Posts Tagged ‘PD’

I was somewhat disturbed about a recent post by a friend and connected colleague concerning the state of Twitter and its use by some individuals in what is now fast becoming the education social media culture. My friend seemed to be longing for the “good ole days” of Twitter when it was smaller numbers and people knew their place in their interacting with others. I remember those days as well, since I was on Twitter years before my friend. I think my perspective and take-aways on this are a little different.

I see the benefits of having a collaborative tool like Twitter to improve the profession of teaching. Twitter enables educators to easily and quickly exchange content in the form of links to other educators. The very things that need to be exchanged for collaboration include: articles, posts, movies, podcasts, websites, whitepapers, videos, interviews, and now even books. Twitter is not the format that one uses for exchanging ideas requiring deep thought and reflective exchanges. Twitter does however enable educators to drive traffic to places where those exchanges may take place. I personally do not consider Twitter as a form of Professional Development, but rather a bulletin board that directs folks to the places that they can get personalized professional development. It is that ability for educators to self-direct their intellectual growth and skill improvement that has led me to push to grow this social media culture for many years now.

Back in the day before Twitter there was little transparency in education. Teachers were trained in education courses from colleges, many of which were slow to change from 19th and 20th century models of teaching. They were then placed in a job that was governed by the culture of the school to which they were assigned. Collaboration, to whatever level it existed, was limited to a building or district. Those educators who were invited to attend them attended education conferences. It was also a matter of whom the budget allowed for conference attendance. The speakers at these conferences were often administrators who brought along their lead learners to share their best and most progressive lessons in sessions with others. Keynotes or highlighted session speakers were often celebrities, authors, administrators, consultants, vendors, or even politicians. Social Media has changed that for educators. Educators, many of whom gained prominence by sharing with others through social media, are dominating today’s conferences.

Sharing Is Not Bragging. The whole condemnation of self-promotion is a little ridiculous since to a degree everyone on social media self-promotes in order to get their message out to a larger audience. Using your voice to a limited audience seems counter productive. There are some who do it too often, but it is a public platform. We can’t regulate what others tweet. Of course the irony of many bloggers writing about, or condemning self-promotion is that they often self-promote within their own blogs or tweets to drive traffic to their posts. It is the best way to share ideas with a larger audience. Yes, there are “Rock Star” educators on Twitter, but that more often comes from sharing great ideas. If I might indulge in some self-promotion here; I direct you to A Rock Star, not by choice.

I hate that we have, what I refer to as, Drive-by presenters at conferences. They fly in for a session or keynote and fly out immediately after their delivery. The fact of the matter is that they did share needed info with a larger audience and as much as I hate their not sharing further with more personal interactions with conference participants, they do offer what people often need to hear. That is the goal we want to achieve.

My friend also seemed to be down on those who only RT tweets. Re-Tweeting serves several purposes. First it allows novice tweeters to somewhat engage in Twitter as they learn the culture. I RT frequently when I find great tweets so that my followers, who may not have gotten that tweet, may benefit from it. Yes, there are some who never get beyond the RT phase of tweeting, but that is their choice and loss. We need not judge them for that. I also discovered the power of an RT lies in how good the original Tweet is. If one RT’s really smart Tweets from really smart people, She/he is credited for that tweet and those smarts, as well as the original tweeter. It does build a following, but if it is not followed by original thoughtful tweets, that following may be short-lived.

One other thing that we must all keep in mind is that Twitter is Social Media. That word “social” opens the door for folks to talk about whatever the hell they want to talk about. Most of my followers know my Friday’s are Pizza and wine nights. That has nothing to do with education, but everything to do with me. Twitter is based on relationships. Often those relationships come with more than just exchanging links.

An important fact that my friend overlooked in the post is that we each have a responsibility to pick and choose that we trust to follow in our personalized learning networks. That is what makes them personalized. I would suggest to anyone who uses Twitter, that if for any reason someone does not strike a chord with you, UNFOLLOW him or her. I would also caution you to maintain people who disagree, as opposed to those who are just being obnoxious. That disagreement will promote deeper reflection on the very things you need to reflect on. That is why I read posts that I do not always agree with.

