“Certainly there are many models of spaces where kids can learn. From museums to home schooling situations, there are many models that are possible. But when it comes to the formal learning space, I’m starting to think that we are spending huge amounts of energy and dollars in the wrong place. We pump millions of dollars into schools and hope for the trickle down model of success. We support buildings and programs, hoping that teachers will “buy – in.” Of course there are great models of individual PD where teachers are supported on an ongoing basis to change and be successful. But I still think that most of our time, energy and dollars are being spent at the divisional and the school level.”
Remote Access – Replicating Classrooms
Last Thursday I saw a post on Twitter alerting me to more goings on at Karl Fisch’s Fischbowl: it seems Anne Smith’s English class (whom I’d been following whilst she and Karl arranged for “virtual” school board members to participate on ninth grade students’ presentations arguing in favour or against traditionally contested andor banned novels) had arranged to Skype conference with Little Brother author Cory Doctorow (download Little Brother). I first heard Doctorow’s name a month ago, “lurking” in Ms. Quach’s English 12 Band online discussion board as the class debated several titles, and heard more than a few times of the ferocious conversation Little Brother had sparked in bookclubs that freckled our local suburban coffeehouses (as per the requirements of the assignment!). I passed along Karl’s 140 character message, and later that same day saw that Cindy had set up her students to join the video chat this coming week.
Retweet vb: (within the Twitter community) A social gesture indicating the endorsement of an idea. See: The most Re-Tweeted urls on the Net
I had a post on the go – which morphed into the tutorials post below, but may still somewhere see the light of day – which discussed the inability of school and district based professional development to meet the diverse learning needs of any community of teachers. As I mentioned with relation to Mr. Nabokov, teachers must represent the totality of human diversity to meet education’s democratic ideals, and in this sense a few scattered days across the school year – where oftentimes a sense of obligation creates apathy resulting in, say, a school district changing its Pro-D schedules such that large swaths of teachers wouldn’t be able to slip out at lunch – is a paltry effort to maintain the perpetual and individual development of myriad teacher-learners.
The hair used to stand up on the back of my neck when student-teachers in my PDP module would ask what to do in specific classroom situations – “If a student says…” “When I’m marking a test…” Our job is not one for which one can be prepared through rigorous ‘training,’ and such questions were the mark of future practitioners who would see their diplomas – no doubt in the same light they would see their recent 45′ pro-d session on assessment – as a badge that might somehow mark the terminus of their growth and learning. This is the same thinking that believes education is about answers and not questions, and that there might be a theoretical ‘finish line’ somewhere that we might cross unto the safety of steady employment, a committed relationship, corporate ascension, or the lofty dreams of retirement. But such thoughts undercut the truth that learning is about questions and uncertainty, neither of which we should seek to end if we are to grow and learn, and which each must be supported more consistantly than once every-other month.
Fittingly, it is Twitter which brings this post full-circle, as the above ‘tweet’ set off a post by Will Richardson entitled, “Continual, Collaborative, On the Job Learning,” which addressed the idea of professional development on an individual, daily basis. Timely, in that our English Department was leaping, at the very moment, into the prospect of a blog to communicate amongst ourselves about all things teacherly (only to be followed shortly after by this effort, as well as Cindy’s), as it seemed the final piece in the ‘Network Puzzle’ of Rss feeds, Twitter, Bookmarks, and Wikis in our classrooms. Speaking for all of us who have discovered this new realm of Pro-D, Cindy remarked in one of the Dept. blog’s first posts:
“I have learned and reflected upon my practice more intensely and willingly in the last two weeks then I have in the last two years. I have read fresh research, connected to educators from around the world, had conversations and asked questions. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. “
Doesn’t sound like your everyday pro-d.