User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘networked learning

Breaking Things as a Form of Education

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One of my learners’ favorite things to do at my maker education summer camps is taking toys apart – breaking them and then putting back together in another form. This got me thinking that breaking things should be part of every teacher’s and learner’s education. These include:

  • Breaking physical objects apart to see their components and how they work.
  • Breaking apart how the physical classroom is set up and letting learners help create the setting where they will learn.
  • Breaking down barriers of communication . .  between educators and learners; between learners and other learners; between the school and parents; between school and the community; between the community of learners and the rest of the world.
  • Breaking apart and crushing stereotypes about different genders, ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientation when age appropriate.
  • Breaking down walls that keep schools isolated from the world outside of those walls.
  • Breaking attitudes that “we’ve always done it that way.”
  • Breaking a system that believes children should be grouped by age and grade.
  • Breaking (and throwing away forever) the current assessment systems and the related belief that standardized tests actually measure student performance and achievement.
  • Breaking apart the idea and practice that children and youth cannot nor should not be teachers.
  • And one big NOT . . . NOT breaking the natural passion and excitement that humans have to learn.

These are just my initial thoughts. What would you add to this list of breaking things as a form of education? I want to create an infographic on this list so please add to it!

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 5, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Developing a Flexible & Risk-Taking Mindset

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A flexible and risk-taking mindset rather than a fixed one will benefit all stakeholders in an educator’s realm: the educator’s learners, colleagues, her or his learners’ families, the community, the field of education-at-large, and of course, the educator him-or herself.

Mindset is defined as “a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindset)

Given today’s climate in education systems, one based on accountability, scripted curriculum, and teaching to the teach, far too many teachers develop a fixed mindset. Many educators feel forced into a paradigm of teaching where they feel subjected to teaching practices outside of their control. Then when they are asked to engage in a process of continued growth and development, many profess: “I don’t have enough time.”, “I don’t have enough resources.”, “I need more training.”, “I need to teach using the textbook.” ,”I need to teach to the test.”, “I might lose control of the class.”, “I have always successful taught this way.”

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What happens way too often is that given these restraints, educators develop feelings of powerless and of learned helplessness. This leads to developing beliefs that they have no freedom to take risks nor to try out new things in their classrooms. Sadly, though, this becomes an over-generalization.

It is a myth that we operate under a set of oppressive bureaucratic constraints. In reality, teachers have a great deal of autonomy in the work they chose to do in their classrooms. In most cases it is our culture that provides the constraints. For individual teachers, trying out new practices and pedagogy is risky business and both our culture, and our reliance on hierarchy, provide the ideal barriers for change not to occur. As Pogo pointed out long ago, “we have met the enemy and it is us.” http://www.cea-ace.ca/blog/brian-harrison/2013/09/5/stop-asking-permission-change

Instead of this type of fixed and paralyzing mindset, educators should focus on having a flexible and risk-taking mindset. I know that these qualities can be part of a growth mindset which is usually discussed in terms of a growth vs. a fixed mindset.  I wanted, though, something specific to educators that signifies their willingness to keep evolving and building their professional skills.

What follows are some strategies educators can use to develop, further develop, and maintain a flexible and risk-taking mindset:

  • Develop an awareness when you enter the status quo and mediocrity complacency. Recognize it. Revisit it often. Talk about it. Shake yourself out of it in any way possible!  Interestingly, Mr. C. discussed this in a very recent blog post.

I developed an “If it ain’t broke why fix it” attitude. By being comfortable and satisfied with the status quo had I stopped learning, innovating, moving forward…being successful? (Does the Status Quo Make you Comfortable?)

  • Engage in continuous reflective practice. As I discussed in Where is reflection in the learning process?, educators need to be engaged in ongoing reflective practice to stay fresh and invigorated, and to insure that your actions in the learning environment are done with intentionality.

The critically reflective habit confers a deeper benefit than that of procedural utility. It grounds not only our actions, but also our sense of who we are as teachers in an examined reality. We know why we believe what we believe. A critically reflective teacher is much better placed to communicate to colleagues and students (as well as to herself) the rationale behind her practice. She works from a position of informed commitment. She knows why she does and thinks, what she does and thinks.  Stephen Brookfield

  • Establish both face-to-face and online personal/professional learning networks with other educators and other professionals, ones who try to live their professional lives with a flexible and risk-taking mindset.
  • Try and learn new things in the classroom modeling taking risks and being a lead learner. As A.J. Juliani notes in 10 Risks Every Teacher Should Take With Their Class:

As I work with students and teachers there is one common thread that the “stand-out” classrooms share: They take risks. Not only do these students and teachers take learning risks, but they also take them together. They are partners in the learning process, where the teacher is the “lead learner”.  A.J. Juliani

  • Attend conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities outside of your comfort area . . . way outside of your comfort zone.

The bottom line becomes focusing on what can work rather than what is not working.  This is not to devalue the obstacles that teachers face. It becomes about noting where change is possible and making some small changes in teaching.  Small changes often result in larger, more systemic change.

