It's only mid-June and I have already attended an international train-the-trainer event (held in the U.S.), presented at a tech conference, and am eagerly anticipating my state's big tech conference next week. I'll be facilitating some online and face-to-face trainings this fall so I'm preparing for those. And oh yes, I'm looking forward to teaching in my own air-conditioned classroom!
As you can see, I am totally pumped very enthused about the coming year and all that I hope my district, my clients, and I can accomplish around embedded technology and 21st century skills. There are about a million conversations I wish we could engage our teachers, students, and school boards in. Since a million may be a little overly ambitious, I narrowed the field to three for today.
Recently my district's Director of Learning Resource Services invited me to share some of my ideas about professional development and 21st Century teaching and learning with her. She may regret this in a matter of days, so I struck while the iron was hot and proposed three topics that I wanted to toss in the incubator right away.
First, I believe it should be an earliest priority to have teachers begin to build their own Professional Learning Networks/Communities both on- and off-line so that they can start to use some of new digital tools & skills themselves as they prepare to use them with students. I have spent the last couple of years cultivating my own PLN and offered to teach a class to help others do so. (There's so much more to say, but then the proposal would have gotten way too long.)
Second, I proposed book studies of some excellent PD books. A few which immediately came to mind are listed below. (A few Twitter friends were gracious enough to suggest even more titles that I hope to recommend soon. Thank you @akamrt, @ricktanski, @dserrato)
1. "Reinventing Project-Based Learning - Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age" by Suzie Boss and Jane Krause, ISTE Press.
2. "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms" by Will Richardson, Corwin Press.
3. "Raw Materials for the Mind: 3rd Edition" by David Warlick, The Landmark Project.
I hope I get to be an instructor for at least one of these studies as I am bound to learn even more than the participants that way.
Finally, since I had mentioned earliest priorities I wanted to mention earliest obstacles. Unfortunately, I know from experience that one of the earliest obstacles to teachers as they strive to integrate digital tools on school machines will be dealing with roadblocks thrown up by web filters. Obviously the filtering system is necessary and important--I'm not going to lobby for anything rash. I really have become convinced that caution is wisdom: we might proceed only as boldly as our most conservative constituents would comfortably proceed.
It is, of course, a given that we should only be accessing sites and network resources which are justifiably linked to achievement, standards, and instruction. However, our teachers will definitely run up against blocks nearly every time they try to access legitimate, academically-worthy web 2.0 sites or keywords, like wiki, social network, blog, mp3, streaming audio, video, etc. either for their own learning or in doing activities with students. There is much legitimate educational content that must be read, saved, or downloaded at home and then converted, printed, or uploaded to school because of the filters. The point is, I shudder to think of how quickly we can turn off teachers new to these tools if we don't work the filter/block problems out ahead of time whenever possible.
What kind of a professional development or learning experiences are we going to provide for teachers and students -- frustration or fascination?
I understand that filtering is a huge issue which cannot be resolved by one committee, one school board, or even one country, but it is increasingly critical and essential to begin a journey toward resolving it if our professional development and teaching activities are to be successful. Perhaps your district is already having discussions about changing policies to reflect changing instruction?
(In the meantime, it will continue to be necessary to check every domain at least a few times before every activity and leave time for the process required to pursue an unblock.)
So far I've nominated three conversations I wish I could have this fall: Building Professional Learning Networks, Great Texts by Leaders In The Field, and Internet Filters.
What are your thoughts? What conversations do you think every district must have A.S.A.P.?