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by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
I meet many educators around the world, virtually and in person… Many times, I am still amazed at the resistance to new ideas, change and willingness to apply the learning they expect of students to their own learning.
Here are the 3 things, above all, that I wish educators knew about their own learning.
- The understanding that we don’t know, what we don’t know!
- How can we be resistant to pedagogy, tools and strategies that we have never experienced for learning ourselves?
- How can we try out new forms of teaching and learning, if we are not even aware they exist and play a vital role in the lives around us?
- How can we be dismissive of the potential outcomes in learning, if we don’t walk the walk?
- The understanding that it is about life long learning.
- Being an educator means being in the business of learning!
- Having completed a formal degree or having received a certification, does not mean the world around us is at a stand still and our knowledge will continue to serve us in the present and future. For example, it is possible to arrange painting parties for kids instead of usual painting clases.
- It is possible and even likely that an educator could be classified as “illiterate” for the 21st century, if they were to stop learning and feel satisfied with their 20the century education.
- The understanding that there exists a moral imperative of sharing as an educator.
- Learning is amplified when shared
- Sharing of your reflections, thoughts, ideas, best practices, feedback and resources is part of the mechanism of social learning
- If no one were to step up to share, social media, crowdsourcing or personal learning networks (PLNs) would not exist.
Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
As a reader of my blog, you have followed my journey into exploring Sketchnoting since April 2014. I have come a long way by studying and learning from other sketchnoters: their techniques, their tools, their thinking process, their signature people, objects and metaphors.
If have gone from asking myself WHAT can you Sketchnote? to Sketchnoting as a Form of…
I am experimenting with a variety of goals, as I am sketchnoting, wanting to be aware of how I react to each form in terms of my thinking process and learning involved.
- Reflection : “We don’t learn from experiences, we learn from reflecting on the experience” John Dewey
- Note Taking: How can we summarize main ideas visually?
- Visual Thinking: How can we make thinking visual and visible to others?
- Content Creation: How can we take concepts and content, in order to be able to share visually to appeal to a larger audience
- Memory Aid: Doodling triggers memory after the event has passed. Visuals beat text when it comes to remembering
- Process Ideation: Documenting the formation of concepts and ideas
- Storytelling: Conveying of events through images and text
- Mind Mapping: Brainstorming and organizing of ideas, thoughts and connections
I am specifically intrigued by sketchnoting as a FORM OF REFLECTION. As Visible Thinking Routines (by Project Zero) have proven to be very helpful in making thinking visible, I prepared an easy to follow routine to reflect when sketchnoting. Disclaimer: this is not meant to be a one- size- fits- all reflection routine, just one of many ways one can take advantage of sketchnoting to support a reflection process.
- What do I know?
- What have I learned?
- How can I apply what I learned?
- How do I summarize in a Headline what I learned?
- Brainstorm keywords about the topic
- Objects & People
- How can I make my thinking visible?
- How can I represent an idea?
- How does what I learned connect to what I (or others) already knew or will do
- What conclusions will I draw?
- What are my goals?
- What did I do, hear, watch, learn?
- What was important about it?
- Where could I use this again?
- Do I see any patterns?
- How well did I do?
- What should I do next?
This past week, I had the opportunity to facilitate a session about Sketchnoting for Reflection at the end of the 3 day ASCD Camp Connect21 conference in Washington, DC. It was the perfect moment to help participants become aware of their thinking and learning process as they reflected via sketchnotes of their learning experience at the conference. Next stop? How do we bring Sketchnoting for Reflection to our students as yet another tool in their toolbox.
Below find a few samples of the reflection results:
by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
In 2011, I wrote a blog post, titled Upgrade your KWL Chart to the 21st Century. It described how I learned about a new version of the traditional KWL (What do I Know, What do I Want to know and what have I Learned) via Chic Foote as it snuck in an “H“(How will I find out). That “H” seemed to make the increased importance of the information literacy visible. I ended up on Maggie Hos-McGrane’s blog, which, according to John Barell’s book Why are School Buses always Yellow?, added yet two other abbreviations (“A“- What action will I take and “Q“-What further Questions do I have?) to make up a KWHLAQ acronym.