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. . . and sometimes having a flexible and risk-taking mindsets makes an educator an outlier educator in his or her school environment and it takes courage to be an outlier educator.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Documenting Learning

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As I’ve discussed in numerous posts, I am an experiential educator. I believe in and promote learning-by-doing and hands-on learning. I approach experiential learning from a cycle of learning which includes reflecting on and analysis of things done through learning-by-doing.

CycleofLearninghttps://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/a-natural-and-experiential-cycle-of-learning/

Reflection, as part of the experiential learning cycle, is often as or even more important than the making itself.

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A recent research study published via Harvard Business Review concluded that:

  • Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection-that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.
  • Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.
  • Reflection builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning. (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7498.html)

I am excited about the current trend towards maker education but I believe it needs to embrace a full cycle of learning including engaging in reflection. Reflection within the maker movement and maker education can occur through a process of documenting learning.

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Documenting learning can take on many forms:

  • writing a blog
  • doing a photo essay which includes
  • creating a video
  • making a podcast
  • doing a class wiki
  • doing a backchannel through Twitter with a hashtag or a platform like TodaysMeet
  • making Sketchnotes and/or mindmaps
  • using apps such as Seesaw or Educreations

The key is to offer the learners choices. This builds in and honors more personalized means of reflective learning.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano created the following infographic that describes some strategies for documenting for learning.

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http://langwitches.org/blog/2015/11/22/a-conversation-about-documenting-for-and-as-learning/

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 8, 2016 at 9:37 pm

The Educator as a Maker Educator: the eBook

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I compiled all of my blog posts about Maker Education into an ebook that I published via Amazon Kindle. The price is $3.99.  It can be accessed at http://www.amazon.com/Educator-as-Maker-ebook/dp/B016Z5NZ6O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The pieces include theoretical ideas, informal research-observations, ideas related to the educator as a maker educator, the maker education process, suggestions for implementation, and reflecting on the making process. Graphics and infographics created to support the chapter content are included.

The Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • The Perfect Storm for Maker Education
  • Is It Project-Based Learning, Maker Education or Just Projects?
  • Maker Education and Experiential Education
  • MAKE STEAM: Giving Maker Education Some Context
  • The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education
  • Becoming a Lifelong Maker: Start Young
  • Making and Innovation: Balancing Skills-Development, Scaffolding, and Free Play
  • Let Children’s Play (with Technology) Be Their Work in Education
  • Tinkering and Technological Imagination in Educational Technology
  • Educator as a Maker Educator
  • Educator as Lead Learner
  • Promises to My Learners as a Maker Educator
  • The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education
  • Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating
  • Team Building Activities That Support Maker Education, STEM, and STEAM
  • Stages of Being a Maker Learner
  • Making MAKEing More Inclusive
  • Example Lesson:  Maker Education Meets the Writers’ Workshop
  • Reflecting on the Making Process

 

Show Learners the Possibilities . . . And Then Get Out of the Way

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We are living in an age of advanced user-driven technologies, information abundance, and networked, participatory learning. It should logically follow, then, that education should take advantage of these amazing developments. As many of us in education know, it has not. This theme has permeated many of my blog posts:

Moving from Education 1.0 Through Education 2.0 Towards Education 3.0

The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now to Web 3.0 can be used a metaphor of how education should also be moving, developing, and evolving from Education 1.0 towards that of an Education 3.0. The Internet has become an integral thread of the tapestries of most societies throughout the globe. The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being; and people influence the development and content of the web. The Internet of today has become a huge picture window and portal into human perceptions, thinking, and behavior. Logically, then, we would expect that schools would follow suit in matching what is happening via the Internet to assist children and youth to function, learn, work, and play in a healthy, interactive, and pro-social manner in their societies-at-large. This, sadly, is more often than not the case. Many educators are doing Education 1.0; talking about doing Education 2.0; when they should be planning and implementing Education 3.0

Learner Agency, Technology, and Emotional Intelligence

The notion of agency as contributing to cognitive processes involved in learning comes primarily from the Piagetian notion of constructivism where knowledge is seen as “constructed” through a process of taking actions in one’s environment and making adjustments to existing knowledge structures based on the outcome of those actions. The implication is that the most transformative learning experiences will be those that are directed by the learner’s own endeavors and curiosities. (Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012)

All of this is fresh in my mind as I just completed four weeks of summer camp teaching maker education and photo-video apps to 5 to 10 year olds. This teaching experience reinforced for me that educators can be tour guides of learning possibilities; showing learners the possibilities, then getting out of the way.

Facilitating the Process

The following section describes some of the conditions in the learning environment that support the educator as being the tour guide of learning possibilities and then handing over the responsibility for learning to the learners. Educators still take on a very active role in the learning environment, but learning is driven by the actions of the learners not those of the educator.

Expectations for Self-Directed Learning

In a learning environment that stresses self-directed learning, the educator conveys the attitude that learners are capable of being masters of their own learning.

In its broadest meaning, ’self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.” (Knowles, 1975, p. 18)

In line with showing learners the possibilities and getting out of the way, the educator needs to take a back seat role in the learning process. Learners may not, often will not, do things the way the educator might, but the educator respects and supports this process in a self-determined learning environment.

