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Posts Tagged ‘Professional Development’

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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Many folks are reflecting on their #EduCon experience of this past weekend. #EduCon is a unique education conference in that it has no vendor support or “How-To workshops”.  It consists of intellectual conversations dealing with ideas and concerns of that which we call education or learning. It is limited to 300 participants drawing from some of the leading Thought Leaders in education from across the country. The idea of Thought Leader is in fact the focus of this post.

I never knew of the term Thought Leader as it applied to educators. I never heard it over a 34 year career as a secondary English teacher. I did not hear of it when I first entered the Higher Ed arena. I did hear of it as I entered the world of Social Media. I have come to believe that a Thought Leader is one who encourages, promotes, stimulates, or fosters thought in the area of Education. Other areas and industries have their own Thought Leaders.

What set me off on this reflection was a tweet by Ira Socol about EduCon having a hierarchy of attendees, an “A-List” as it were.  I took that to mean a group of people who were above the average attendees, the Educator Elite who others look up to for direction. They would be the recognized Thought Leaders. In fact there was a number of attendees who travel the education circuit as Keynote Speakers and paid consultants. That however, does not diminish their expertise in the area of education. In fact they were not at EduCon as paid Keynotes or paid consultants. They were there as educators and education experts exchanging ideas with other educators. Since many of them have been on the education circuit for quite a while, they are familiar with each other and naturally gravitate together. What separates them from the label of elite is their approachability and openness to sharing. They are there as sources. I will not list names, because I know, I will undoubtedly, leave someone out, and feelings will be hurt. Let us acknowledge that these Thought Leaders were at EduCon to share and offer their expertise as much as any other attendee there. They paid the same fee we all did.

There is also a secondary level of this Hierarchy. These individuals might be thought of as the Nouveau riche amongst educators. They acquired their gravitas through social media. With a combination of education, learning, and experience, they have assembled a number of opinions on various subjects within education and have tweeted them out or blogged to a following. Their opinions have been weighed and measured and by all accounts they are recognized as sound. Others have Re-Tweeted their tweets or recommended their blogs to such an extent that global recognition has been acquired. These are the individuals who made up a bulk of the conversation moderators at EduCon. Again, they were very approachable with sharing and exchanging ideas the focus of their attendance at the conference.They are giving as much as they are taking. That is the theory of sharing.

Now to the point of this post, anyone has the ability to be a Thought Leader. I was taken aback at a comment by one of the attendees at EduCon who said that she would never tweet out a promotion of her Blog post. I immediately pictured an elementary student after being nominated for class president being told that she/he cannot vote for her/himself. If you do not believe you are the best person for the job, why run? If you do not believe your post has value and should be shared for comment and reflection, why write it? How can you test the value of your beliefs? The purpose of your post should be your belief in the value of your opinion. Comments will direct your reflection and possible change in thought. We are not politicians. Educators are expected to be flexible and change when needed.

With the help of Social Media I have been referred to as a Thought Leader. It is not a title I claimed, or gave to myself. It is a title that others have given me and it comes with responsibility. People begin to look to me for thought or even some leadership in thought. It is a title that can be claimed by anyone who comes to the social media table with knowledge, experience, flexibility and small amount of social media savvy along with a few contributions to add to the educational slow pot cooker.

To become a Do It Yourself Thought Leader:

  1. Select your area of expertise.
  2. Use twitter to Micro blog your ideas.
  3. Respond to others on your topic.
  4. Engage educators in discussions of your topic.
  5. Write a blog on your Topic
  6. Promote your posts on Twitter to drive traffic to your Blog
  7. Submit proposals for presentations at Education conferences.

Social Media has offered educators another avenue to become a Thought Leader. It is not an easy road, but it is possible to step up and move forward. It is also a role that needs to be filled in a climate of change and reform. We need more educators to step up and offer guidance through the obstacles to change.

Please, help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!

 

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