The blog post included the visual chart below, which seemed to have made it the most popular blog post searched for and shared on Langwitches of all times. That seemed to demand an update to the visual after 4 years. 🙂 I have used the chart consistently over the last few years as a framework to upgrade FOR the 21st century in lesson planning, professional development workshops, coaching and working directly with students and teachers. An essential component of sharing, as a teacher, is the knowledge that one’s work has an impact on other teachers and students, who most likely one will never meet. It is even more gratifying reading of the excellent work others have done:
- Simple question: What Action will you take? by Denise Krebs
- Step-by-Step Directions for Creating Passion Projects in Our Classroom by Paul Solarz
I have also used the KWHLAQ chart as one framework to promote Reflection as Part of the Learning Process, Not as an Add-on. In the following visual below I share ideas of how to embed the KWHLAQ framework in analog and digital activities.
I am continuing to be intrigued by John Barell’s original inquiry strategy, how to use to bring awareness and experience opportunities for modern learning skills and literacies. Since Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Routines have been playing an integral part of my continuous work of Documenting4Learning, is was an easy connection to bring in the routines as a strategy in the KWHLAQ flow.
The new visual below is intended to give teachers and students more choices of make their thinking and learning visible using the following platforms, activities, tools, Visible Thinking Routines as an option or starting off point. The suggestions include tools and platforms that are specifically suited to connect, collaborate, communicate and create, 21st century style, one’s process and make it easier to amplify and to document4learning. The framework is based on
- REFLECTION being an integral part of the learning process
- the understanding that through technology tools our access to INFORMATION has exponentially expanded as well
- our ability to take ACTION beyond affecting people we are able to reach face to face
- that technology tools allow us to express and communicate in OTHER FORMS of media beyond words and text
What do you think? What other platforms, tools and activities would you include and organize according to the KWHLAQ chart? Let’s crowdsource more resources for the use of KWHLAQ for the 21st Century!
by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
My work in formalizing Documenting4Learning is moving forward. In good old fashion, regarding practicing what one preaches, I am documenting my journey:
- Learning to Document FOR Learning and Sharing
- Copyright and Backchanneling in the Music Classroom
- Documenting FOR Learning
My exploration got started with my own change and heightened layer of learning as a direct result of documenting. The continued action research, is fueled by my firm believe that sharing is a crucial component of our work as educators and the “learning revolution“
Sharing means amplification. Amplification means spreading good practices, reaching more people and connecting beyond our own limitations of zip codes and language barriers.
- the glue that will connect your school’s professional development initiatives together
- build capacity among your teachers to make their learning visible
- communicate, collaborate and connect among professional educators
- action steps to use data to inform teaching
- supportive skills to implement and grow e-portfolios
- re-think teacher observations in your school
- creation of institutional memory
by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
I am on a quest to make documenting FOR learning a topic to think about in all educational conversations. How do we document our own learning? How do we make learning visible to others, so we can share, collaborate and improving how we teach and learn? What role does documenting play in the process of learning?
Documenting is more than staying organized or writing down what will be or was taught. Documenting is part of the learning process!
Finding and sharing tools to help create these documentations and make it easier and more time efficient to do so is important too. This is the first post in a series to showcase such tools.
As part of the 5 day bootcamp with a cohort of teachers from the Goethe Schule, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, participants experienced the learning routine, LEARN-REFLECT-SHARE.
One of the first activities of the week together was to draw an illustration to make their view of themselves as teachers visible to others. Directly afterwards, I asked them to use Post it notes to reflect on their thinking as they were drawing their illustration. Throughout the 5 days the teachers had many different opportunities of experiencing the power of metacognition (thinking about their thinking) and to use different kinds of media to make that thinking visible in order to document it and share it.
I chose for the first time to use the app Post-it Plus to document the activity.
- allowed me to annotate each note
- organize all notes on a board
- re-arrange the notes as I pleased
- gave me various options to export the notes.
It was super easy and convenient to export the sticky notes as images and upload to the cohort blog to give participants the opportunity to download their written reflection as a file in order to use it on their blog and reflection of learning.
