Today #AprilBlogaDay asked what is my passion project?
Before I answered, I took a look at what I really pour myself into at work and came up with personalized professional learning.
I am lucky. I am in a sweet spot for flexibility within my K12 district; I am not scheduled like a classroom teacher, and I am able to offer professional learning opportunities. And in fairness, my district doesn’t really call what we do “Personalized Professional Learning” however, that is what it really is.
My department offerings are really just that, offerings. In the past we have advertised these opportunities to double as re-certification credits, but we try to focus on offering professional learning and hope for voluntary participants who want to learn about the topics in which we feel competent enough to offer development any educator. Volunteers also have a different frame of mind entering a situation than those compelled to do so.
However, trainings performed at the request of building leaders are different. Many trainings strongly resemble the lecture, one-size-fits-all style of the teachers who came before us. Attendance is compulsory, advanced participants receive the same training as those not interested, the same training as those grading papers, the same training as those who chime in right before we ask them to try what we shared how they “really aren’t great with technology.” I always feel like not only am I wasting a great many of the participants time, but we are enabling a culture of “someone will come.”
The disconnect between how we can predict people would enjoy learning and how we ask them to learn is consistent. It has been the same in all the places I have ever worked. What is different is the time we are living in right now; we have access to many more paths to our own professional learning, a personalized professional learning experience. It just takes someone to open our eyes to the possibilities.
I do my best to practice what I preach. My favorite personalized professional learning activities include: Twitter, EdCamps, MOOCs, and my reading/writing blogs. But more important to me is to open up possibilities before other interested educators. Because if you know teachers, you know they will spread the wealth and share with other like-minded teachers.
I am proud that this year my work group took a different approach to rolling out professional learning in conjunction with the launch of a new learning management system (LMS). We identified a group of early adopters which could adapt the new LMS rapidly and show results to the interested parties in the district. one-third to halfway through the school year we opened up self-nomination for round two early adopters, the response was overwhelming. Even if we did not have room enough to train this group we knew who they were. It was also a nice litmus test in a way – if teachers did not want to fill out a form maybe they really did not want to be part of the training. By second semester we had 34 media specialists (mandatory participants), early adopters groups one (20) and two (60) trained. We secured funding to offer every participant one substitute day to work as a group with others at their school to develop their proficiency in the LMS. We offered an optional training, open to anyone even outside those groups, which served 77 participants; 17 of those participants we not part of the previous groups. By the end of the school year we have identified teams at each of our 34 schools. Five schools do not have any one aside for the media specialist and six only have one other teacher aside from the media specialist; we have a plan in place for a July and September training for these groups respectively. This represents one way to personalize professional learning and while it does take a little more coordination it is more respectful and driven by the participants.
Our work group also facilitated a EdCamp for a portion of the elementary teachers in our district. I also lead a group of teachers through a MOOC. And I work with @ugaodawg who has been teaching educators about Twitter since I met him. I think I am doing my part in opening up the ways our profession can view personalized professional learning.