21st Century Teaching and Learning · Professional Development · Web 2.0

Starting the New Year

So today was the first day of our faculty forum, and oh my, what a day! George Couros, a K-12 principal from Alberta, Canada and our keynote speaker, challenged us in many ways regarding educators as learners, technology, change, and what’s best for our students. But what was great was that it wasn’t a one-way challenge, as in him speaking from the stage and his audience just taking it all in. In the age of Web 2.0, much Twitter backchannelling was happening, where we were able to dialogue with one another, challenging him, challenging ourselves. One of my colleagues tweeted (which I retweeted):

Of course, this goes directly to the idea of educators as lifelong learners, because if ever we think we’ve arrived, that we’ve got it all down pat, and that we can walk into a classroom any time and wow our students into submission because we’re all that and a bag of chips (I think that’s an outdated expression now), then in reality, we really shouldn’t be in the classroom teaching any one.

So in that light, I had the wonderful privilege of co-facilitating a professional development session with one of my colleagues on Schoology, a social networking type learning management system.  I used it last semester, and found it way more useful and easier to use than Moodle.  Approximately 17 of my fellow educator colleagues attended our session in my small classroom.  To say that I was nervous is an understatement; my colleagues are some of the most intelligent, most thoughtful people I have ever met in my 11 years of teaching at The Westminster Schools.

And as nervous as I was, I had such a great time, because my colleagues didn’t come to hear me wax eloquent about Schoology; they came to learn about it and practice it.  So all I had to do was show them a little something here and there (well, not quite like that; Mary and I did have an agenda), let them practice, and be okay with all the questions, especially the questions to which I didn’t know the answers.  And there were lots of those!!!  But the fabulous thing was that we all discovered what we needed to know together.  So it was okay for me to say, “I don’t really know,” because there was someone else there who had begun to use it who could lend her expertise (thank you Dana!).  And the Moodle expert (thank you Mary!) provided valuable assistance to say that Moodle had some useful features Schoology didn’t have that some people really want to have available to them.  Needless to say, I lost the anxiety and became quite comfortable learning and growing with my colleagues during this two-hour session.  I was encouraged when I saw this tweet from Dana:

This experience was great for me, because I modeled what George talked about this morning during our session this morning and what Becky (@madamemcknight) tweeted above.  Students need to know that we have lots to learn too, that we aren’t the end-all-be-all experts, that we are all in this learning journey together.  Sure, we are experts in our content areas, but I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t any academic discipline that is constant and never-changing.  And our students want to be part of the process of creating content to illustrate how what we learn together affects their lives.

So I’m excited about this year.  I’m excited about the possibilities.  Excited about creating an environment in my space where students are empowered to explore.  Because really, as George Couros stated this morning,

“Kids need to create…we need to jump in.”

(I know this statement to be true; my seven-year old loves to make videos of herself and her animal friends, and she makes my husband and I watch them all the time!)

Great first day of faculty forum!  By the way, you can view the slides from his presentation here.  Take a look!

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2 thoughts on “Starting the New Year

  1. I loved the way that you talked about the questions that your participants had that you did not have the answers too. We need to become comfortable with this as educators, because even if we did have all the answers, that only creates a dependence by the student on the teacher. We want them in situations where they are able to ask questions and then find the answer, whether it be through exploration, connection to resources or collaboration.

    Thanks for thinking out loud and sharing your learning. I look forward to reading your blog this year and seeing how the past week pushes your practice.

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  2. Thank you, George! I think many of us were empowered the past couple of days because you presented the truth in a way that challenged us but that helped us all to think, “We all have a voice. Everyone’s voice is important in the context of learning. And we can all learn from one another. To not do so is really hindering our own growth as human beings.” Thank you for the challenge. It’s really affirming, and freeing as well.

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