What a catching blog post title. It might have caught your attention because of the keywords “the most significant” and “innovations” and a promise of a prediction to guide you into the future. Taking into consideration that devices, such as the iPhone, which changed an entire culture of anytime and anywhere connectedness, information flow, participation, creators, producers and learners, did not exist 10 years ago, I am venturing out to say that there is no accurate answer for what will be “significant” 10 years from today. I will disappoint you if you were looking for short, easy to follow instructions. Especially in education, planning for a “moving target” leaves us anxious, eager and willing to give our ear to anyone who promises us guidelines for that future we so desperately are looking for.
Taking a look at the definition of innovation in Wikipedia, I can only give you my best educated guess when we are looking for “a new idea, device or process” that “can be viewed as the application of better solutions” that meets “new requirements, inarticulated needs, or existing market needs.”
My vote for the most significant classroom innovation is the process of being able to “learn how to learn”. That process falls under the category of “existing market needs”, with a steadily increasing rate of importance in the years to come. This would be my best guess when working with so many unknown variables which are undoubtedly awaiting us. Possessing the ability of learning how to learn, will give us as teachers and our students the ability to grow in a world of continuously and exponentially increasing rate of change.
Learning how to learn embeds the notion of self-directeness and self-motivation as a learner. The view of seeing oneself as a life-long learner with a growth mindset, defined by Carol Dweck as “ intelligence that can be developed, which leads to a desire to learn” is inherent to the process of learning how to learn.
We are looking at becoming fluent in a work- and learnflow as a process to be able to flourish in a world with ever changing tools, platforms, networks and external innovations that will have a significant impact in the world of education.
- Learning how to learn will include knowing how to find filter, find, evaluate, categorize, store, remix and create information… no matter how much information is available or in what format, media or language it is available.
- Learning how to learn will mean how to work and learn with (not just about) people at a global scale… no matter how far the geographic distance, time zones, cultural and language differences.
- Learning how to learn will mean to be able to understand the differences and purpose of a variety of platforms and being able to harness the power of these networks… no matter the type of existing platforms, the need to migrate to new platforms or the necessity of fluently being able to switch between platforms for specific purposes.
- Learning how to learn will mean to adapt to new forms of media… no matter if this means letting go of nostalgic attachments or customary workflows of routine ways of reading, writing and communicating.
Although we don’t know exactly how the world will look like in 10 years, what “new requirements, inarticulated needs, or existing market needs” it will have, we do know that it will be different than our world today. The only way to prepare for that world is to possess the ability to adapt to change, have a growth mindset and be prepared to continue learning.
by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
I have been a fan of Visible Thinking Routines which were developed by Project Zero from Havard, for a while now. I have used these routines with students, as blogging routines and in professional development workshops.
The Visible Thinking Routines website explains that:
Routines exist in all classrooms; they are the patterns by which we operate and go about the job of learning and working together in a classroom environment. A routine can be thought of as any procedure, process, or pattern of action that is used repeatedly to manage and facilitate the accomplishment of specific goals or tasks.[…] Classrooms also have routines that structure the way students go about the process of learning
As I am trying to make
21st century, modern, contemporary or “now” learning visible, it seemed a natural step to point out “Modern” or “Now” Learning Routines.
Write about what you read, write about connections you are making between the content you have read, write about things you wonder about and write your reflection of your thoughts. What did you think about? What does that make you want to explore further? Why do you agree? Why don’t you agree? What steps will you take, now that you learned about something new?
Comment or annotate on the things you read. Leave a public comment on things you read online, annotate on the margins of physical reading material with sticky notes, highlighters or pencil. Make your mark by leaving your initial reaction or thoughts and connections visibly in the space.
2. Learn > Reflect > Share
Learn the way you learn best, listen to a lecture, watch a demonstration, write and organize your knowledge in a mindmap, discuss an area of interest with a friend, watch a movie, go to a workshop, attend a university class, etc.
Reflect about an experience, be cognizant of what and how you are thinking, be aware of where you are coming from, of different perspectives, influences that are and have guided your thinking and choices. Jon Dewey said: ” We don’t learn from experience, we learn when we reflect on our experience.”
