I have written quite a bit this past week on educators’ professional learning, and how we are experimenting with extending these conversations, using technology to engage more people. I have also written, here and here, two posts on backchanneling during the recent BCSSA Fall Conference.
There are a couple of more reflections I want to pick up on before moving on:
1. School District borders matter less and less when it comes to professional learning
This really struck me on Monday night. I came home, went on my computer at about 8:00 and saw a post on Twitter that an online session was starting at 8:15, entitled Blogging First Steps, hosted by Lesley Edwards from North Vancouver. This is part of the LAN: Learning Is Social series that is coordinated by staff in the North Vancouver School District. There were 12 of us who participated from a variety of districts. I don’t know everyone on the elluminate (this tool is available free to B.C. educators) session, but I know there were participants (trustees, administrators, teachers) from North Vancouver, Vancouver, and Coquitlam. In my just over three-year tenure in the West Vancouver District, on the North Shore, I have not attended a professional development session in North Vancouver. That said, there was nothing that could have felt more natural than sliding into the session on a Monday night.
We still have lines on the map for School Districts, but when it comes to our professional learning, these are blurry and less, and less, important. We are finding ways to connect and engage online that has very little to do with geography.
2. Ideas, not roles are dictating the people I connect with
There are still many traditional structures where we gather in role-alike groups. There are sessions for teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, the community, and sometimes we bring these groups together. What I am finding online is that roles are almost inconsequential. It is the ideas that matter. I did an interview with Janet Steffenhagen on Monday, and we talked about how technology has really had a dramatic effect on realigning the power structure in education.
I find that I don’t follow topics, I follow interesting people. I also find that while I am still attracted to voices from afar like Philadelphia Principal, Chris Lehmann, and edu blogger and presenter, Will Richardson, I am increasingly more attracted to local voices who share a somewhat familiar context.
It is always dangerous to make a list, knowing I will miss some key people, but some of those within B.C.’s education system who are influencing my thinking right now include: David Truss (a Coquitlam principal currently working in China), Chris Wejr (an elementary principal in Aggasiz), Cale Birk (a secondary principal in Kamloops), Brian Kuhn (technology director in Coquitlam), Gino Bondi (a secondary principal in Vancouver), Gordon Powell (coordinator for library and information services in Richmond) and David Wees (a teacher in Vancouver).
I want to finish this post by coming back to the students, and looking for guidance from my experiences as an adult learner, with how students learn. I think what I take from this is student learning will continue to be less hierarchical, less about the teacher being the keeper of knowledge, and more about the teacher helping students make sense of content, and connecting them to other experts. Schools will be less bound to discussions within the walls of a building, and connections will be made across schools, communities and beyond. School will continue to look less like an activity that happens between nine and three from Monday to Friday.
This is a great time for a transition in how educational professionals learn, and it is this transition that is also changing the game for how our students learn.