Friday, January 2, 2009

Engagement in Professional Development

This post is in response to a comment from Drew on Clif Mim's blog earlier this week. He writes:

"Great info. Thanks for sharing. In your PD what strategies have you found most effective at getting teachers to embrace this “fearless curiosity” and try to integrate technology without being an expert?"

First of all, thanks for the comment, Drew. I like the term "fearless curiosity" and wish it were the M.O. of most educators. The problem is that, as digital immigrants, there is much fear and not much curiosity. In workshops, I'm building bridges between the past and present, and asking teachers to navigate a new path.

What I don't want to do is show the entire landscape of opportunities, but show only a couple of destinations (as part of a menu of options) and let them decide what would be the most helpful. In addition, I like to leave a good chunk of time to practice in situ so that questions and issues can be addressed and frustrations averted before they leave the workshop. That's why I concentrate on finding one thing that they can use, and emphasize that expert level is not necessary.

I talk a lot about what kids can do and how nuances of technology can be fleshed out when the teacher embraces the idea of learning together rather than learning first and transferring knowledge that may have limitations or parameters that inhibit student engagement.

As an example of what I'm talking about, my Web 2.0 workshop materials are located at The Living Web Wiki. In the beginning of the workshop, I get an idea of what the teachers' backgrounds are, and what they may be most interested in learning. After I show them the wiki, and underscore that it is just a place to come and play, I start targeting specific applications related to individual teachers. I want them to leave with a working knowledge of something, not an overwhelming attitude of "never gonna happen." I want them to know that as they gain confidence with one tool, that they have a place to come back to when they want to discover something else. In that sense, the workshop is never ending, and the information is availabe 24/7.

So, in summary, to answer you question in just a sentence or two: Tech PD needs to be specific to the user, with much time to practice and with the understanding that expert level is not required to implement something new. There is much to be gained from trying things out with kids and being open to being a learner AND a teacher.

I hope this is along the lines of what you were looking for. Please feel free to leave comments or email to continue the discussion!

1 comment:

  1. I want to reflect on this: "What I don't want to do is show the entire landscape of opportunities, but show only a couple of destinations." On October 30, 2007 I first learned the term Web 2.0 and what it is, and I was exposed to a TON of sites and tools, including Twitter, and the creation of my own blog. But I wasn't ready for it, so it was just "cool stuff." When I was ready I dipped my toe in and got used to the water. While I'm not winning any medals, I'm definitely swimming steady laps in the Web 2.0 pool--through Twitter I started reading blogs, which gave me confidence to jump back into my blog. But it has taken time. This helps me to remember and understand where teachers are as they learn and shift their thinking.