Share your learning and your reflection with others. Make a conscious effort to not only reflect quietly in your own mind , but make your reflecting visible and shareable, preferable in digital form. The digital form can be archived, duplicated and amplified beyond a limited amount of face to face colleagues.
3. Contribute > Feedback > Grow
Contribute to the learning of others, add value by answering questions, share your expertise, bring in another perspective or a different point of view, Contribute by sharing examples of what works and doesn’t work in education. Be a building block for others to remix and build upon your work, so we can transform learning together, across time zones and geographic borders.
Be open to receiving (and giving) Feedback by being transparent with your work. Take feedback into consideration to see your work through different eyes. Let feedback push your train of thought in a different direction or receive affirmation that you have been looking in the same direction. Feedback will allow you to gauge interest of others in your area of interest. Connections that you make via feedback (left by you or for you) will help you build your learning network.
Grow from critical feedback you receive. Grow your learning network by giving more than you take. Learning is a process, where you will be in a different place from where you started out from. Grow by achieving goals that you had set for yourself and grow from the experience in overcoming obstacles.
4. Watch > Do > Teach
Watch someone use a tool, you have never used to learn before. Observe someone take a traditionally taught lesson and transform it by using technology to amplify learning. Watch how students take ownership of their own learning as you watch a video of another teacher documenting a lesson from their classroom. Watch how a mentor skypes into your classroom and co-teaches virtually. Watch a coach model a lesson about digital citizenship for your students. Watch a consultant share workshop material.
Do, try it out, test it, experiment with what you saw to make it your own. It does not have to be perfect the first time you DO (Remember: FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning”). See what works and what does not in your individual situation.
Teach it to others. Aristotle already proclaimed: Teaching is the highest form of understanding. One of Alan November’s Digital Learning Farm jobs is that of a Tutorial Designer. In order to be able to teach a concept or content to someone else, higher level of understanding of content knowledge is required.
5. Document > Present > Disseminate
Documenting FOR Learning is a supporting piece for the study of self-determined learning (Heutagogy) and a strategic approach and technique to facilitate learning (Pedagogy). Document learning as it is happening. Use different media (text, images, audio, video) to archive what you are teaching, what your students are creating. Document the timeline of events. Document student voices and understanding. Make the process visible for others. Documentation allows teachers to share best practices with colleagues and to make teaching available for students outside of classroom hours. Documenting is a tool to inform further instructions and a way for teachers to reflect on their own lesson plans, delivery and teaching pedagogy. Documentation allows teachers and students to build their footprint in a digital world.
Present your documentation in a form that makes it easy to share and is visually appealing to others. Become the lead storyteller of your learning. Create slide decks that “readers” can view in their own time. Show process by creating a visual timeline. Allow others to be a fly on the wall in your classroom by making a video of learning taking place. Create a video that summarizes your learning, easy for others to take a look at. Create infographics to visual represent numbers that tell a story. Create a space online (website, blog, Instagram account, Facebook, etc.) to be able to give others access to what you are presenting. Apply and present at conferences (face to face and virtual ones) to share with other educators and students.
Disseminate your documentation. The movie quote from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come…” is NOT true. Simply documenting and presenting your work on a public platform will not necessarily bring in the masses to give you a global audience. It takes strategic action to disseminate your work. Send out a tweet, leave a comment with a link on a relevant post. Create a visual with a relevant quote to disseminate with a link. Create video trailers or teasers to make others interested in your work. Write a guest post on someone else’s blog. Write an article for a journal or magazine. Write a book. Offer to be interviewed. Create work capable to be disseminate on different media platforms (Images, audio, video, slide decks, infographics, etc.)
I am back on my soapbox…
- …because I continue to see great things happening in classrooms, but get blank stares, when I ask, if these things are being shared beyond the school building.
- …because I watch as administrators feel the need to “protect” their faculty from “one more thing to do”.
- …because I continue to hear fear of transparency, competition, privacy and technology skills and tech phobia.
Setting up my soapbox to raise awareness of the “moral imperative of sharing” for teachers (Dean Shareski) goes back to his keynote in 2010 at the K-12 Online Conference. Since then I have stepped on that soapbox via my blog and at conferences advocating for the IMPORTANCE and NECESSITY of sharing.