Educator as an Observer

If educators want to know how learners learn, then they need to observe them learning under their on terms, with tools and techniques they use naturally.  Too often adults assume they know how children and young people learn, and too often they do not especially in this new age of learning. The educator in the role of tour guide of learning possibilities first, observes to discover each learner’s unique way of interacting with the world, and second, based on these observations, suggests or offers resources and strategies to further each learner’s self-directed learning process.

Educator as a Resource

The educator as a resource means that the educator becomes a coach or a mentor. Educators are the adult experts in the room. Learners will often go to the educator for assistance especially when stuck on a problem or to get feedback.

The best coaches encourage young people to work hard, keep going when it would be easier to stop, risk making potentially painful errors, try again when they stumble, and learn to love [their learning] (One to Grow On / Every Teacher a Coach).

The educator as a resource implies that the s/he has multiple skill sets: expertise in the process of learning and expertise in how to navigate online environments along with the ability to mentor learners using these skill sets.

Educator as a Demonstrator of Technologies

A subtitle of this section is It Really Is About the Technology . . .  Sort of.  In order for learner agency and self-directed learning to occur, educators need to keep abreast of current and emerging technologies. There is an assumption that young people are digitally savvy and know how to use emerging technology.

The widely-held assumption that all young people are digitally literate and able to navigate the internet meaningfully is inaccurate. This is something we urgently need to address if we are to support young people to cope with – and contribute to – a complex, global and digital society (New report challenges the assumption that all young people are digitally savvy).

“If educators are serious about preparing learners for their real lives – current and future, then it becomes an ethical imperative to bring relevant, current, and emerging technologies into the learning environment (It really is about the technology and . . .).  This translates into showing learners the possibilities of technology and internet use for learning so the learners can then bring this knowledge into their own learning journeys.

Learning is Viewed as Natural, Fun, Playful, and Joyful

It has been said that learning is painful. I take issue with that phrase. When learning occurs in settings and with processes selected by the learner, it is natural, fun, playful, and joyful. Sure, there are struggles as new learning develops, but it becomes a natural, accepted part of the process.

The highest-level executive thinking, making connections, and “aha” moments of insight and creative innovation are more likely to occur in an atmosphere of what Alfie Kohn calls exuberant discovery, where students of all ages retain that kindergarten enthusiasm of embracing each day with the joy of learning.  Joy and enthusiasm are absolutely essential for learning to happen — literally, scientifically, as a matter of fact and research (The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning).

Climate of Free Range and Constructivist Learning

The learning environment in a setting embracing self-directed learning takes on the characteristics of free range learning resulting in learners constructing their own meanings from their learning endeavors.

Free Range Learning is learning by living. It is learning by following our passions, exploring our world, living inquisitive lives and thinking freely. It is a lifestyle based on trust of a child’s natural desire to learn about the world around them. Every person’s learning journey will develop based upon their interests, experiences and choices (What is Free Range Learning?).

Free range learning is often associated with unschooling or homeschooling but it is intimately related to self-directed learning; and its tenets can be brought into in a more formal learning environment. The result is an honoring of contructivist learning “which holds that learners ultimately construct their own knowledge that then resides within them, so that each person’s knowledge is as unique as they are” (Learning Theories and Transfer of Learning).

Open to Emergent Learning and Learning Possibilities

Emergent learning is unpredictable but retrospectively coherent, we cannot determine in advance what will happen, but we can make sense of it after the event. It’s not disordered; the order is just not predictable (Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0).

Ambiguity is accepted. The educator lets go of what types of learning and products should result. By letting go of expectations “what should be”, there is an opening up to all kinds of emergent learning possibilities.

With an openness to emergent learning and learning possibilities, there is an acceptance that learning is messy:

Learning is often a messy business.   “Messy” learning is part trial and error, part waiting and waiting for something to happen, part excitement in discovery, part trying things in a very controlled, very step by step fashion, part trying anything you can think of no matter how preposterous it might seem, part excruciating frustration and part the most fun you’ll ever have. Time can seem to stand still – or seem to go by in a flash. It is not unusual at all for messy learning to be …um …messy! But the best part of messy learning is that besides staining your clothes, or the carpet, or the classroom sink in ways that are very difficult to get out … it is also difficult to get out of your memory! (http://learningismessy.com/)

. . . and a trusting of the process and embracing the journey:

I have learned that if you give freedom and trust to students, they will find their own way to the learning that matters the most. Playing it safe is not going to yield the opportunities that will make a difference. Off-script is when you don’t quite know where you are going, but you have the courage to commit to the journey knowing that it is the process itself that will hold the worth (Speculative Design for Emergent Learning: Taking Risks).

Use of Open Technology and Resources

In this age of information and technology abundance, free online technologies and resources are just ripe for the picking. An advantage of open educational resources is “expanded access to learning. Students anywhere in the world can access OERs at any time, and they can access the material repeatedly(Pros and Cons of Using OERs for Instruction). These resources leverage the playing field. They are available to all learners regardless of geographic location and SES level (although access to the Internet is required). This translates in the availability of high quality tools and resources outside of the more formal educational setting. Learners can access them in informal learning environments such as at home or local coffee shops and/or via their mobile devices in order to continue and extend their self-directed learning.

