Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Educators as Learners (a navel gazing post)

In my opinion, navel gazing is part of being a reflective practitioner. Over the last few months, a few pennies have been dropping for me, and I have decided I will share these 'aha' moments with you.

For some time I have been thinking about the concept of truly modelling in professional development what we want to see in classrooms. We want to see group work, UDL, learner directed activities - let's do this in PLD. We want to see modern learning pedagogy, flipped learning - we should do this in PLD. We learners to be curious, follow their passions, hack their learning - are we providing for this in PLD?

In my mind there are three tiers of learners in my slice of the education system:
My realisation is that if we want education to change for our students, we might need to change the way PLD is delivered for teachers and for facilitators. We might need to fully embrace everything we facilitators are talking about for classrooms in our own facilitation practise. We need to truly walk the talk!

What might this look like?
Some of my ideas include the use of online learning management platforms to access learning wherever whenever, fully embracing the future focus themes like changing the understanding of knowledge (we are all creators of knowledge), rethinking roles of learners and teachers etc. Use of blended learning, of flipped learning, mixed groups that change with need / interest. Teachers and facilitators documenting their learning on a digital platform.
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So how could I make this work?
I think to a certain degree I am still stuck in the 'sage on the stage' mode. I still run staff meetings with me talking to (at?) and with teachers, and I hope that in the future I can start introducing aspects of flipped learning, asking them to view a video before the staff meeting for example and then using the time in the meeting to discuss, drill down into a topic, explore further. (My biggest issue is still hearing my own voice on video, though, as we were told at the GAFE Summit in Auckland in April, everyone else has to hear it, so I better get over it!).
Here is New Zealand we are using the 'Teaching as Inquiry' model already in PLD where teachers inquire into their practise to improve student outcomes. What about teacher passions, though? I have been thinking how I could create a virtual 'wonder wall' for teachers where they can explore their education related passions. Is this necessary / helpful?
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What else could your PLD provider do for you to empower you as a learner?

Following this idea further, another penny dropped recently:
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For a while I have been saying that, should I return to the classroom, I would want to have a mixed platform of 1:1 devices, and being a tutu, I am sure I would make the multi-platform part work. I have often contemplated if prescribing a particular device is limiting the potential in a classroom. While I have acknowledged for a while that having to deal with only one device benefits the teacher, I only recently realised that teachers are learners in this aspect, too, they are on a continuum, and we need to provide scaffolding and assistance where required.
For example, you have a teacher who is not so confident in the higher stages of Numeracy - you probably assign them the lower stages when cross-grouping, or you might provide them with coaching to support them. And still, some such teachers might never come to enjoy teaching stages 6+, so we accommodate this in some shape or form.

The same applies to teachers and technology I think. We require all teachers to incorporate technology effectively into their programme, but that doesn't mean they have to become fanatic technoholics, they might just be most comfortable with working with one particular device and the multitude of options it provides in their classroom.


My learning as facilitator: Walk the talk, understand that educators are learners at all ages, support them just as I want learners supported in their classrooms.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Spreading your wings

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As mentioned in the previous post, the BeLchick family is spreading their wings and moving to Brisbane in December, an exciting yet very scary prospect, at times filled with doubt - What do I have to offer? How can I be effective without my PLN? But then it occurred to me - my PLN is coming with me! They are in my phone, my iPad, my laptop, there are here whenever I choose to connect to the internet! They are with me wherever I go! Such is the power of an online PLN, I can choose to connect with people beyond my immediate surroundings any time they and I choose to connect.

Just last night +Sonya Van Schaijik  led our group of educators from New Zealand and beyond to launch our #edbooknz 'Taking the descriptors away' via GHO on Air+Pam Hook, +Wendy Kofoed, +Annemarie Hyde, +Richard Wells, +Philippa Nicoll Antipas+Craig Kemp+Sonya Van Schaijik, +Karen Melhuish Spencer, +Tahu Paki and I explored learning, learning environments, citizenship, learning tools, pedagogy, collaboration, educators / learners, communities and whanaungatanga. We had a fantastic troop of critical / disruptive friends to support us, +Andrew Cowie, +Kathy Scott, +Bridget Casse, Laura Hill, +Rachel Roberts, +Beth Holland and many more, with whom we connected digitally or f2f. This would not have come about if we all had not built our PLN which includes lots of virtual connections, and it is pretty much independent from where exactly we live.
As we are discussing in the book, taking the descriptors away normalises what forward thinking educators in New Zealand and across the world are doing every day. It helps us prepare our young people for their future. We realise this is not the norm in all classrooms around our beautiful country - but we think it should be!

Connected Educator Month was a great opportunity to get connected. Although sometimes overwhelming, there are ways to stay sane, some of which I have blogged about here. Connecting in itself is not enough - we have to do something with / about these connections (see my recent blog post here). Let's use these connections to collaborate (as we have done with #edbooknz), to support each other, to learn from each other (e.g. VLN, TeachMeetNZ, Ethos Community).
It is amazing where such connections can lead; who would have thought two years ago that the BeLchick would get to write a chapter for a book with such esteemed co-authors? My advice to you is, spread your wings, get connected, use these connections which are only a tweet or a GHO call away, shriek and hug with them when you meet f2f (if you are, like I, that way inclined). You never know where it will take you... and with your PLN and friends always with you, even a move across the ditch is much less scary!

(And please, if someone can show me how to have Blogger not randomly change my fonts in the middle of my last paragraph, please get in touch!!!) Thanks heaps +Rebbecca Sweeney for helping me fix the fonts via the HTML view :))))