George Couros, recently published 4 Reasons People Don’t Blog, which are in essence the same reasons why people don’t share (just substitute “blogging” for “sharing”)
- Blogging is useless
- I have no time
- I’m a private person
- No one cares what I have to say
He closes his blog post by pointing out the importance of sharing as an integral component of learning as well as underline “the willingness of others”
I have learned a ton not only from my own blog, but from benefitting from others that have been willing to share their teaching and learning with me, and because of that, as Dean Shareski stated, I am better off for the willingness of others to share.
I DO want to understand WHY it seems so hard for
some many educators to share…but only in order to build an airtight argument that SHARING best practices, reflections and documentation of learning is the essential fabric of education and the building block of networking, growing and moving forward.
We need to stop looking at all the reasons why educators DON’T SHARE and start looking at and DOING all the things WHY we NEED TO SHARE.
So here is my list: 3 Things Why You (as an Educator) Should Share
1. The shift of a culture of consumers to producers is built on sharing and disseminating.
Our world, and in particular the world of our students, is build on the culture of sharing. Ex. Sharing your status on facebook, adding a book review on Amazon, leaving a comment on a product you purchased online, photos on Instagram and videos on Snapchat and YouTube. Educators need to acknowledge the shift outside of the classroom and take advantage of the shift for learning with our students.
2. Painting the picture of teaching and learning in your school
Too many other people (non-educators, policy makers, politicians, media, etc.) are painting a grim picture of the teaching profession, teaching in general, schools and student learning. It is time to become our own storytellers. Sharing student successes and teachers’ professional and continuous learning MUST overshadow and outnumber the negative press and reputation that has been building up.
3. The future of learning is social and build on and around Professional Learning Networks.
Networking is built on a concept of sharing. Networking is defined by the Merriam_Webster dictionary as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions”. In order for an exchange to take place, someone has to step up to SHARE. Without sharing there is no network. Someone has to give and someone has to take, without giving the machinery of how a network works will not function. In our Information Age, where information is being generated at exponential speed, we need to rely on a network to filter quality and relevant information for us. It is our responsibility to be the filter and curator for others as well.
1. Stop resisting change
We need educators, in particular administrators, to stop resisting change, take a deeper look at the world around them and LEAD by modeling! Sharing is and needs to be a method, a strategy and a technique to improve teaching and learning practices, benefiting an entire school learning community.
2. Create a workflow to document teaching and learning
Great things are happening in your classroom and in your schools. Learn to embed documenting best practices, student learning and action research in a digital form to be able to easily disseminate via a blog, twitter, photo or video sharing site.
3. Start small.
Add a comment on a blog you read, share a resource, a link, a book or an article you have learned from on Twitter. Let students take over in documenting learning in their classroom. Use your cell phone to take photos of learning in action, write a descriptive comment under the photo and share on a blog, Instagram, a classroom site, blog, Twitter or Facebook account.
I am mulling Blogging FOR Learning over and over. It seems to be the glue that holds the puzzle pieces together in terms of contemporary learning and teaching.
By Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
Teachers and administrators struggle to find time to work together in a meaningful way. There are plenty of meetings scheduled. Many teachers leave these meetings though with the feeling of “could have spent my time doing more important things”. How do we squeeze in one more meeting to help teachers grow as professionals? How do we add one more opportunity for teachers to learn important new skills, listen to one more educational consultant, one more expert on a new initiative? How do we give teachers the time to learn with and from their own colleagues? How can teachers learn from what is going on in the classroom next door? I am a strong advocate for educators experiencing the type of learning they want to expose, inspire, support in their students’ learning. If education for the “now” and for the future demands that schools and educators prepare our citizens
- to be avid (digital) readers or writers, they should be modeling being a (digital) reader and writer
- to learn to collaborate and work on a (global) team, their teachers should have the skills to work on a (global) team
- to be online learners, their teachers need to be comfortable learning online master’s in business analytics and to share their learning with peers, their teachers should be openly sharing their own learning with colleagues
- to become network literate , teachers need experiences with “a basic understanding of network technology, crafting a network identity, understanding of network intelligence and network capabilities”
- to leverage the power of a learning network to solve problems and answer beyond “googleable” questions, then their teachers should be connected to a learning network
- to own their own learning by actively participating and contributing, then their teachers need to be doing the same and modeling life long learning
Building an online professional development hub/community for your school will give your faculty the opportunity to experience exactly this type of learning.