How the Learners’ Benefit

I often say that all learning activities should have multiple and layered benefits – addressing cross-curricular, cross-interdisciplinary areas as well as developing life skills. Here are some of the benefits along with example learner self-statements associated with those benefits that I have observed as a tour guide of learning possibilities:

  • Technology Skills: I can use technology to help me learn.
  • Creativity and Inventiveness: I can create new & worthwhile ideas & things.
  • Risk-Taking: I am willing to try new things when I am learning.
  • Academic Mindset: I am a good and powerful learner.
  • Communication: I can communicate clearly both verbally & in writing.
  • Curiosity and a Sense of Wonder: I wonder about the world around me.
  • Connected Learning: I can network with others to help with my learning.
  • Self-Directed Learning: I know how to learn new things on my own.
  • Self-Motivation: I can motivate myself to learn new things.

Educators as Tour Guides of Learning Possibilities

Learning: It’s All About the Connections

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I’ve written about connections before in It’s All About Connection.

Today, though, I was thinking about all of the connections important for learning. Connection has a lot of meanings and connotations:

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Here are some of the connections I thought of that can/should be part of both formal and informal education:

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In fact, I have come to believe that connection and all of its implications is one of the most important concepts in understanding, engaging in, and facilitating powerful learning experiences.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 1, 2015 at 12:35 am

Sharing: A Responsibility of the Modern Educator

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In a past post blog I discussed the idea that every educator has a story and that they should share those stories:

Educators are doing amazing things with their learners in spite of the standards-based and accountability-driven movements. If all educators publicized the accomplishments they had in their classrooms using technology, hands-on activities, global collaborations, project-based learning; then an informal qualitative research project would result.  When educators are asked to provide evidence of efficacy to administrators, parents, other educators, funding sources, they could share these success stories.  This aggregate would become the collective narrative – story of education of our times in the beginnings of the 21st century. (https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/every-educator-has-a-story-just-tell-it/)

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As a follow-up to that post, I am amplifying my call to action to say that I believe it is the responsibility of every educator in this era of learning to share . . . resources, ideas, success, challenges, ahas, student insights, anything education related.

Sharing takes on many forms. Educators can talk to colleagues, write blogs, tweet, present at conferences – both virtually and face to face, talk to the media, and/or create a media product – video, podcast, photo essay – and post online.

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On a personal level, sharing assists the educator in becoming a better educator. The act of sharing requires reflection and preparation. The educator needs to reflect on his or her own practices to identify which ones they want to share and also needs to put that sharing artifact into a form (e.g. writing, images, audio, video) that will understood by an authentic audience. This process tends to help the educator improve instructional practices.

On a broader, more systemic level, sharing one’s experiences benefits other educators which, in turn, has the potential to advance the entire education field. It is the collective responsibility of all educators to create the change that they want to see in the education world. There really is no they in education. The they is really we-us. The we-us now have the means to have a voice.

The educator becomes a connected educator and through sharing, is an active participant and contributor to the connected educator movement.

Being a connected educator means connecting with other teachers to exchange ideas, improve your teaching practice, and in turn, make a change in education. It is only through being connected that we can collaborate and help to foster learning for the 21st century and beyond. (Being a Connected Educator)

The gap between what is and what could be in education is larger than it ever has  been.  I believe this is largely due to technology and the ability to establish global connections because of social media. Educators are more connected and more aware about education trends than any time in the history of public education.

Imagine how education could be transformed if all educators use their own personal, often passion-driven voices. The bottom line is that if any individual educator believes there are flaws in the education, that it can be done better, then s/he has the responsibility to say something. I reaching the point that I am starting to believe it is a moral imperative for educators to share what they know to be true with other educators; and with administrators, students’ families, community members, politicians . . . the larger global society.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 29, 2015 at 11:09 pm

Educators Are Doin’ It For Themselves: Creating Their Own Professional Development

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Educators are creating their own professional development opportunities on their own time without compensation, acknowledgement, nor credit.

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With so many great resources on the web, teachers are realizing that they can learn just as much (if not more!) from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development (PD). Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals across the globe, reading about best practices and new trends in education, and sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Through social media, popular blogs and webinars, teachers are taking ownership of their learning and finding PD opportunities that weren’t possible a decade ago (Do-It-Yourself Virtual Professional Development: Taking Ownership of Your Learning).

Here is a list of how they are doing it:

For more information on self-directed professional development, see my post, Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development:

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 17, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development

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“I can’t wait for and am so excited for the three day ‘sit and git’ professional development in-service at our school” said no teacher possibly ever.

“Let’s face it: Professional development, as we have known it for years now, has yielded little or no positive effects on student learning.” Thus complain the many weary professionals who flinch at the mere mention of the word “workshop.” In the collective imagination, the term “professional development day” conjures only images of coffee breaks, consultants in elegant outfits, and schools barren of kids. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104021/chapters/Professional-Development-Today.aspx

I recently discussed teacher agency in Teacher Agency: Educators Moving from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset.

