Are traditional models of professional development working? If we believe that it is not enough for our students to consume information (but to apply this information to create something), then it shouldn’t be good enough for us. We need to stop being passive recipients of PD and begin reflecting on our own students, passions, weaknesses and failures to drive our own PD.
You need to ask they why before you can do the what. A large part of the why for teachers will always be the students. We engage in PD to have better outcomes for our students. Often times teachers can look at the classroom for areas where PD would be beneficial. Different cohorts present different educational, social, and emotional challenges, so our professional learning needs may differ from year to year. But coupled with this is the need for the PD to be meaningful for the teacher. To make it meaningful and productive for the teacher it is best if they tap into one of their passions. So, by looking at your students and reflecting on your professional interests and passions you can begin to answer why.
It is important to provide teachers with a safe environment to begin to express their own needs around professional development. One method is to create an online, walled garden for teachers to practice expressing their own professional development needs, and responding to the needs of others. Teachers could use Google Classrooms to create this safe environment. They could post resources on the posting stream, ask questions, and enter into rich dialogue about topics of their choosing. Facilitators could also create mini assignments based on current and relevant readings, or on a video clip they have gleaned from YouTube. If Google Classrooms isn’t an option, then there is the possibility of using a site like Today’s Meet. Here teachers could carry on the same type of dialogue that is was mentioned in Google Classrooms. These two options are worthwhile because they provide a safe environment for teachers to open themselves up without having the fear of the whole world staring back at them. It also provides opportunities to scaffold and practice the communication and netiquette used on more open social media sites.
The point of creating this environment is to bring like minded educators together. These small online communities need to have a focus, and the focus should be developed from a shared interest between teachers. A core group of schools could collaborate online using a Google Form to share PD interests. Then PLTs could be organized using this information and Google Classroom communities could be set up (Jen Apgar shared this wonderful idea with me).
Do you think this is a good first step in modelling and scaffolding online PLCs? What what good next steps be for educators after being successful in the walled garden? (Some ideas will be presented in a future blog, but I would love your input).