An online PD Hub moves teacher learning into the “Now”, away from one-size-fits all professional development, away from Tuesday’s faculty meeting at 3 pm, away from sitting through professional development workshops that are not relevant to one’s students or subject areas. Why would you want to invest time and resources into building an online professional development hub for your school?
- Anytime Professional development can happen in your pajamas on a Sunday morning or (if you are a night person) at 10 pm at night. Teachers can learn in small chunks of time… 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there… without having to sit through an extended period of time at the end of a long day of work or on a scheduled workshop at 8 am on a weekend. This is why part time online masters in business analytics courses is so popular. Entrepreneurs that want to keep learning as they manage the business can do so today without needing to burn the candle at both ends.
- Anywhere Learning happens not only in the faculty lounge, media center, at a workshop venue or in a conference room. It can happen at home, in your car (listening to a podcast), waiting at a doctor’s office or at your children’s swim practice or dance lessons. Professional development also does not only happen locally, but teachers can connect to colleagues and learning opportunities around the world.
- Sharing Ewan McIntosh said ” Sharing and sharing online specifically is not in addition to the work of an educator, it is THE work”. Educators are inherently people who share their knowledge. Technology enables us to share at a larger scale, beyond students who are physically in the same place at the same time. Web 2.0 tools give us the ability to create, publish and disseminate what we want to share with a world wide audience. Personal Learning Networks (PLN) are built on the fact that educators will share and contribute to the network as much as they are “taking” from it.
- Curating The word “curation” was taken from the context of a museum curator, who selects, organizes, and presents artifacts to the public using his/her professional knowledge. The school’s PD hub becomes the place (“museum”) for curated information, especially selected, organized and presented by professional educators for each other.
- Crowdsource Crowdsourcing is defined as obtaining information or input into a particular task or project by enlisting the services of a number of people. David Weinberger said: “The smartest person in the room is…. the room”. Harvesting the collective experience of teaching and learning in your school community is worth enlisting all members of your school. It is about taking advantage of a platform that supports and encourages contributions and collaboration through experiences, perspectives and educational data.
- Engage in conversation Many teachers are completely isolated in their classrooms. There is seldom time to chat with colleagues, conversations are cut short by the bell ringing, the next meeting, car pool duty or students needing additional help after class. Meetings are taken up with administrative issues and endless paperwork to be completed. A hub, designed to foster and support conversation among administration and faculty, allows educators to engage in a conversation in their own time, their own space, their interests and at their own level. It also fosters an important modern skill of being able to ” engage colleagues through the use of technology. It’s vital that we educators explore the use of digital PLC’s and the learning that can come from the connections”.
- Making learning visible A PD hub, is a platform to house a myriad of media (text, images, slide decks, videos, audio files, etc.) that showcases and makes the learning taking place at the school visible. Teachers share student learning as well as their own learning by making it visible for others to read, view or listen to.
- shared Sharing of resources is the beginning, sharing of successes and failures in our professional practices to receive feedback is the next.
- documented By documenting (taking the time to writing down reflecting on teaching and learning) and sharing the documentation provides evidence of a process and created artifacts.
- searchable The documentation is not scattered, nor available to just a few members of the school community, but is collected in one place that is searchable for all for future evidence and connections.
- archived Resources, artifacts and reflection of learning do not disappear after a project, a book study, a webinar or a workshop is over, but are being archived for later retrieval to be searched, built upon and connected to future professional development learning.
- open for feedback Sharing openly and transparently online (even on a closed school PD hub) adds the component of being able to receive feedback for your contributions from other members of the hub. The feedback cycle becomes an important component in the school PD hub for motivation, continuously extending your thinking and work.
