I too am on a journey similar to Dan Ryder who says: “In just a few short months, I have leveraged the 140-character microblogging platform into my global PLN. Twitter chat communities such as #edtechchat and #PATUE discuss technology integration, while #Satchatand #Sunchat explore a wide range of pedagogical topics both practical and philosophical” eSchool News article titled Tips on building personal learning network on Twitter.
Since attending the EARCOS Leadership conference in Bangkok and listening to people like George Couros, I have renewed energy to get my teeth into the habit of ‘tweet discipline’ and ‘blog behaviours’ conducive to establishing my PLN. Why is it necessary? For me it is a matter of starting to sift through the unbelievable amount of cyberdata appearing in my inbox each day and finding a gem to reflect on. In doing so I am forcing myself to place it in my cognitive network in annotated fashion and consequently strengthening more connections in my overall conceptual frameworks.
In a recent New York Times article entitled ‘How Can You Make a Student Care Enough to Work Harder?’, Jessica Lahey asked several educators for their opinion on the age old dilemma that parents face when their child just doesn’t seem to be putting in the effort. Most spoke of the need to stay positive, focus on the positive and accept that children won’t always dance to the beat of our drum!
“Finally, my own advice is also to back off, as counterintuitive as that may feel. Instead of increasing pressure, surveillance and control over your children, try releasing your hold. The fastest way to undermine intrinsic motivation (motivation that comes from within) is to increase parental control. But research has shown that the best way to increase intrinsic motivation is through promoting autonomy and the competence that follows from doing a good job on one’s own.” Jessica Lahey
As Daniel Pink emphasizes in his book ‘Drive’, intrinsic motivation is the key to sustainable success and finding what lights our fire is a good start! We have just had our parent teacher conferences where the students were involved in the goal setting process. Teachers and parents obviously need to guide the process in the younger years but ultimately the better the children get at choosing realistic, achievable goals themselves and then experiencing the thrill of success creates the conditions under which intrinsic motivation can be a powerful force in our lives
Tom Whitby in his Edutopia blog says that there are certain barriers to the mass adoption of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) including the following three:
“There are three deterrents to educators using PLNs as a tool for learning and professional development (PD):
- The PLN is a mindset, not the outcome of a workshop or the PD offered annually by many school districts. It is not a one-shot fix.
- Successful users of PLNs overwhelm the uninitiated with techno-babble.
- It requires, at least at first, digital literacy beyond a Google search.”
Whitby is focusing here on three significant factors but for me the biggest barrier facing teachers is their engagement and commitment to the concept. For me, it is an exciting, non-threatening, flexible means of meeting my professional needs on my terms! I can choose to participate in a discussion or simply absorb the many facets of the debate. I can choose to initiate a topic or to seek help from the collective wisdom of the network. Ultimately I am in control and for this reason an MLN (My Learning Network) is as powerful or passive as I want it to be!
In a recent Edutopia interview with Grant Wiggins, he is asked to reflect on the changes that he has observed in classrooms since he and J McT developed the Understanding by Design framework and what he would still see as priorities.
He has messages for Administrators in terms of what we should be doing to facilitate the process.
Edutopia: Am I correct in stating that administrators evaluate teacher performance by using authentic assessment strategies like the UbD supervisor form and then they provide critical feedback, similar to what the teachers should be providing their students?
Grant Wiggins: That is an insightful question. Yes, administrators should start their evaluations with conversation concerning what counts as evidence of student learning, and what the teacher wants them to be looking for in their lesson, both of which questions demand that the teacher do some effective lesson planning.
I really like his strategy for supporting teacher growth in terms of their understanding of ‘learning success’.
Grant Wiggins: When I visit a class, I have the teacher fill out an “UbD Observation Form” for supervisors. Some of the questions on the form include: What counts as evidence of learning success? What do you want me to look for in this observation? When teachers have thoughtful answers to these questions, the results are easily observable in the lesson delivery. When I talk to teachers about their lesson plans and they do not have a good answer for these questions, this is a warning sign that the teacher will probably need some help in lesson design and this is almost always evident in the observation of the lesson delivery. Administrators can help the teachers focus on how and why they measure learning and especially, they can help teachers to remember to think of assessment in terms of the road to mastery rather than tests or grades.
Touche – it is all about learning rather than grading!
Jeff’s Ninja Dojo a winner!
Jeff Utecht has really put in the hard yards to create a very user friendly Google Apps training site! I will enjoy getting to master the various apps in my own time and being able to check my mastery before moving on! Thanks Jeff!!
This is a must read article for those of you who feel weighed down by the constant onslaught of email!