So this is it, the last week! Looking back, I’m amazed at all that this class has done: we’ve created our own screencasts, we’ve hosted one-shot workshops, and we hosted our own webinars as well. That’s really something to be proud of, my fellow 643-ers! All of those activities will prove useful in our future careers, whatever they may be, I’m sure. It was nice working with you all.
But now what we’re all here for, the readings:
- “When Teachers Drive Their Learning” by Joseph Semadini
- “The C’s of Our Sea Change: Plans for Training Staff, from Core Competencies to LEARNING 2.0” by Helene Blowers and Lori Reed
- “Planning an Online Professional Development Module” by Kristin Fontichiaro
“When Teachers Drive Their Learning” by Semadini discusses a program that his school uses, called Fusion, that encourages professional development by allowing teachers to pick what they’d like to improve on, and through study groups and mentorships, the goal overall is to improve their teaching skills. As I was reading this, a thought struck me: at my high school, we had (and they still have) Late Starts. All I knew about them was that I got to come in at 9:45 instead of 7:45 one Wednesday a month, and that was amazing. Now that I think back on it, though, in the fuzzy recesses of my mind, I think the reasoning for that was for teacher professional development. Interesting. Leave it to me to never question 2 more hours of sleep, though. At any rate, the article was interesting because it seems to me that this sort of program relies on the motivation teachers have to continue to improve, which I think is kind of amazing. The Fusion program is clearly a lot of work: the teacher picks their topics they’d like to improve on. Then, they’re assigned to a group of teachers that are also working to improve in that same area, and they’re given reading assignments to complete before they meet as a group several times to discuss their findings. After that, they observe a peer (a master teacher in that area) and then they themselves will be observed as well. When it’s all done, the teacher submits evidence of improvement, and they get a stipend ranging from $50 to $500. Like the article stated, that’s a lot of work for $50, so it’s obvious that the teachers are really looking to improve. I think a program like Fusion is a really fantastic idea; it allows for teachers to continue their professional development without having to go elsewhere. It also encourages mentorship and collaboration, both of which are great in the teaching environment. Since the program also offers a lot of choices, it means the teachers can really work on what they want to, instead of being forced to work on a particular subject. It also allows teachers, who may be somewhat inexperienced in teaching overall, to become a “master teacher” in a particular area; that way, all teachers feel valued and included. After reading, I’m curious to know how unique a program like Fusion is.
“Planning an Online Professional Development Module” by Fontichiaro talks about creating professional development modules for a school district concerning technology. I really don’t have a lot of experience with modules in a professional sense (I’ve done them for school), but the way they were described in the article was really interesting. For six weeks, there were 17 “explorations” (like TeacherTube, Flickr, etc.) that teachers would experiment with and then reflect on their blog about how they could utilize it personally and professionally in the classroom. I think overall for me, the strength of this module idea was something Kristin brought up almost immediately: I learn best by experimenting with technology myself, not in a classroom. Granted, having some groundwork isn’t a bad idea, but the actual learning’s going to occur when I’m in a no-pressure setting and can just experiment with the tool. When I had to learn InDesign for yearbook, we had classes on it where we had to complete in-class assignments on the topic of the day. It really made me nervous, and while having the teacher there did have its advantages, I largely learned InDesign sitting in my bedroom, doing my own assignments. Also, like Kristin mentions, I really began to talk to my fellow students and we began to learn from one another, which is invaluable. That these modules can be reused from year to year is also a bonus. Continual professional development is really important, and these sort of modules are a no-pressure way to ensure continual professional development.
“The C’s of Our Sea Change” by Blowers and Reed discusses the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County’s (PLCMC) Learning 2.0, a similar “exploration”-based module program to Kristin’s that is based on four core competencies that the library had developed. Library workers were asked to use a certain Web 2.0 site and then blog about their experiences (anonymously, if they so chose). I really like that this article was based on change; libraries, and technology, are constantly changing, and so we have to create ways to keep up with those changes. And the authors are right; librarians need to know how to troubleshoot computer hardware, for example, or help a patron with Flickr because there’s just not the time or the resources to call in special help for things like that. As such, then, the trainers developed the core competencies through their program Learning 2.0, because that approach taught the lifelong skills needed to tackle new technology instead of the new technology itself (because let’s face it: in a year, it may be obsolete or completely changed). Like with Kristin’s program and Fusion, Learning 2.0 depends a lot on motivation; the author say it best when they state: “Libraries are full of high achievers.” (I think the LIS group here proves that as well!) When you have people that are continually willing to professionally develop, it’s important that programs like the modules, Fusion, or Learning 2.0 are available so that they can do so.
I think this week’s topic was planned because we’re at the end of our road in this class. It’s up to us now to continually develop while at SI, but also once we’re out of here and working as well. Hopefully, we’ll work in environments that have programs like these, or we’ll be in positions where we can plan programs like these if there isn’t!