Teacher agency is typically viewed as a quality within educators, a matter of personal capacity to act (Priestly et al., 2012) usually in response to stimuli within their pedagogical environment. It describes an educator who has both the ability and opportunity to act upon a set of circumstances that presents itself within that individual’s leadership, curricular or instructional roles. The educator described would then draw from acquired knowledge and experience to intercede appropriately and effectively.  Teacher Agency in America and Finland By Roger Wilson, GVSU Faculty

Teacher agency can be applied to teacher professional development.  What follows is a model of professional development driven by teacher agency.

The Teacher’s Choice Framework

Gabriel Diaz-Maggioli in her ASCD book, Teacher-Centered Professional Development, proposes a teacher’s choice framework which are characterized by:

  • Teachers are talented and devoted individuals who have gained enormous experience by interacting with students, and possess a wealth of knowledge that must be explored and shared.
  • Teachers differ from one another in terms of their theoretical and professional knowledge and the stages they are at in their careers. This diversity offers a wealth of resources and experience.
  • Teachers’ professional development should be embedded in their daily schedule; they should not be expected to devote their own free time to programs that are divorced from the context in which they work.
  • In order for teachers to develop ownership of professional development, they need to be active participants in its construction, tailoring programs to their needs and motivations.
  • Professional development should not be regarded as an administrative duty, but rather as a career-long endeavor aimed at disclosing the factors that contribute to the success of all students and teachers. Mandatory professional development offered only when it is convenient to administrators has little to offer to teachers.

2013-11-09_0946http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104021/chapters/Professional-Development-Today.aspx

Teacher Empowered Model of Professional Development

  1. Develop a vision and a mission of an ideal classroom and optimal student achievement.
  2. Identify gaps between what is and the ideal.
  3. Establish and/or identify self-driven professional development activities to close the gap.
  4. Develop plans of action for implementation.
  5. Engage in an accountability system.

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Develop a vision and a mission of an ideal classroom and optimal student achievement.

As part of their teacher education, students are often asked to develop their teaching philosophy.  This is a good initial exercise but several problems exist with it.  First, this happens during pre-service teaching and often prior to any extensive time spent teaching in an actual classroom.  Second, it does reflect the continuous and evolving nature of education.  Finally, it does not reflect ideas and teaching practices shaped and learned while one is a teacher.

We’re all learning and growing all the time – we can’t not learn. The difference that creates success is deciding and directing your learning direction. If you don’t know what you want your work to look like in 1 or 2 years from now, you’ll be likely to have your career direction determined by other people or circumstances, rather than your personal values and desires, so get clear on the picture of work you’re aiming for. How To Drive Your Professional Development With A Self-Directed Learning Program

Part of an educator’s continuous growth and development process practices should be, on a regular basis, identifying an area of current interest, studying the current best practices of that interest, and creating a vision of a classroom and student achievement based on those best practices.  For example an educator, a group of educators, and an entire school could decide to study one of the following areas of 21st century education to explore best practices in that classroom-instructional practice:

Based on this focused study, the educator develops a vision of an ideal classroom and instructional practices.

Identify gaps between what is and the ideal.

The educator then compares current practices to that of the ideal to identify gaps.  From these gaps, professional development goals are established.  This process provides a foundation of “need”, focus, and relevancy for the educator’s professional development.  Professional development then becomes “just-in-time learning” rather than “just-in-case it is needed”.

The following visual metaphor is a model of this process.

cliff-metaphorhttp://www.visualthinkingmagic.com/visual-metaphor-bridge-gap

Identify Current Reality: On the left cliff, list of keywords that define your current reality. You’re basically outlining where you are right now in your classroom teaching process.   Sketches and symbols can also be used to describe your current reality.

Identify Desired Reality:  On the right cliff write down a list of keywords that define your desired classroom environment and practices based on your vision of the ideal.  You’re essentially defining the type of classroom that you would like to create by the date you specified.  Represent these keywords (your desired reality) using a series of sketches, symbols or both. Completing these sketches will help you to create more meaningful associations.

Identify Obstacles: Within the gap between the two cliffs, write down all the obstacles that are standing between your current reality and your desired reality. Write down keywords. Alternatively, you can represent these words in a visual way, as described above.

Identify Key Resources;  On the tree branches outline five key resources and training opportunities that you have at your disposal that you could use to help you overcome the obstacles that are standing between you and your desired reality. (Identifying resources will be further expanded upon in the next section.)

Bridge the Gap:  Now that you are clear about where you are, where you want to be, the obstacles standing in your way, and the resources you have at your disposal, it’s now time to build a bridge that will take you over the cliff towards your desired reality. This bridge is going to be built using a series of steps that you will take over a certain period of time that will get you to where you want to go.

Establish and/or identify self-driven and directed professional development activities to close the gap.

