Professional Learning

Posted: November 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
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creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Gwenaël Piaser: http://flickr.com/photos/piaser/3319905226

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Gwenaël Piaser: http://flickr.com/photos/piaser/3319905226

So, I’ve been reading and thinking about professional learning.

One of the things I did for my own learning last year was to take a Coursera course: E-Learning and Digital Cultures from the University of Edinburgh. (Link to next version) I’ve done other online courses and participated in this and that, but it’s been a while since I took a course that was this theoretical.

Not only was the course well-organized and filled with excellent resources, it was a good reminder that although there are many ideas about technology out there, there are theories and philosophies that help organize those ideas into groups and schools of thought. These philosophies and schools of thought have names, leaders, and followers. Even if some of the followers don’t know who they’re following, it’s good for me to put a lot of the commentary I am subjected to hear into a larger context.

This class was another way for me to step back and see the big picture. It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of what accounts need to be made, who is having trouble with her audio-visual set up, and what will we do about computers and exams. However my job as Director of Educational Technology means that I need to be thinking about the bigger vision of technology use at school. How do we as a school want to view technology?  To which philosophy do we subscribe? What constitutes safe, ethical, and effective (Will Richardson‘s trifecta) technology use at our school? Are we as adults and administrators modeling this?

Since this digital culture is a new setting, it really comes down to how are we dealing with it. “Adapting to this new context of change, variability and uncertainty is the biggest challenge we are now facing—as educators and as people.”   (Marc Prensky “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom“) And yet Grant Lichtman makes the point in his new book #EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education:

Change at most schools is not hard; it is uncomfortable. Sometimes it might be very uncomfortable for some people. It can be messy, complicated, and tiresome. Uncomfortable means making some tough decisions. But using the excuse that we can’t change schools because “it is hard?”–well, we need to get some perspective on the difference between hard and uncomfortable. (xii).

So whether we frame this as adapting to a new environment (a la Marc Prensky) or uncomfortable change (a la Grant Lichtman), how do we as individuals react? Do arrive ready to do battle with a powerful foe or do we come to a table to engage in conversation with a potential partner?

The more I think about it the more I think there is another theory is in play here. Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset seems very relevant. In education we think about this idea of the fixed or growth mindset in terms of students, when it comes to change in education, and technology related change in particular, the mindset of the teachers is the critical factor. Do we as teachers see ourselves as good teachers because of what we know and what we have always done in the classroom (fixed mindset)? Or, do we see ourselves as good teachers because of what we continue to learn and what we can add to our skill set (growth mindset)?

Is the future friend or foe?

I vote for friend. How will/am I preparing to meet this future friend? What am I doing to advance my own professional learning?

I think I am going to sign up for that Coursera course again. It’s starting soon. I think a second time around will help the material stick. Plus, I’m almost finished Grant Lichtman’s book and am going to get a chance to hear him speak soon. And, I’m thinking and reading a lot about assessment (read this book) and how to connect to self-reflection and digital portfolios (a favorite topic of mine) for a complete assessment package.

That should do it for me for a while. What are other people doing to prepare to meet the future and is s/he a friend or foe?

 

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