Personalised learning for teachers…

Our strong beliefs about what comprises effective professional learning underpin the planning for our up-coming professional learning day, BY the teachers FOR the teachers…

We have so much knowledge, expertise and passion within – It’s not always necessary to depend on outside presenters to take our learning forward.

We begin by surveying the teacher-learners to find out what sort of learning opportunities they would prefer. The results indicate they’d like a combination of time to pursue their own interests independently and facilitated workshops addressing relevant topics of their choice.

So, our student- free day next Monday will look like this-

Session1 – Teachmeet.

In the traditional Teachmeet style, teachers will present for 2 or 7 minutes, sharing a tool, a strategy, an idea or an example of practice. Without the need for coercion, we have volunteers from every single grade level (and several from some!) on a range of topics, such as:

  • Team teaching
  • Effective search strategies
  • Capturing student thinking
  • Reading ideas
  • A variety of apps eg Book Creator and Explain Everything
  • An approach to home learning
  • Purposeful groupings
  • And more…

Session 2 – Workshops

Teachers choose to facilitate and/or participate in two out of eight one-hour workshops on topics of interest, identified through the survey. Workshops will be hands on, encouraging active group participation and opportunities for participants to construct meaning for themselves, on the following topics:

  • Twitter for global learning
  • Supporting kids with Dyslexia
  • Encouraging creative thinking
  • Provoking inquiry through great picture books
  • Open ended iPad apps for learning
  • Promoting social cohesion in the classroom
  • Exploring ePortfolios
  • Using data to inform teaching and learning

Session 3 – Personal learning 

Teachers choose to collaborate in teams or work individually on anything they like. For many, this is a continuation of previous personal learning time but some have chosen new areas for inquiry and others will use the time to apply their learning from the morning sessions. Ideas are as diverse as:

  • Positive psychology and student wellbeing
  • Using animation to express learning
  • Harvard research into thinking and learning
  • Vocabulary enrichment
  • Augmented reality
  • Building resources for Maths inquiry
  • How to encourage ownership of learning and student voice

As always, we have dismissed the notion that one size fits all, and ensured that our learning principles underpin, not just student learning at our school, but our own professional learning too.

Our learning principles –

  • We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, preferences and interests.
  • Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  • Learning occurs by acquiring skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to other contexts.
  • Learning is active and social and best takes place through collaboration and interaction.
  • Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  • Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, and requires learners to take ownership of their learning.

We’ll ask everyone to reflect at the end of day, not just on what they have learned, but on what they notice about themselves as learners and on the process of learning itself.

If you’re in Melbourne and excited by the potential to be a part of this vibrant learning community, see my previous post.

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.

10 ways to grow as an educator…

Participating in the Reform Symposium online conference this weekend has highlighted for me how just much I have learnt in the past year. This list is based entirely on personal experience. All of these work!

1. Establish an in-school PLN

Create a ‘personal learning network’.  Connect with other teachers/learners at your school and share ideas, bounce off each other, listen to each other, criticise each other, learn together.

2. Interact with someone who thinks differently than you do

Work closely with someone who doesn’t always think like you. Listen to their perspective. Share yours. Provoke each other. Argue. Defend your opinion. Compromise. Don’t compromise. Learn from each other.

3. Listen to TED talks

Keep up to date with TED talks. There are some incredible, inspirational thinkers and presenters on TED. Watch the ones that are not about education to broaden your learning and thinking. Consider how you might be able to apply the ideas in education.

4. Make global connections

Learn about  other people, other schools, other cultures. Connect with them online. Be a learner first. Then make global connections for your students too.

5. Join Twitter

Find someone to help you get started (I will, if you like).  Follow topics,  not just people. Participate. Ask for help and offer help. Be patient, it takes time to build an online network.

6. Create your own opportunities

Be a risk taker. Start a focus group. Participate in online conferences. Explore new ideas. Experiment with new tools. Initiate something new in your school. Do something that’s not in your job description.

7. Subscribe to blogs

Set up an RSS feed for educational blogs you find interesting. Or start by subscribing via email. Ask for recommendations.  Comment on blogs you read and get involved in conversations.

8. Write your own blog

Seriously, anyone can do it. It’s great for reflection and helps synthesize and clarify your thoughts. It’s not about the readers as much as the process.

9. Work in an IB school

Teaching through the PYP makes you think. It challenges the way you do things. You shift from facts and topics to conceptual ideas. You plan collaboratively across disciplines. You become an inquirer.

10. Be part of a learning community.

Or three. Learn from and with your students. Learn from and with your colleagues. Learn from and with other educators online.

These are only the first 10 that came to mind. As always, you’re invited to continue from #11!

Series of posts on ’10 Ways …’ #5