Design a self-directed learning plan for yourself by deciding what sources you’ll learn from, what programs or classes you might wish to sign up for, who you’d like to be mentored by, and what other sources of social support and accountability you’ll build into your learning program, in order to achieve your learning goals. How To Drive Your Professional Development With A Self-Directed Learning Program

During this phase, educators engage in self-directed professional learning opportunities to learn how to close the gap from the current state to the ideal one.  The opportunities for educators to engage in self-directed professional development is basically limitless in this era of teaching and learning.  As the British Columbia Teacher Federation notes, there are Many Ways to Grow Professionally

  1. Attend a conference/workshop locally.
  2. Attend a conference/workshop regionally/provincially/nationally/internationally.
  3. Attend a workshop/conference or summer institute/course.
  4. Becoming a facilitator, and give a workshop locally, regionally, or provincially.
  5. Begin/continue university studies.
  6. Form/join a teacher research group.
  7. Participate in group planning.
  8. Job-shadow in a related work situation.
  9. Join a professional organization/network.
  10. Observe another teacher, and talk together about the lesson/program.
  11. Read professional literature.
  12. Reflect, discuss, and research for the purpose of planning individual or group ongoing professional development.
  13. Develop the discipline of reflective journal keeping.
  14. Share with colleagues what you found at a conference/workshop.
  15. Subscribe to/read professional journals.
  16. Watch professional videos.

Four specific types are discussed in more detail: Teacher In-Services, EdCamps, Connected Education, and Professional Learning Communities.

Teacher In-Services or Professional Development Choice Days

As stated in the beginning passages a one size fits all type of professional development still offered by many school districts in the form of in-services is a thing of the past and creates high levels of dread among teachers.  In-services do have the value in that educators are given the time and space to participate in professional development and are able to engage in face-to-face discourse with colleagues.

To adapt in-service workshops from a one size fits all to one that is personalized for the participating educators requires that the in-service designers take into account the needs of educators, find workshop leaders with both expertise in those areas and in teaching adults using andragogical principles, and offer a number of workshop choices within each time slot including a choice to “unconference.”

An example of this is the Techtoberfest in Idaho.  It is a two-day conference for the teachers of that district and teachers from surrounding districts are invited to attend.  The conference designers explore the needs of the teachers of that district, locate experts to bring in to run workshops, and provide the teachers with about a dozen workshop options per time slot.  See https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_ZlE-JbwhcRN1JTbXlKcnJHZ3M/edit?usp=drive_web for the Techtoberfest 2012 agenda.

EdCamp

An edcamp is a user-generated conference – commonly referred to as an “unconference“. Edcamps are designed to provide participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators. Edcamps are free participant-driven conferences.  Sessions are not planned until the day of the event, when participants can volunteer to facilitate a conversation on a topic of their choice.  Edcamps operate “without keynote speakers or vendor booths, encourage participants to find or lead a conversation that meet their needs and interests. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EdCamp

It makes sense. If you have teachers together face-to-face, why not let them talk about what works? Why not let them ask questions of one another? Why not use the best medium available, the human voice, to learn from one another? It has me thinking that our weekly professional development ought to work in an edcamp model. By this, I mean offer multiple choices, keep the groups small and then lead a discussion. It could be a book study or a week-by-week discussion on a topic. It could be a new set of topics each week, depending upon the desires of the teacher. An edcamp model would empower teachers to share their expertise democratically.   Ultimately, the value of edcamp is in the sharing of ideas and in the validation of one’s professional identity. Too often, that’s not happening at the weekly professional development that teachers attend. Yet, in a more democratic model, teachers begin to see that what they believe and what they know actually matters. Why Professional Development Should Be More Like Edcamp

Connected Education

The Internet and social networks provide an infinite number of ways to engage in self-directed professional development including, but not limited, to attending online webinars and virtual conferences, participating in Twitter and Tweet Chats, and reading, writing, and responding to blogs.

socialmediaguideinfohttp://www.onlinecollege.org/2012/09/24/the-social-media-guide-growing-your-personal-learning-network/

I teach a course entitled, Social Networked Learning, in which in-service educators learn how to use social networks for their own professional development.  See Educator as a Social Networked Learner for more about this.

Professional Learning Communities

In professional learning communities model, teachers in either grade-level or content-area teams meet several times a week to collaborate on teaching strategies and solve problems. In the most sophisticated examples, teachers set common instructional goals, teach lessons in their individual classrooms, administer informal assessments to determine levels of student mastery, and then regroup as a team to analyze the data together. Then, they pinpoint areas of success, identify areas for improvement, and set goals for future teaching (Honawar, 2008). http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/professional-development/

For more on Professional Learning Communities, see

Develop plans of action for implementation, then implement.

If a primary goal of professional development is to affect what teachers believe, understand, and do on a daily basis, then offering “presentations” or “training” without intensive and sustained small-group dialogue, in-classroom coaching, and just-in-time problem solving is educational malpractice.  Put another way, “head learning” abstracted from practice without abundant opportunities for supportive on-the-job feedback and trouble shooting wastes the organization’s resources and squanders teachers’ good will. Why professional development without substantial follow-up is malpractice.

This is the “do it” phase.  Based on the educator’s self-directed professional development, he or she decides what changes, modifications, and adaptations will be implemented into one’s teaching environment.  Some guiding questions to assist with this process are:

This phase will only be effective if the educator is given the time, support, and resources to implement ideas gained through their professional development experiences.

