Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Self directed professional development

There are too many days of coming home from work feeling defeated, discouraged and tired. So when a day comes along filled with the kinds of experiences that evoke feelings totally opposite from that, you just have to celebrate them.

The day ended yesterday with a meeting of teachers after school who decided, completely on their own, to take their professional development needs into their own hands. This group of teachers is working on sorting through strategies for developing literacy skills in their students. They already know and are committed to the fact that their days are filled with attending to their instructional duties and to the needs of their students. But they all have this desire to work on the structure of their newly instituted 2 hour literacy block in such a way that they help their students develop independence and responsibility for their own learning during this time.

And so they met...goals in mind, planning how they will each take an active role in the group, deciding on dates for the rest of the school year, constructing the agenda for their next meeting - all in the name of learning from each other and working together. As they worked through their thoughts, every voice around that table was heard and every individual contributed their thoughts, their ideas and also the challenges that they're trying to work through to implement strategies that are new to them and to their students. It was just simply the best professional moment to have experienced!

These teachers are really learning what is for many of them a new concept and for others, a more deliberate way of working with and thinking through some strategies they were already using in a less structured way. In order to do this, they're gathering lots of information from professional literature (books), from their colleagues and from their students. They're working to construct their knowledge. In the 20th century, this same group of teachers could have had this same meeting and accomplished their goals just the same. But here's what will make the difference: they've made a conscious decision to use a blog as a tool for interaction. So, as they meet, someone will take notes which will get posted to their blog and they'll plan an agenda for their next meeting which will also be posted there. Can't make a meeting? Read the blog. Have a question burning in your mind that needs an answer now? Post to the blog. Looking for new ideas or insights from your colleagues? Check out the blog. Just learning about this group? Go back through the archives to see what they've been working on. Reading someone's post and want to share your response with everyone in the group? Comment to the blog. This one simple tool alone has the potential to make such a difference to these teachers professionally and to the instruction in their classrooms.

How else can they use technology to support their learning? A few thoughts:

• Flickr to post pictures of their classroom management tools, instructional posters, etc. Why just talk about it when you can post a picture and annotate it? The visuals are so much better than words alone.
•Wikis - meeting notes could go to a wiki instead of the blog so that, if one person takes notes and puts them on the wiki, others can add their "2 cents" to enrich and refine the description of thier work together.
• Podcasting - we could consider recording the meetings. Can't make the meeting? No time to read the blog? Download the file to your mp3 player and listen while you walk, drive, or make dinner. (Learning can occur through so many modalities)

This is empowering teacher learning - exciting stuff! More thoughts and ideas to come...

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1 comment:

Michelle C. said...

Oh my Lord sister! I love the wiki and podcast idea! Get your hardware warmed up. You're going into battle!