- an aid in the process of writing and reflection Every teacher is a writing teacher. Every teacher strives to help their students reflect on their learning. John Dewey said: “We don’t learn from experiences, but from reflecting on the experience”. Teachers have little opportunity or take the time to continue to write and reflect on their own. A PD hub gives teachers the platform and the “excuse” to practice and hone their writing and reflection skills to then be able to take these skills and translate them into their classroom and teaching.
- Time There is never enough time in the life of an educator. Building a Professional Development Hub for your school will raise hairs on the backs (and resistance) of many just by thinking that it is one more thing to add to their plate. It is imperative to make it clear to members of your school community, that the time invested is of importance and will replace time spent on a different task. It is also important to clarify that in the beginning, a learning curve when reading, sharing, reflecting on the the hub is to be expected. The time invested now will pay off later.
- Basic Tech Skills Building an online Professional Development hub for your school is challenging if the majority of your faculty lacks basic technology skills. With basic skills, such as password and login management, typing skills, a certain fluency in reading and writing on a digital platform, etc. The lack of these skills seem to make the transition to a digital environment for learning filled with high obstacles and too far to reach. I have been wrestling with the issue “It is NOT about technology“/ It IS about Technology for a while ( Never Was About Technology?- Time to Focus on Learning?, Take the Technology out of the Equation) and of course, it is not about the technology (it is about learning), but I am observing more and more educators , who are not comfortable with nor technology literate, are being left out of/ behind LEARNING opportunities. It is a subtle change, one that can be masked by surrounding yourself with colleagues and administrators who do not value nor take advantage of the transformational opportunities in teaching and learning through technology.
- Embed Culture of Reflection If a school does not value reflection as part of the learning process or educators are not used to sharing their reflection, embedding reflection in your online PD hub will be a challenge. Teachers and administrators need to see the value and benefits for their own learning and growth. This does not happen overnight, nor by writing 1 reflective post. Learning about the value of a reflection over time to demonstrate growth TAKES time. According to Carol Rodgers in Defining Reflection :Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking, four criteria emerge from Dewey’s work that characterize reflection: Reflection is a meaning making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationships with and its connections to other experiences and ideas. Reflection is a systematic, rigorous way of thinking, with its roots in scientific inquiry. Reflection needs to happen in community, in interaction with others Reflection requires attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and others.(further reading: Reflection in the learning process, not as a an add-on, Reflect…Reflecting… Reflection, The Reflective School by Peter Pappas)
- Not comfortable with sharing While sharing has always come natural to me, this might not be the case for all your teachers at your school. Some educators are not comfortable in sharing their success or failures. Reasons behind these feelings have been “I don’t want to brag”, “There is nothing I could share that has not been shared before”, “There is noting I can think of”, or ” I am a perfectionist, I could not possibly write down what I do”, “I am worried/afraid people will judge me/my writing/my spelling/my opinions/my teaching/etc.” The fact of potentially receiving feedback, embeds a different mindset when authoring and sharing material and documentation. Many are not used to that kind of open and transparent feedback.
- Building a Culture of Sharing How do we move from “never having thought about sharing my work, my reflections, my successes and failures, to a culture where sharing is deeply embedded how we work, learn and teach together. Not an easy task to build that culture, to make the act of sharing part of the fabric of our school? (further reading: Sharing and Amplification Ripple Effect, The Power and Amplified Reach of Sharing, Sharing in Education- Is it Changing?, There is a responsibility of sharing among Educators, It’s All About Sharing & Collaborating)
- Self- Directed Learning Schools, universities and continued education opportunities of pre-internet days as students have groomed us to sign up, show up, listen and receive credit as proof that we were present. With the growth of the Internet, social media platforms, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), personal learning networks (PLN) blogs, wikis, etc, the learner is in charge WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW to learn. Materials are not pre-chosen, resoures are not stagnant or quickly outdated, a myriad of media is available to match one’s learning style. It is a challenge and struggle for educators and schools to transition to a new mind shift, where professional development is NOT chosen for them, but self-directed. Self-directed also requires the increasingly important skill of staying focused and the capability to select and filter an increasingly overwhelming information landscape.
- Self-Motivated Learning Closely related to self-directed learning is being self-motivated. The opportunity to learn anytime, anywhere and anyhow brings with it the challenge of intrinsic motivation. What happens when there is no roll-call, not physical presence required and a certain anonymity of what has been read, how much time was spent in working through resources and conversation threads? How much participation of the individual contributed to the overall connected learning of the group?
