Lofty ideas for an approach to PD?
I have blogged before about how Twitter and blogging caused a personal ‘cognitive revolution’. I have always wanted to learn on my job, but since I started to understand blogging and social media and its transformative value for learning the rest is history…
I was presented with an opportunity at the start of the year to develop a PD plan for the school. A train-the-trainer course in English language teaching I was supposed to attend got cancelled and so the school’s plan to have EAL as its major focus for PD the following year needed to be revisited. Having been on quite a few of these courses in my school career and with nearly two decades of experience under my belt, I started thinking perhaps I could develop and lead EAL training for staff myself. I put in a proposal and the school accepted my plan.
I had many questions. How would I go about this? What was effective PD? How could I make this professional development sustainable? How could I make it visible? How could I make it reflect the social constructivist learning environment of our school? How was I going to make it relevant for all the teachers in the school? But one thing that came top of the list was how I could use social media and blogging in the way it had moved my own learning about teaching forward- how it had caused me to reflect and learn at a much deeper level. I like how Jeff Utecht mentions the importance of reflection in a school day in Reach and I think that is the key to sustaining good teaching practice. I considered how many of my own more traditional PD experiences (such as week-end workshops), because of lack of time, had not always had the impact on student learning they had intended. So what really had?
- Documenting student learning
- Reflecting on student learning through blogging
- Making connections with other educators
- Getting feedback
Somehow, social media and blogging had to become part of this PD plan. I started to get excited about developing a social learning network at my school. Imagine how much collective knowledge, practice and learning would suddenly become visible. If we were all documenting learning and blogging about, for example, ‘stretching our students to use more academic language’, at different divisions of the school, we could really start seeing what was happening. People with similar interests could form groups for deeper inquiry, high school teachers would see what was happening in the early years (another great opportunity for learning!), and teachers could potentially transform learning experiences for EAL students and feel ownership of the whole process. We could create expertise together, instead of one person developing a set of workshops which people may or may not buy into and will have to unlearn by the time they move onto their next job! Will Richardson does a much better job of explaining my thinking:
“It’s about working together to create our own curricula, texts, and classrooms built around deep inquiry into the defining questions of the group. It’s about solving problems together and sharing the knowledge we’ve gained with wide audiences.”
A question I was asked when I put forward my plan was, what about the certificate? Teachers will want a certificate to show their prospective employers. I considered how often I had been asked for a certificate at a new school for an EAL course I had been on. NEVER. A portfolio in the form of a blog that documents student learning and personal growth is surely of more interest to prospective employers than a certificate?There, sold?
What do you think? Lofty ideas?
Afterthought: I just realized I have my plan for my final project right here!