Time to learn…

Monday’s ‘staff conference day’ demonstrated (yet again) the power of professional learning by teachers, for teachers, with teachers… rather than at teachers. Teachers had ownership. They voted for the format of the day, chose their areas of inquiry and had sufficient time to explore. How often do your PD days fit that description? It’s time to learn what effective professional learning looks like. Many teachers already know. Take a look at the continuous professional learning that happens all day, every day on Twitter. And the ever increasing number of educational blog posts by educators sharing their practice, reflections and insight. And the self organised TeachMeets popping up worldwide…

My first reflection on our day, entitledTeachers inquiring…‘ appears at the collective inquiry blog Inquire Within. Here’s what others thought…

Daniel facilitated a group exploring inquiry in maths.

Having the staff conference day handed over to the staff to lead was a very valuable experience. With the school leaders stepping back from leading the sessions, it empowered teachers to guide them in the direction that they wanted to go. As one of the facilitators it was an extremely valuable experience as it gave me the opportunity to not only plan and organise the outline of the session but it led me to reflect deeply into my own practices and pedagogy. During this reflection and research time it made me conscious of the process that would guide the session that I was facilitating. I realised that I needed to provide the teachers the same sort of experience that I had gone through, by stepping back and letting them inquire through a similar process of exploration and thought.

It was also the first time for me running such a meeting with my colleagues,which provided a fun challenge as well as a valuable experience. I was slightly nervous about how discussions amongst the teachers would be generated by the guiding provocations that I had organised. But as they had for me, the video and thinking routine that I had used in my personal inquiry during preparation for the session, helped the teachers think deeply about inquiry in maths and generated valuable discussion.

It was a great opportunity for teachers to stop, reflect and then collaborate with other teachers that don’t usually get the opportunity to work together in such as way. We all felt comfortable directing where the session went in order to meet our collective needs. For the other half of the session we worked in smaller groups to help plan our next math inquiry. The guidance and support from the teachers in other year levels inspired a change of approach.

Debi facilitated a group exploring literacy as part of daily learning.

The great thing from my perspective is that it got staff talking. I put up a slide show as a provocation about literacy and lot of web stuff came up. That got us talking about the tension (for us oldies) between all the new technology and the ‘old fashioned’ kind of teaching. It was unanimous that we do need both. So……….all the ‘oldies’ had a quick lesson on how to Twitter, got Twitter accounts set up and tweeted. (Have I tweeted since then? …. No. Will I? Not sure.) I think it was also great that staff from the 3 campuses chatted and shared knowledge with each other in a non-threatening forum.

Linda facilitated a group inquiring into taking blogging further.

Our group had chosen to inquire into blogging – specifically the idea that class blogs can be a tool for inquiry, reflection, literacy and global connection. One teacher’s rationale for the choice was agreed by all – I want to look at interesting and useful blogs. I then want to transpose things observed into my class blog and teaching practice. Our further goals for the session were defined by specific questions:

  • How do we get parents more connected to the class blogs?
  • How do we get students, especially the very young, to write quality comments, responding to each other?
  • Challenge for the single subject teacher – to have a subject focussed blog, or to contribute to class blogs?
  • Specifics about blog design – How do I add visitor count, links, categories, pages, tags….

We consulted a variety of sources:

  • Discussion with an expert (Sue Waters from Edublogs via Skype)
  • Blogs about blogging.
  • Class blogs created by other teachers.

It was a really valuable session, with a number of ‘aha’ moments. We appreciated the time being made available to follow up on this area of interest with support from experts and each other.

Hailey participated in a group inquiring into what it means to be a connected educator.

I was one of the inquirers who was lucky enough to be given the gift of time to puzzle over the new tool, collaboratively explore Twitter, think, inquire and grow my understanding. As a result, my doubts dissolved, my skills developed and my enthusiasm blossomed! I became so enthusiastic that I spent an hour that night reading tweets, following links to videos and blogs and learnign even more.
I can highly recommend giving teachers the time to explore and build skills and understanding. I can also highly recommend Twitter.

Michelle participated in a group exploring how to create a culture of thinking.

I spent the morning in a PD about Creating a Culture of Thinking…which included a focus on making thinking visible and reflecting in order to connect, extend and challenge…in order to make meaningful learning. I should have written down our exact central idea, but it was something like “Creating a culture of thinking leads to deep inquiry and meaningful learning.” Which made me think that maybe in order to truly make my learning from this morning meaningful, I should perhaps try again at blogging as an educator. To make my own thinking visible and meaningful rather than just a day where I got some temporary inspiration that will quickly become lost amidst the paperwork and everyday demands that surround us all.

I chose a culture of thinking because I’ve realized that this is the core of my values and beliefs about learning and something that I feel I have a lot of room to grow in. I am challenged that somewhere over these past eleven years since university, I have lost a some of the big ideas in my excitement over great activities. I love great activities and there are so many of them out there, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I don’t think about their value and purpose. It pains me a bit to realize that I need to let go of some of them. But letting go is a theme that I keep coming across – that to truly create a culture of thinking I need to let go of some good things in order to make room for great thinking. (Continued here)

The post is long enough, so I’ll ask you to draw your own conclusions! Can we do it even better? Yes.

4 thoughts on “Time to learn…

  1. Quite simply, teacher professional talk is probably the most significant and most cost effective, development mechanism available to any organisation. Putting colleagues into problem solving situations, with time to discuss fully, they rise to challenge, become learners in their own right and value their personal journey. Very different from watch and listen approaches.

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  2. Hello! My name is Taylor Davis and I am a junior at the University of South Alabama, currently majoring in Elementary Education. My professor, Dr. John Strange recently assigned students in his EDM 310 class to a teacher’s blog and I was assigned to yours! I agree that it is very important and valuable that professional development be lead by teachers with a, sort-of, hands on approach. I think that it would make the learning opportunities more relatable and the group discussion more effective. I especially enjoyed the quote from Linda in response to her group that learned more about blogging. The class that I am currently enrolled in, which also directed me to your blog, focuses on teachers learning to blog and using blogs to communicate with students in the future. I am looking forward to observing your blog and your future posts!

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