Engage in an accountability system.

The world of work asks the educator to show evidence of learning; to quantify it; provide evidence of professional development in some way.  An accountability system needs to be set up that “requires”, acknowledges, and rewards educators for engaging in their own self-directed professional development.

You could qualify it by hours spent (yuck), content curated (a little better), total resources shared (a tad bit better still), PD presented in person (not bad), alignment between content found and school and district needs (decent), impact on learning performance (nice), or some basic formula of several of these and more.  Then turn that process over to them—crowdsource the recording-keeping with the only expectation being that it’s visible to everyone and simple to update. Personalizing Teacher Training Through Social Media-Based Improvement

Some ways to make the professional learning visible include teaching portfolios and digital badges.

Teaching Portfolios

Teaching portfolios, often known as dossiers, are compilation of teaching materials and related documents that teachers employ during teaching and learning processes. Portfolios serve as tools for reflection, a way to thoughtfully document teaching practices and progress toward goals. Portfolio entries can inform professional growth plans. As actual artifacts of teaching, portfolios help teachers to systematically ponder over their practice, reflect on the problems they face, and learn from their experience. They provide direct evidence of what teachers have accomplished.  Self-Directed Professional Development: Success Mantra or a Myth?

Digital Badges

Eric Sheninger, the principal of New Milford High School, is experimenting with Integration of Digital Badges to Acknowledge Professional Learning

I am proud to announce Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School, a digital badge professional learning platform. The idea behind this platform is to provide professional learning with a pinch of gamification.  Digital badges can be used to guide, motivate, document and validate formal and informal learning.  Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School provides a framework to allow our teachers to earn digital badges through learning about a range of technology tools and applications.  I hope that New Milford High School teachers will be able to benefit greatly from this sustained initiative because of the professional learning flexibility an online platform provides as well as it being a means to document and showcase the skills they have gained and  putting their learnings into practice in the classroom.

Conclusions

In summary, regardless of the type of professional development selected by the educational institutions and the teachers, themselves, it needs to have the following characteristics for effective implementation and sustainability in the classroom:

  • Educators need to feel they have and actually do have a voice, empowerment, and support to self-direct their professional development.
  • Educators should be given the time, resources, and ideas to establish their own professional learning goals which, in turn, would drive their professional development direction.
  • Isolated, one shot professional development experiences such as in-services workshops, going to conferences, etc,, most often do not lead to any changes in the classroom practices.  These experiences need to be part of a larger teacher initiated process of preparatory goal setting and follow-up support and implementation.
  • An accountability system needs to be established where educators have the responsibility for follow-through and getting appropriate credit and acknowledgement for doing so.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 11, 2013 at 12:59 am

Personal Learning Environment Assignment and Reflections

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I teach a graduate course for the Boise State University’s Educational Technology program called Social Networked Learning.  I discussed it in Educators as Social Networked Learners and Educator as a Social Networked Learner: Presentation Materials.

One of the assignments later in the course is creating a diagram of one’s personal learning environment.  Some previous activities students completed prior to this assignment include: joining Twitter, using Facebook for our class communities, following and contributing to Twitter hashtags and Tweet chats of their choice, attending live webinars of their choice, and joining additional online communities related to their professional interests.

These are the directions provided to the students:

Now that you’ve added more online communities to your PLE, create a diagram to represent them.

  1. Create a PLE diagram of your online communities.  See examples PLE Diagrams at http://edtechpost.wikispaces.com/PLE+Diagrams.
  2. Represent at least 10 different online communities in your graphic and explicitly show connections between the communities. You can be as creative as you’d like with this depiction.  You can hand draw and take an image, or use any type technology.  Post a link and screenshot of your PLE so you classmates could view it on Facebook.
  3. Complete a Reflection:  Via a blog post answer the following questions:  What did you learn about yourself when looking at your PLE? Visit your classmates’ PLE posts.  How does your PLE compare to other peers in class? Write a self-reflection and a comparative analysis that discusses similarities and differences between yours and your classmates’ diagrams.  This analysis should be in terms of content not the type of creation.

For some students, the image spoke volumes, for others it was their reflections on the process and insights that occurred through reflecting on the process of creating the PLE diagram. Below is a sample of the students’ work.

edtech-543-pln-iage

My personal learning environments have been an eye-opening experience. I have been so empowered by everything I’ve gleaned. My experience with this type of learning has been life changing. My teaching method and the way I instruct my students has taken on a new form of strategy. Learning through my personal learning environments, as well as my contributions, has been awesome. I never thought that I would ever tap into all these resources but what it has done for me, personally, has been very rewarding. I was very apprehensive and wary before, but now I feel very comfortable within these social networks.  Who says that a person 54 years of age cannot learn something in the social network realm? I have.  http://gregandradedesign.wordpress.com/edtech-543-social-network-learning/ple-diagram-reflection/