- Quality Contributions Having a professional development hub for your school and having your teachers contribute to the hub with resources, blog posts, images and videos does not necessarily equal quality contributions. It is imperative to clarify for teachers what is considered “quality” for your school community. Does a comment ” I like what you shared” constitute “quality”? Does it contribute to the value of the original post? Does complaining about students or parents enrich learning for your school community? What contributions enrich the school’s learning community and what might teachers add that distract from learning, are unprofessional in nature or contribute to a culture of bullying, passive aggressiveness and negativism?
- Clear Expectations Taking all the above mentioned challenges in consideration, it becomes important for administrators to set clear expectations for their faculty, if an online PD hub is to be successful. Will it be mandatory to participate? How much participation is expected? What happens, if a teacher chooses to not participate? What are consequences? Will there be consequences? What basic technology skills are expected/ required of faculty to be able to participate as a full member of the online community? What is the expectation of professionalism? Who will moderate, re-enforce these expectations? How will you set and communicate expectations of quality contributions?
- Choose a Platform There are many platforms to choose from for your online PD hub for your school. There is no right or wrong decision which one you will choose. I would suggest you choosing the same platform, that you are or will be using for your students. It makes all the sense in the world to have your teachers experiences and work with the same platform your students will be working with. Questions to ask when choosing the platform (to make sure the platform has the capability to accommodate your requirements): Will it be an open to the world or a closed to only members of a specific (school) community platform? Does the platform have potential for future growth? How much technology know-how do you need to set up and maintain the platform? How much will it cost? (Examples of PD platforms: WordPress Multi-user site (self hosted), Edmodo, edublogs, Eduplanet21, Ning,Google Plus)
- Build Content It is essential, especially in the beginning, to start building content on your community. It is hard for beginners, with little or no experience in online learning to envision the potential of the hub when nothing has been shared, no conversation has taken place and no visible evidence of a return investment to the time you are asking them to spend on the platform. It is worth the effort to invest in starting to populate resource areas, share downloadable and demonstrate how quality contributions might look like. You might also want to strategically ask specific members (more experienced ones with online learning) of your community to contribute in order to make “how it could look like “visible for others.
- Set Expectations Expectations can represent a challenge (see above). The clearer the expectations are for your school’s online professional development hub, the more successful the hub might become. Without set and communicated expectations, many hubs have fizzled out and did not fulfill the learning needs of the community. Once these expectations are communicated to members, revisit them often, embed them in conversations, in faculty meetings and faculty communications. If a pedagogical success, not only the mere existence of such online hub has become a priority and is to be part of the fabric of professional development at your school, expectations cannot disappear as yet another momentary initiative allowing members to fly under a radar.
- Model Use Administrators, especially a principal or head of school, are lead learners of a school community. In order to model good practices, their presence, participation and involvement is crucial on your online PD hub. Administrators model quality contribution, feedback and sharing, important characteristics of a flourishing online community. The mere presence and involvement of administrators, not only models, but also communicates clearly the shift of self-directed and motivated learning in digital places. Outside the digital learning platform, every opportunity should be taken to “demonstrate the value found with your digital [learning hub]” and strategically identify learning taking place as a result of connections made through the PD hub.
- Support Basic Tech Skills Different levels of comfort and fluency in regards to basic technology skills will be among your faculty. Make sure you have a system in place to support various levels. Walk in tech support, available step-by-step tutorials in paper form or for download, video tutorials of basic support involved in consuming, producing and contributing via the online hub. There is also the possibility of establishing a buddy system to connect less savvy teachers with mentors/coaches to support and guide the in becoming participating and active members of the school PD hub.
- Make Learning Visible What could you share on your online professional development hub? Resources, links to articles, book reviews, etc.? What makes YOUR SCHOOL’S hub unique, if members start sharing the learning that is taking place in their classroom with their students and in their own learning as educators. It is natural step to start Documenting FOR Learning and to share that learning in a visible way in a variety of media platforms (text, images, audio, video, etc.)