Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Thoughts on Mr. November, Part II

"Schools remain cut off from the rest of the world despite web 2.0 technologies. We need to connect them and publicize those connections."

Alan spoke about the need for us to connect our students to the world at large, about the changing global economy and workforce and the radical shifts that are happening in economies worldwide. Like all else I do, I needed to filter that statement a little before letting it run loose in my own world.

I had an interesting conversation today with a good friend of mine regarding what it's like being out of the classroom and what we notice now that we are "on the other side" at least for part of the time. My friend said that, being in the classroom for a while, you often feel like you have exhausted every possible angle on a certain unit, a particular lesson, or maybe even a particular grade level. Leaving the classroom for a while and having the opportunity and the time to devote to finding new angles, new strategies, and new learning adventures gives you fresh perspective, and you find yourself trying hard to get back into the classroom to try what
you have found. Why is that so often the case? Is it that we have our system structured so that it's focused less on the quality of instruction and more on the quantity of instruction you can deliver in a set time.

In looking at Alan's quote from above, and in thinking about this situation of perspective and time, they both are matched perfectly. If we have networked teachers, communities of practice either locally or virtually, sharing knowledge, strategy, and especially their students work, we have solved the problem of time and the problem of stagnation. Change the model of how teachers are developed once they are hired to one where they are networked with others of like and unlike mind. Connecting the students, then follows soon after, as the teachers can begin to see the possibilities and benefits of connected learning. I know there is more to this than this brief post, but I truly think that the key to future professional development has to start with networking teachers. For a more thorough look at what this can be, be sure to check out Sheryl Nussbaum-Beech's latest post at TechLearning.

A lot of technology, a lack of vision.

What am I doing to help provide the teachers I work with the ability and desire to have vision? Alan's statement echoes what's been said by so many lately: we have great tools, but what can we build with them? I looked hard at the courses I have offered over the past year to my staff, and I looked hard at the model I offered them in. Had I not accepted this new position (still holding out on that post), I would have restructured the entire way I offer PD. I don't think this 2-hour, sit-and-get is the best way to facilitate change, promote innovation, and instill my staff with the confidence they need to start having real vision when it comes to how they can now teach. And who knows, with your help, this slate of classes in November might be the beginning of that shift for my district.

What is my vision for the classrooms I work in? That's not an easy one, but it's one that we should get a handle on soon. If you asked me now, I'd go with this:

We are the change that we want to see; it starts with us and how we enable that change in others around us. We want globally connected learners because we may not be all that our learners need us to be. Our classrooms should produce students whose sense of community is not constrained by their geographic location because they never learned that way; the world was always their classroom. Our teachers and students should know audience to be much more than just teacher, or class, or school, but nation, and world beyond that. And our methods will be the subject of debate and critique among our peers.

Flickr Image Credits:
"Be the Change," from dmal's photostream
"Do you Believe in Change?" carf's photostream

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Bach said...


I'm with you as far as looking att he way we do PD in schools. This year I've gone through a partial paradigm shift in my district, going from teaching technology programs to teaching learning with embedded technology. Example: Last yoear I taught a course on blogs. This year the course was tweaked to be called "Improving Student's Writing With Technology" where we looked at ways to improve the depth and breadth of student writing using a collaborative process of wikis, blogs, Google docs, etc.

The problem is, it is still a three hour class of 15 teachers whom I question how much and to what extent they will implement once they are on their own.

Funny-- we have In Class Support Teachers for classified special education students in our classes who scaffold the learning for their students to help them access it better.

Wouldn;t it be neat if content srea teachers had an Instruictional Support Teacher with them to help scaffold as well?

I'm still wrestling with the way we do PD too.

Maybe we can use the MSU Network to start a wiki on the subject....

Thanks for waking my brain up with your ideas.


Patrick Higgins said...


I really struggle with this issue. What are the options to offer PD other than what we currently do. Look at how we are learning now: asynchronously, just-in-time, and from voices and teachers we select. How does that translate to our staff?

Personally, and I know you feel this way too, I think that I work with some of the most energetic and talented staff around; however, I can't say what the reaction would be if I shifted the delivery method of our PD to something that was ongoing, cyclical, and most of all reflective in nature. The closest we came to this was when we began Communities of Practice last year, but even that requires a huge time commitment from teachers.

A wiki would be fantastic to hash out these ideas, as would bringing this up at EduCon 2.0 in January, which you should think about attending.