for a professional learning revolution!
Want a seriously great read on leading professional learning? Order Leading Professional Learning: Tools to Connect and Empower Teachers by Tom Murray and Jeff Zoul.