The very strength of Twitter comes from it being open. It affords access and transparency to education that has never been afforded before. It is also new to many educators who need time to adjust and fit in. We best serve our followers by modeling Twitter the best way that we can, but we can’t tell others what they must do to fit in. Eventually, everyone will get it. We must be tolerant of those who get it but choose to game the system. This sounds like real life outside the classroom. Control and compliance don’t seem to fit into social media. What is different is that we can pick and choose who to follow and how much to engage them. It’s all about the personal learning. By the way this is just my opinion and has no direct bearing on whatever you choose to do in your social media interactions.

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In my last post, Piece of the Pie, I suggested adding a teacher to the elementary program in order to better utilize technology as a tool for learning. I have had a number of requests to expand on that idea. I have never been an elementary teacher, so I am not sure I have the clearest picture of how to make the right changes, but I can frame the problem and offer a suggestion which can be changed accordingly.

When we talk about reform in education there are no easy solutions. There are layers of problems intertwined with more layers of problems. Often a solution in one area may ripple out and cause problems in other areas. This is a primary reason many people would like to blow up the system and start from scratch.

In order to appreciate my suggestion for change, I think I might best start by addressing the problems that I am attempting to address. It is not a single issue but, again, a layer of intertwined conditions preventing or at least obstructing our ability to create the best environment for learning for our kids.

The first part of this problem involves teachers and Technology. For a myriad of reasons the advance of technology development is out pacing our teachers’ ability, or understanding as to how to use it effectively as a tool for learning. We need not explore the reasons for this gap, but we must acknowledge that for a huge number of our teachers this gap exists.

The second part of this problem is the need for our kids to understand the advantages as well, as the pitfalls, in the use of technology in order to prepare for a technology driven society. Yes, there are those who feel that people should reject the fact that we are becoming a technology driven society and they have that right. They don’t have the right to make that decision for others however. In order to decide about any choice, one needs to understand the choices and their implications. That being said, technology does have a place in education as a tool for learning.

Of course I am making a recommendation to add teachers in an era of cutbacks and layoffs, so this entire idea may be a non-starter. I would like to see an elementary teaching position created for the purpose of integrating technology into the elementary classroom. This is not an IT position, but a classroom teacher position. This would be a revolving teacher, one who schedules visits to many classrooms as a support person. This Tech teacher would enter classes one or two times a week for a period of time to work with kids using technology as tools for learning in support of the curriculum that is being taught by the primary teacher.

This Tech teacher will be responsible for planning with the primary teacher in order to integrate technology in a meaningful way to the class environment.   This can be done with applications or websites. Skyping in experts and authors can be an activity for this Tech teacher. The introduction of Social Media and responsible digital citizenship could be added to the list. Tech tools for the creation of content are another area the Tech teacher could explore. She/he would also be the Go-to person for Parent Workshops for technology in the classroom sessions. A teacher offering to be a source parent support.

It would need to be mandated with  required a schedule for this Tech teacher to enter these classrooms on a regular basis. There is an argument for this to be applicable at every grade level, but at the very least it should happen from fourth grade, and continue through sixth.

The addition of this Tech teacher is the best form of Professional Development in technology for the entire staff. Teachers, who are not now using tech for whatever reason, will see its benefits in their own class without needing to do it themselves. They will also have a say in how to incorporate it in what they want to do. This increases their understanding and guides them through its use. It will also increase collaboration with all teachers since the Tech Teacher revolving from class to class will be making connections with teachers with similar interests, goals and lessons.

Every Tech teacher should have a COW. That would be a cart with a class set of laptops, Computers On Wheels. Being able to have a person responsible to guide the students to the best sites and the best free web 2.0 tools will be a great help to the primary teacher. It also allows the primary teacher to explore the benefits of student, and class blogging. That opens the door to responsible digital citizenship, critical thinking, reflective thinking, creation of content, collaboration, communication, and enhancement of self-esteem.

Using the push-in teacher model enables the primary teacher the time and incentive to learn and grow with the students. Hopefully, the more they learn and share, the more they will venture forward. Both teachers and students may begin to develop connections with others who have similar likes and interests, as well as people who are experts in various areas. We know this a Personal Learning Network. Imagine what could happen if kids learned to responsibly create their own PLN’s as elementary students and develop and grow that PLN throughout their academic career.

There are many pluses in this plan, at least as I have laid it out, but there are huge obstacles to make it happen. When it comes to education reform, many wants reform, but few want change. Out of the Box innovation does not come from in the box regulation. I proposed an idea that addresses many issues and may offer solutions to persisting problems in Professional Development and use of Technology. I am only a Shaker, I am not a Mover. If we are to ever get Education Reform, we need educators, not only discussing reform, but making changes as well. The alternative will be business mandated labor reforms couched in the cloak of Education Reform for the sake of privatization and profit.

