Should educators be connecting – of course!

Isn’t it wonderful when a writer poses a question, then answers it right in the title?  Why read on – you have your answer!

Well, I hope you will read more.  Of course, we should all be connecting and I would argue that we all do in an increasingly varied number of ways.  I would argue that educators need to reflect on how they are already connecting and how these connections are contributing to the development of their personal learning networks.

Here in Ottawa, we just spent two wonderful days of learning hosted by the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education and Discovery Education.  We had some excellent workshops on PLNs and new professional development.  Derek Rhodenizer presented a great workshop on Personalized PD.

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He makes the excellent point that we all connect using a whole variety of methods, including podcasts – something that Derek does frequently. I never thought of using podcasts as a way of sharing learning, but it works for Derek.  For others, it might be blogging, Twitter, and more recently Instagram or SnapChat.

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Derek’s presentation is important.  He emphasizes that we are all connecting – even if we don’t know it.  We connect even when we have a conversation in the hallway after a long day – learning is going on all the time, we just need to acknowledge it and grow our networks.

The Ontario Ministry of Education in its excellent Capacity Building Series has several monograms on the importance of teachers making personal connections to advance their personal learning through collaborative inquiry – one in the series states that teacher inquiry is a critical part of teachers’  daily work. (pg. 1 Collaborative Teacher Inquiry September 2010)

In my presentation, I focused specifically on Twitter, Voxer and Discovery Education’s Educators’ Network called the DEN.  What I love about the DEN is that it focuses on the development of personal relationships through small, intimate  ‘Day of Discovery’ conferences, virtual conferences, summer institutes and a variety of social media tools.  The emphasis here is on the personal conversation which really makes it unique in this digital age.

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Focusing on the human connection is becoming increasingly important.  One great, relatively new PLN tool is Voxer.  You can find me on Voxer at mcguirp – happy to connect!

We were able to display the power of personal connection through Voxer by inviting Donna Miller Fry to talk to us during one of the workshops.  Here is part of what she had to say to the workshop participants. 

Pretty amazing to have such an influential Ontario education contribute to our learning in Ottawa while she waited for the power to come back on in Thunder Bay!

So, we all connect in some fashion.  How do you connect? You are doing this – what is your next step?

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ECOO 2014 Some of what I learned – part I..

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This is my favourite conference.  I come away with great material each year and I make face-to-face connections with people I follow on Twitter and truly admire.  Some quick highlights in this category.  Sitting at a keynote and realizing I am sitting next to Donna Miller Fry who I have learned so much from this year.  Talking to George Couros just before his keynote and getting his words of wisdom, “man you really need to change your Twitter photo, no one can see you”.  Doug Peterson, my hero then chimed in “your photo is rather dark”.

These seem like very simple exchanges, but for me they show how much I have learned in the last year from these great educators.  We have barely (or never) ever met but there is a shared intimacy that comes from being part of the writing community on Twitter.

Some of the best learning at conferences for me now comes just from these quick connections.  They will be enough to sustain our on-going on-line relationships where I will continue to be enriched by their experience on an almost daily basis.

I talked to lots of vendors and attended as many keynotes and workshops as I could when not doing registration, but I think there is huge value in all the conversations with committee members (a truly wonderful group of people), vendors and twitter learning partners.  It is amazing to me that after 30 years in education, my learning experience is richer than ever.

We hear it now lots in workshops – to be an isolated educators really makes no sense anymore.  I truly lived that over the past four days.

I have lots more to write about, but as George says – relationships are key, certainly the most important aspect of the work we do.

Thank-you everyone, great seeing you all!

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this is the way to finish a conference – what a great group!

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.  

 

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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!