This morning is a snow day. To my surprise, the forecast got it right for once. I woke up around 5 AM to the sound of tapping against my window, and got out my phone to check if school was closed.
I have this horrible habit of not being able to go back to sleep once I wake up. Plus, I had set a calendar reminder for #BFC530 today. I’ve been trying to get back into Twitter chats, but this time with balance lol. Today’s topic was right up my alley.
First, a quick note regarding terminology. You will see me employ professional learning (PL) and professional development (PD) in this post. At first glance, it may seem like I’m doing it arbitrarily; however, I refer to PL as non-mandated learning opportunities for educators to opt-in. PD, in this case, will refer to learning opportunities mandated by a school or district. These terms are intended to be value-free as there are good and bad examples of both.
Being part of our district’s Technology Training Team, I am honored to contribute to the PL opportunities that we provide. Even prior to joining our team, PL had been a strong interest of mine, beginning with creating #edtech tutorial videos in 2013, then organizing a team that hosted our district’s first edcamp in 2014. After attending Google Innovator Academy (then Google Teacher Academy) later that year, my project was to start a Google Educator Group for the DC Area. That summer, we had gamified learning challenges based on instructional strategies, which stretched me as both an organizer and a learner. This opportunity for growth, plus contributions from my educational family, inspired many of the things that we do in EduMatch. (P.S. I’m currently thinking of bringing back the gamified challenges to that as well.)
Regarding choice, I have been inspired by the great work of Jennie Magiera, Emmanuel Andre, and others when it comes to designing PD. Choice is extremely important for all learners, including us. The perceived disconnect between pedagogy and andragogy has puzzled me for a long time. Yes, children and adults are different, but we are not two different species. The day you turn 18, you do not magically turn into a brand new person. Instead, we just become older versions of ourselves with more life experience and perspective. When I was 12, I loved music, basketball, and LL Cool J. At…20-teen…I still enjoy karaoke, playing three-on-three vs. sixth graders, and LL Cool J (enough said).
The point is that best practice for learners is best practice for learners, regardless of age. Student choice is preached far and wide, and as a student of the world, I prefer choice. This is why PL opportunities like edcamps are so clutch. In addition, I believe that PDs can also be very effective and relevant when done correctly. To me, “done correctly” almost always involves choice. Maybe there is a prerequisite for educators to see what is available, since you don’t know what you don’t know. But after that…choice.
Another thing that is equally important is building capacity. Everyone is good at something, and should share their expertise with others for the good of the field. However, this is more complicated than meets the eye. Some people are hesitant to share for various reasons, many of which stem from feeling disempowered.
When I first began teaching, I had low confidence in my ability, as a result of some negative experiences. About four years in, I was given a role in leadership as Social Studies Chair, and the healing process began. My fifth year, I moved to a school where my principal was a true multiplier, and this is when I began to feel like a leader. Around my sixth year, the Technology Training Team selected me for participation in their Teacher Leadership Academy, and I began to see myself as a leader. My eighth year, I got connected and *BAM*! I don’t even have to explain the BAM…if you’re reading this, you probably already know what it’s like to breathe the fresh air of building and learning from a PLN.
This ties into my passion for building capacity. I want to note that I needed EVERYTHING that happened, to undo the layers of self-doubt I had built early in my career. I thank everyone who has ever believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. This is where building capacity is key. Once people see themselves as leaders, they act as leaders.
However, nobody has to wait for others to deem you a leader. If you want to be a leader, then lead. As a good friend of mine, Dr. Will, said, “if no one invites you to the table, build your own table.” You are a leader!!! To quote one of my favorite movies,
Anyway, back to the point. So, this morning, I was doing #BFC530, and participated in a great discussion. I saw this tweet:
which reminded me of a recent discussion that pushed my thinking with George Couros and Katie Martin last week on the #IMMOOC YouTube Live. At one point, we were talking about how educators can “innovate inside the box”:
Through our discussion, I learned A LOT! Although my own growth came from being provided with trust and space, Katie and George helped me realize that support looks different for different people. Some folks, like Kevin and I, may thrive with freedom, although this is not always the case. I asked Kevin what he thought, and he suggested that each teacher be able to design his/her PD. YES!!!
David, another #BFC530er, also had done this at his school:
David was so kind to share this Google doc with me. Again, I think of Jennie’s Teacher IEPs and Manny’s model, where educators can choose their PD courses university-style, with double credits awarded for teaching a course. Building capacity for the win!