I now need to post a similar idea for the secondary Level.

Comments and ratings welcomed

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It has been almost a week since I went to EduCon 2.3 in Philadelphia, and I am still going over many things in my head that I discussed, or experienced in that atmosphere of educational collaboration. “What is EduCon?” you may ask.  It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools.” The “in person” attendance was limited to 300 educators who came from all over the country. Many of the attendees were educators who were connected to each other through Social Media. Many, although maybe meeting face to face for the first time, were very familiar with the beliefs and attributes of their fellow attendees long before this conference.

Social Media is the new factor in educational conferences that is changing the way many educators interact. Its effect is not only taking hold on educators at conferences, but on the population of countries as well. Social Media is having a profound effect on the revolution going on in the Middle East. The first reaction of repressive governments used to be to control the TV and Radio stations. Today, their first reaction to revolt is to block the internet, specifically Twitter and Facebook.  This control of social Media has become a prime directive in China. The idea of keeping entire populations without access to technology of any kind, with the possible exception of weapons, may be a goal of many Middle Eastern countries

I have said enough about international conflict, so back to Philly and EduCon 2.3. I really enjoyed going out with so many people after a day of conferring on Education. At my hotel we gathered a group of about 30 people for dinner. It was great meeting in the hotel lobby. The energy level was high with everyone recapping the events of the day. We were expanding and exploring much of day’s topics, while interspersing jokes and personal anecdotes. After traveling to two restaurants and realizing that no one was going to host a group of 30 people we broke down into two groups. My group of about a dozen people went to a really nice pub that took us in and seated us in an isolated alcove at the back of the pub.

As we were seated, we resembled any group of close friends out for a night of celebration and frivolity. That appearance belied the fact that many of us, although familiar with each other through social media, were together face to face for the first time. It mattered not because of our strong connections developed virtually through social media over the past year. We had a great time talking about the day, the people we met and the things we had learned.

The Waiter brought the menus and we all perused the fare to decide on our meals. After the orders were given and the waiter went off with his order pad and something happened. Everyone at the table, I think it was twelve total, pulled out their mobile learning devices to check-in, tweet out or catch-up. Some even texted the other half of the original group from our hotel. My immediate reaction was to ask the group, would you do this at a restaurant with your families? Of course the response was a resounding NO. “They do not understand” was in the majority of responses. The smart phones, or mobile learning devices, were then used to share with each of the dinners family photos, links to educational sites, blogs, and sites stored from the day’s encounters. It was a collaboration fest. The sight that grabbed me was that a dozen people, all seated at a long combination of tables, were all looking at their individual mobile learning devices all at the same time. It took about ten minutes until the first round of drinks arrived and the devices disappeared and the face to face socializing began.

The encounter stuck with me through the next day. The idea of how mobile learning devices have crept into our interaction and collaboration began to implant itself in my head. I knew how it affected me, but now I observed its effect on many educator/learners who I have come to know and respect. The next day at the conference I continued my observation of mobile learning devices. In every session I attended, I observed a great majority of the attendees using Laptops, I Pads, or Smart Phones during each of the sessions. These learner educators were recording and back channeling information from each of the sessions. (Back Channeling is sending out comments, quotes, or reactions to a session or a speaker through social media.) These people represented some of the best informed educator learners in education today all using mobile technology to learn and collaborate.

Now for my reflection: It was obvious to me that some of the most avid learners that I have ever known have embraced mobile devices in their learning. They use it in their formal learning environments as well as personal lives. For these learners, learning technology is ubiquitous. (ubiquitous existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent.) Laptops, I Pads, and mobile phones were everywhere in this conference of über learners.

Now, I need to present my long-awaited reflection. I wonder, given the two examples offered, where should American education fall with a policy on Mobile Learning Devices. Should it follow the model of outstanding educators who are proven learners? That would involve the ubiquitous use of learning technologies. The other option: Should it follow the model of Middle Eastern countries attempting to keep their populations in the centuries of the past? Blocking the internet and controlling the use of Mobile Learning Devices. Should American Educators resist the advent of learning technologies, or should they embrace it. Embracing it will require Professional Development. Rejecting it requires absolutely nothing.


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