Monday, February 29, 2016

Take your PLD into your own hands

Mindlab Post 6/10  Part A

Create a blog post where you identify and evaluate two contemporary issues or trends that are influencing or shaping NZ or international education, which you find most relevant to your practice.
Elaborate in your own words how you would address those issues or trends in your context within your learning community or professional context. 

Teachers taking individual responsibility for sourcing and tailoring their own Professional Learning and Development is a trend that's been strongly emerging over the last few years. Educamps, eduignites, the use of social media are all part of this.

We expect teachers to provide learning that is tailored to individual students in their classes. Why do some schools still persist in then telling teachers that they must all learn to be better at the same thing at the same time? I get that there has to be some whole school unity and a common vision and drive but just like young people, our teachers will learn so much more readily if they have a real stake and passion in what they are learning about or developing skills in.

What we are really talking about is PLD for teachers by teachers. People passionate about learning and the teaching processes necessary to cause great effective learning. And people willing to share. No big money passing hands and causing barriers. No big heroes taking centre stage. Just people wanting to share and get better at things to make things better for the young people in their care.

I love eduignite evenings. The fact that there is no cost, that it is just people sharing  their beliefs and learning. That each person speaks for a maximum of five minutes. That again there is no hero. That whoever would like to speak can and does, it's not dependent on one person.
I also love the use of Twitter for professional learning for the same reasons. It's a great leveller. There's no hierarchy. Principals are having chats with beginning teachers about teaching and learning in authentic and challenging ways and learning from each other. It's not all top down imposed learning.

Last year two colleagues and I did a 5 1/2 hour trip for a 5 hour educamp in Palmerston North  with a 5 1/2 hour trip home afterwards. No regrets whatsoever. It was an awesome day. I wrote about it here.

What makes an educamp so effective? The un conference format where the participants decide on the day what it is they would most like to discuss. The fact that there is no big money involved, that attendance requires time not a big fee.

Last weekend I attended an educamp in Wellington.  I don't live in Wellington. I don't even live in the North Island any more. While I didn't fly there just for educamp, I deliberately  planned my "time out" weekend in Wellington to coincide with the date of educampwelly. The people involved make all the difference. Those organising and attending educamp do tend to be the movers and shakers, the people on the cutting edge of learning and teaching in our schools. The people that are happy to spend five hours of their Saturday sharing and learning with and from each other. So actually just the networking and connections with people make it worthwhile. The fact they are held in other schools and you get to wander around another school,and learn what they are doing in their classrooms is another.

I do get wary when I see schools wanting to charge a lot of money to provide PLD to other schools. It must be very easy to blur the professional learning lines into money making schemes and I'm not at all convinced we should be using PLD to do this.
I get downright outraged when I see providers who haven't been in a classroom authentically for a long time charging exorbitant amounts of money to "provide" PLD. I think embedding our practice in theory and research is important and that all teachers should be supported to become more accomplished at doing this through the teaching as inquiry process. However the theory without the practical application that I have seen in some PLD providers makes me angry. Teachers immediately switch off when they know there is no understood reality of  what being in a classroom is like.

For me the enduring things about personally tailoring your own PLD and taking advantage of things like educamps is that you get out of them what you put into them. I know leaders get concerned about the teachers who would never actively seek out their own PLD if it was all left up to them. Maybe, though it's time to start acknowledging those that do, and giving them the scope to manage this. We don't treat all learners in our classrooms the same as far as self management. Different students are ready for differing stages of external and internal control. Why don't we treat our teachers, who are our lead learners the same?

Thanks to the organisers of educampwelly and the fantastic wellyed team. Your awesome hard work made the day run incredibly smoothly. But thanks also to everyone who attended. Thanks to anyone I had a conversation with or joined a session with. You were all part of enriching my professional learning for 5 hours this Saturday. No one told you that you had to be there, you were there because you wanted to be and the rich development and learning that took place was because you took control of your own learning.

I look forward to continuing connections with those I already knew and to developing further connections from those of you I met for the first time.


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