This is part 3 in a series of posts: Building a Professional Development Hub for your School:
- Building a Professional Development Hub for your School- Part 1: Why?
- Building a Professional Development Hub for your School- Part 2: Characteristics
- Building a Professional Development Hub for your School- Part 3: Challenges
- Building a Professional Development Hub for your School- Part 4: Steps
There is never enough time in the life of an educator. Building a Professional Development Hub for your school will raise hairs on the backs (and resistance) of many just by thinking that it is one more thing to add to their plate. It is imperative to make it clear to members of your school community, that the time invested is of importance and will replace time spent on a different task. It is also important to clarify that in the beginning, a learning curve when reading, sharing, reflecting on the the hub is to be expected. The time invested now will pay off later.
- Basic Tech Skills
Building an online Professional Development hub for your school is challenging if the majority of your faculty lacks basic technology skills. With basic skills, such as password and login management, typing skills, a certain fluency in reading and writing on a digital platform, etc. The lack of these skills seem to make the transition to a digital environment for learning filled with high obstacles and too far to reach.
I have been wrestling with the issue “It is NOT about technology“/ It IS about Technology for a while ( Never Was About Technology?- Time to Focus on Learning?, Take the Technology out of the Equation) and of course, it is not about the technology (it is about learning), but I am observing more and more educators , who are not comfortable with nor technology literate, are being left out of/ behind LEARNING opportunities. It is a subtle change, one that can be masked by surrounding yourself with colleagues and administrators who do not value nor take advantage of the transformational opportunities in teaching and learning through technology.
- Embed Culture of Reflection
If a school does not value reflection as part of the learning process or educators are not used to sharing their reflection, embedding reflection in your online PD hub will be a challenge. Teachers and administrators need to see the value and benefits for their own learning and growth. This does not happen overnight, nor by writing 1 reflective post. Learning about the value of a reflection over time to demonstrate growth TAKES time.
According to Carol Rodgers in Defining Reflection :Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking, four criteria emerge from Dewey’s work that characterize reflection:
Reflection is a meaning making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationships with and its connections to other experiences and ideas. Reflection is a systematic, rigorous way of thinking, with its roots in scientific inquiry.
Reflection needs to happen in community, in interaction with others
Reflection requires attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and others.(further reading: Reflection in the learning process, not as a an add-on, Reflect…Reflecting… Reflection, The Reflective School by Peter Pappas)
- Not comfortable with sharing
While sharing has always come natural to me, this might not be the case for all your teachers at your school. Some educators are not comfortable in sharing their success or failures. Reasons behind these feelings have been “I don’t want to brag”, “There is nothing I could share that has not been shared before”, “There is noting I can think of”, or ” I am a perfectionist, I could not possibly write down what I do”, “I am worried/afraid people will judge me/my writing/my spelling/my opinions/my teaching/etc.”
The fact of potentially receiving feedback, embeds a different mindset when authoring and sharing material and documentation. Many are not used to that kind of open and transparent feedback.
- Building a Culture of Sharing
How do we move from “never having thought about sharing my work, my reflections, my successes and failures, to a culture where sharing is deeply embedded how we work, learn and teach together. Not an easy task to build that culture, to make the act of sharing part of the fabric of our school?
(further reading: Sharing and Amplification Ripple Effect, The Power and Amplified Reach of Sharing, Sharing in Education- Is it Changing?, There is a responsibility of sharing among Educators, It’s All About Sharing & Collaborating)
- Self- Directed Learning
Schools, universities and continued education opportunities of pre-internet days as students have groomed us to sign up, show up, listen and receive credit as proof that we were present. With the growth of the Internet, social media platforms, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), personal learning networks (PLN) blogs, wikis, etc, the learner is in charge WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW to learn. Materials are not pre-chosen, resoures are not stagnant or quickly outdated, a myriad of media is available to match one’s learning style. It is a challenge and struggle for educators and schools to transition to a new mind shift, where professional development is NOT chosen for them, but self-directed. Self-directed also requires the increasingly important skill of staying focused and the capability to select and filter an increasingly overwhelming information landscape.
- Self-Motivated Learning
Closely related to self-directed learning is being self-motivated. The opportunity to learn anytime, anywhere and anyhow brings with it the challenge of intrinsic motivation. What happens when there is no roll-call, not physical presence required and a certain anonymity of what has been read, how much time was spent in working through resources and conversation threads? How much participation of the individual contributed to the overall connected learning of the group?
- Quality Contributions
Having a professional development hub for your school and having your teachers contribute to the hub with resources, blog posts, images and videos does not necessarily equal quality contributions. It is imperative to clarify for teachers what is considered “quality” for your school community. Does a comment ” I like what you shared” constitute “quality”? Does it contribute to the value of the original post? Does complaining about students or parents enrich learning for your school community? What contributions enrich the school’s learning community and what might teachers add that distract from learning, are unprofessional in nature or contribute to a culture of bullying, passive aggressiveness and negativism?
- Clear Expectations
Taking all the above mentioned challenges in consideration, it becomes important for administrators to set clear expectations for their faculty, if an online PD hub is to be successful. Will it be mandatory to participate? How much participation is expected? What happens, if a teacher chooses to not participate? What are consequences? Will there be consequences? What basic technology skills are expected/ required of faculty to be able to participate as a full member of the online community? What is the expectation of professionalism? Who will moderate, re-enforce these expectations? How will you set and communicate expectations of quality contributions?
cross posted at langwitches.org/blog
Silvia Tolisano is a Curriculum21 faculty member, author of the book Digital Storytelling Tools for Educators and founder of the Around the World with 80 Schools project. Read more at http://langwitches.org/blog.