pln4

Creating the PLE diagram was an interesting and informative process. At first my networking participation felt totally chaotic. I decided to group my connections within my core interest areas. This helped me gain a better sense of how my PLE is working to support my goals and further my interests. Since I have been in education a long time, I want have a clear picture of my learning and contributing goals. I see my PLE as a way to extend both. The 3D diagram I created with blocks provided a structure and metaphor for the continued construction of my PLE as I continue to explore and build connections.http://olienr.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/edtech-543-module-5-ple-diagram/


my-ple-diagram

To create, present and share my PLE diagram I tapped into my real world community and tools (art paper, scissors, pencil, and a “real” student model) and my on-line community and tools (iPhone apps, Facebook, and blog) too. My graphic representation of the body and the major arteries reflects how my personal learning environment (PLE) has become my lifeline. I placed the learners (and their social media networks and Web 2.0 tools) where the heart is because they are why I do what I do! They motivate me to connect (to make that vital fluid circulate from head to toe). They motivate me to become a better learner and a better teacher. My students and I often “learn and grow” together, and these tools enable us to do that.  http://blog4itech.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/ples-real-and-virtual-world-lifelines/


IMG_3304-1024x718IMG_3328-1024x768

Through a long bout of self-reflection, I went to task on creating my diagram. Going against my comfort zone of using technology to create my diagram, I used wood, paint, and a rusty saw. My background for my diagram is a piece of plywood, kona stained, and my icons were painted with their corresponding colors and designs. The creation begins with cloud bubbles, each containing 2 or more PLN icons. Within each cloud, I scripted words or phrases that represent each PLN. This is the part where I acknowledge that a good amount of these PLN blocks do crossover into other clouds. This is the beauty of PLNs, because if used correctly, one can find a way to use that PLN as a multi-faceted resource. (http://www.edtechlearning.org/?p=224)

plescapture

In my graphic, the educator is represented by the bee. We usually participate in Professional Development as an individual, or as a group. The flowers act as the sources of information an educator collects. When a bee visits a flower, it collects nectar. Given enough time, that nectar breaks down through enzymes and chemical processes within the bee to produce honey. For me, I see the educator attending training, workshops, and finding information on their own, and like the bee, when given enough time to process the information learned, new products are made. The hive can be many things: the school, the classroom, a PLN, etc. The bee/educator takes the new product they have made (or information learned) and comes back to the hive to share. For bees, the hive is a place to store honey. For teachers, however, I think the hive represents ways that information can be shared. Of course, the final product–and ultimate goal– is the creation of honey, or content learned in action. (https://alannashaw.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/the-lifecycle-of-a-ple-a-diagram/)

1384116_10201225967785836_2028392185_n

The first thing that I learned about myself as I created my diagram of my PLE was that I’ve come a long way since the beginning of this class when it comes to being involved in social media and actually forming a PLE! To be honest, I’m not sure I even knew what a PLE was. Not only do I see myself evolving, I see myself growing as an educator because now more than ever I am inspired by educators from all over the world. I think what makes this new-found knowledge even better is the fact that I am not intimated anymore; I’m having fun, and I’m not “afraid” of making a mistake anymore! http://cynthiamills.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/refelection-on-ple-diagram/


forestple

When I think about my PLE I see it as something that is constantly growing and will continue grow for the rest of my life. I embraced the theme of professional growth while creating my Diagram and so I thought the idea to represent it through the shape of a tree. I would note that my PLE is not just a facet of my professional growth or tool for learning however, it is also an outlet for sharing my ideas and facilitating social interactions. http://forrestdoud.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/ple-diagram/


ple-online-communities

The diagram represents the Internet and my social media connections. The light at the top of the picture is the Internet. It contains the information that is created by on-line users. I don’t mean to overstate the power of the Internet, but it is source for much of what we do in our society. From it come all of the social media sites that we access. They are becoming the pillars for what we learn and what we share. That is the reason that I put them on the cables that hold up the bridge. The city in the background symbolizes the world that accesses the internet and its social media sites. You can vaguely see a person with a smart phone. That represents me. I really liked the picture. I actually discovered it when I was on a Twitter chat one evening. The picture really spoke to me and I knew that I wanted to use if for this project. The picture, to me, shows that social media is a very important aspect of the Internet. My professional learning environment is becoming increasingly dependent on social media. http://chrismason1.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/chris-masons-ple-of-on-line-communities/

Conclusions

As evident in the student reflections, they find value in social networking for professional development.  Those of us who are connected educators find value in being as such.  We often discuss how to get educators who aren’t connected to do so.  We encourage them to become active on Twitter.  I have learned that it more difficult than just showing them Twitter.  I don’t know what the magic “it” is that draws some of us to being connected.

I believe the more structured activities helped the educators taking the course see the value of being connected and at least some will continue to be so after the course ends.  In essence, this can be a model of professional development.  Educators within their own professional development would be required (hate that term, but sometimes that is what needs to happen) or expected (better option) to participate in a series of connected activities, i.e., Twitter hashtags and Tweet Chats, other online live chats and webinars, live webinars and online conferences.  This professional development activity would be self-directed in that educators would select their own connected activities based on their professional interests within their own self-selected time frames.  Hopefully, an extrinsic motivation or push would help educators find intrinsic value in being connected and would continue to be connected in the future on their own.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

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