Develop your personal learning network – Now!



I’m sorry to say but the teaching profession is often an isolated and lonely one even though we are surrounded by people the biggest part of our day. A teacher is usually the only adult in the classroom, lunch is often with the students and our work area after class is in most cases in the classroom itself (because that is where our computer is). Our time outside of teaching is spent either preparing lessons, going to informational meetings in the school or writing reports. Our time to develop ourselves as professionals, discuss professional issues & exchange ideas is neglected or even ignored in many schools.

Ingvi Hrannar – from Personalized professional learning with Twitter

This article is so good I had to refer to it right off the top The main point – develop your own personal learning network, – never again accept the generalized PD model where everyone gets the same thing.

We expect a huge amount from teachers these days – more than ever before. But at the same time we are being trained using a 19th century model – one talking head at the front of the room. Any time you go to a workshop and that is happening you know this is not the way things have to be. At the very least, we should not call this professional development.

If we are to be treated as professionals, the learning model needs to reflect that we are all quite capable learning what we need on our own and in groups of like-minded professionals. The model that we have developed in our schools over the past three years is very important – it is the only way to go.  We have developed a system where the professional learning goals for the school are developed by the teacher teams from our three schools.

I find the learning goals coming from these groups get better and better.  The goals are more attuned to conclusions based on student work.  The goals also build on the work that has already been accomplished.  As administrators, our role is to facilitate this group learning experience, we do not deliver the information.

We are all professionals and if we respect the work we do every day we need to make sure we all stay in control of your own professional development.Never let anyone tell you that they know better than you do. There are so many people out there thinking and writing about educational issues – you need to choose who speaks to you and who you will learn from.

Hrannar has another great blog post that I think is worth reading –  14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools. If you read this post, take a look at obsolete item number 13 – ‘One-Professional development-workshop-fits-all’

I had to include a photo illustrating this point – I have seen this before and I think it should be posted anywhere teachers or administrators are subjected to drawn out talks by so-called experts.  


                                                                                        have you been to this session?

I do think this form of information delivery has its place. I take in workshops given by guest speakers all the time, but the big difference is that I choose these sessions and I am actually interested in the information.  Unfortunately, we are subjected to monthly sessions where someone else has decided that this information is invaluable for my professional development.  There are simply so many other ways to learn these days. Why can’t we try one or a few of these ideas?

  • an edcamp style session where participants choose what they want to learn and others volunteer to pass on what they know
  • learning hubs formed by people who are interested in a common learning goal.  Professional development flows out of this goal throughout the year, hub members blog about their findings
  • a concerted effort to use Twitter and Google+ to develop our own personal learning network – time at gatherings to develop these networks.  Share lists of who to follow and good hashtags
  • join a MOOC, or even better start our own!  Take a look at two MOOCs here:  DLMOOC OSSEMOOC
  • work on developing common blogs – we have teachers who have done this – the OCSB Learning Community
  • join an Edmodo book study as active participants

There are lots of other options, I think it is important that we explore what is possible.  Learning using a 19th century model just isn’t good enough any more.  We need to challenge the status quo and find new ways to let our learning take off!

There are some signs of hope.  In our board we have a terrific group called Learning Connections.  These teachers are doing some really interesting work and are certainly offering new and exciting ways to offer PD to educators.  Last month, I attended one of their sessions.

The first part of the day focused on interactive displays  led by teachers currently in the classroom.  Each workshop came with a card with a QR code that led to a great summary of the main ideas.  We had ten minutes at each site, then we moved on to the next display.  A Google presentation has been made of the day and it is certainly worth a look.

Even better, once we had visited all the teacher displays, we were tasked with coming up with a summary that would take in the main ideas from all the presentations.  So we were actually able to create content from what we had seen.  To make this experience even better, our media guides tasked with helping us with our presentations were all junior-level students – brilliant!

Let’s hope that the spirit of innovation that is alive in our teachers will soon be shared by more people.  Let’s throw out the old tired models of transferring information and begin to develop new and vital professional learning networks – Now!


Developing a makerspace for our school

This year I have read lots of interesting posts on makerspaces and I think it is time for us to just jump in.   I love the idea of creating spaces at school that encourage kids to be creative and innovative.  From the little we have done so far it is amazing to see how engaged the students are when they are given the opportunity to innovate.

We started out with one piece – a 3D pen.  The pen can make all sorts of 3D shapes, the design of these shapes is limited only by a student’s imagination. Yesterday, one of the grade 4’s showed me a fishing rod she made with the pen.  The primary students were fascinated by this creation and immediately wanted to know when they could try it out.

our first ‘maker’ tool – a 3D pen!

We then purchased a bunch of Makey Makey kits.  These were an immediate hit with the junior students.  They were totally caught up with all the different things they could try out with the kits.  The students catch on very quickly and are quickly inventing new ways to use the kits for a whole variety of purchases.  It is really interesting to see what can develop from the use of these kids.  One of the grade 4 students remarked to his teacher that because of the kits he had experienced a great day.  When asked why he said that he felt valued in the class because others were asking him how to make the kits work.



makey makey kits 1




Our makerspace is portable so we are now moving it from class to class – today the grade 5’s get to try it out.  They were already asking when they would get a turn with it yesterday.

We have added two chromebooks to the space and today we added two Spheros to our collection.  The Spheros will allow students to develop some programming skills for the two sphero ‘robots’ that we have purchased.  The grade 4’s have already started to research how they can use this new tool.

We also plan on picking up three littleBits sets.  These sets will allow students to create with circuit boards and craft materials to make new creations.

The terrific thing about all these new tools is that it squarely puts the students in the driver seat.  They are able to use their imagination to explore new inventions.  This is very exciting for the teachers who are experimenting with the kits.  They see the value in using these new tools as a way to encourage their students to try out new things.

Ultimately, we hope to get a 3D printer to complete our makerspace.  With help from community partners we should be able to get one soon.  We don’t have the funding for this machine, but we have developed a crowdfunding proposal that we hope will allow us to raise the money we need to get one of these printers.

What will be the end result for our students?  The sky is the limit!  We are all very excited about the future of our new space – who knows where are students will go with their new inventions.


makey makey 2


one of our new Sphero kits
one of our new Sphero kits

     The grade 4’s work with the makey makey kits


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