The cool people at Educator Studio (@EducatorStudio) illustrated one of my tweets. I think it looks great!!
The cool people at Educator Studio (@EducatorStudio) illustrated one of my tweets. I think it looks great!!
Hacking (verb) [hak-ing]– Creative problem solving. Finding an unconventional solution to a difficult problem.
There is no shortage of contentious issues in education. You can debate instructional methods, how to arrange a classroom, enthusiasm vs experience, the value of whole language strategies and so on. But educators agree that traditional professional development (PD) doesn’t work very well.
Nothing gets a faster eye-roll from a teacher than being told that there’s a PD session you must attend. Teachers would rather stay in the classroom teaching than be forced to do a round of ice-breakers before listening to a consultant reading Powerpoint slides. This should concern anyone involved in education. Advancements and new ideas are announced daily and more than ever educators need to be armed with the latest research and methods.
Increasingly, educators are solving this problem by hacking their professional learning. Teachers have always stayed ‘current’ with professional journals, an occasional conference or a course in the summer but hacked PD is different. Hacked PD puts teachers in charge, is immediate, immersive and leverages the power of social media to create Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). It’s a change that’s attractive to many educators.
Last week’s Google in Education Summit in Waterloo, Ontario sold out early, forcing hundreds of others to ‘attend’ from home over the internet. On May 4th hundreds more will attend EdCamp in Hamilton, Ontario. On the same day there will be EdCamps in Boston, Birmingham, Detroit, Fort Wayne and North Carolina, and that’s the case on most weekends. There’s no requirement or incentive for educators to attend these events. They do so to become better teachers and to help others do the same.
Want more useful, meaningful, self-directed and convenient professional learning? Here’s how to “Hack Your PD”
Begin With Twitter: The most accessible way to take charge of your professional learning is by using twitter. Fifteen minutes a day reading tweets will introduce you to more useful ideas than you can shake a stick at. The problem isn’t finding new ideas, it’s figuring out how to manage all the new ideas you have.
Follow Your Passion: Whatever you love about teaching, find others who love that too and follow them. Established tweeters regularly share amazing resources and their own thoughts and questions about teaching. They’ll tweets things that make you think and reflect, which helps you grow. You’ll encounter ideas from outside traditional education channels. Experts, parents and passionate citizens have useful and helpful ideas and different perspectives.
Share: Once you feel more comfortable you’ll want to share. It may be as simple as a tough day you had or something amazing that happened in class. From there it grows. You begin to share your thoughts, opinions and ideas. You find something cool and want to share it with others who freely shared with you. You’re now a member of a fully functioning Professional Learning Network (PLN).
Attend An EdCamp: EdCamps are locally organized gatherings of people who want to share and learn about education. Many attendees come to just listen and learn. There’s usually no cost and the only expectation is that you participate as best as you can and share what you’ve learned (back to your PLN). The topics discussed are often determined by what participants are interested in on the day. It’s a fun, relaxed atmosphere unlike a traditional education conference. If a session you’re in doesn’t engage you, you’re encouraged to move on and find something that does.
Attend A Workshop or Conference: Every weekend this month there are conferences and workshops I want to attend. There’s no shortage of opportunities to learn, and once you look you realize that the problem isn’t where to go, but what to miss. Going to workshops on something you’re passionate about is more engaging than a mandatory PD session. It’s also a great opportunity to meet those you’ve been sharing with on twitter. Face to face is always better than virtual and it helps cement your PLN. If you can’t make it to a conference participating via a twitter “backchannel” is the next best thing. Many at the conference will be madly tweeting via the hashtag, allowing you to think and discuss from home.
Present: Presenting is a wonderful way to further your personal learning. It gives you feedback on your thoughts and ideas and helps to refine them. The motivation presenting to your peers provides is like a fire that purifies your thoughts. You learn which ideas are useful and which you need to rethink. Conference presenters are often given free entry, so you also learn from other sessions.
Repeat: After each step return to twitter and share. Share your thoughts, opinions, questions and ideas with your PLN. Feed it back and give to those who helped you along the way.
There are thousands of educators on twitter, hundreds of edcamps (all over the world), hundreds of conferences and workshops and more being added all the time. The potential of hacking PD to transform teaching and education is unlimited.
Aside from the personal benefits the most important reason to hack your PD sits in front of you every school day. Your students deserve the best and latest teaching methods and ideas you can find.
Teachers are the only ones who REALLY know what they and their students need. You should be the one in charge of your professional learning. Get hacking!
On Wednesday Ontario education was dragged in the shifting debate over students, privacy, free speech and the internet.
Nine students in Brampton, Ontario were told to stay home after The Dufferin-Peel District Catholic School Board found out they’d “used Twitter to make inappropriate comments about teachers” the previous weekend.
This is just the latest incident in a growing trend, as educators try to navigate the minefield that students and social media has become.
There are lots of new issues to consider. Here are three key ones:
1) Digital Citizenship: What responsibility do schools have to educate and prepare students for the “digital future” and how best do we do that?
Many students, used to texting, are missing the shift required when using social media. It’s easy to think that messages on twitter are part of a private conversation, when they aren’t. We need to help students understand that online communication is public and that means a different set of standards and expectations from private.
The consequences of not understanding this are significantly more than a few days suspension. People are increasingly judged personally and professionally by their digital footprint, losing jobs due to “inappropriate use of social media“, prevented from getting jobs because of past ‘digital mistakes’, or losing relationships. We need to help students understand this.
2) Free Speech: Can schools really restrict student’s free expression outside school? Should they?
In the Brampton case the comments and threats were seen as cyberbullying and so fit under the school’s responsibility to prevent such behaviour. But does it stop there? What about when a student makes statements that oppose the school or are controversial? What if students at a Catholic school tweet in support of abortion or anti-religious views? What then? What if a student’s online behaviour reflects badly on the school, but doesn’t involve the school in any way? If a student appropriately expresses support for an unpopular position does the school need to respond?
3) Deeper Causes: What does this all mean in the bigger picture?
Dana Boyd has pointed out that none of this behaviour is new. Students have “trashed” teachers and fantasized about blowing up the school for generations. The difference is that their conversations are now happening in social media, where it is recorded and displayed.
We have a window into students’ thoughts, attitudes and emotions about teachers and schools. What do we do with that? Do we ‘shoot the messenger’ and try to suppress those views? Or do we take advantage of it and ask the harder questions?
Why were these students so angry with/about their teachers? What does that mean? Will we listen when students have things to say that we don’t agree with or want to ask difficult questions? Will we honor their right to express their views while recognizing that they aren’t adults and will make many mistakes?
It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.
“The problem with television lies not in the quality of resolution but the quality of programming”
Nicholas Negroponte “Being Digital”
Nicholas Negroponte is a genius and one of my heroes. He played a major role in creating the MIT Media Lab, Wired Magazine and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. His book “Being Digital” was transformative . Every time I turned a page I read something that blew my mind.
One revelation was Negroponte’s thoughts on the future of TV. In 1995 HDTV was on the horizon and millions of dollars were poured into increasing screen resolution. Negroponte pointed out that what stopped people from watching more TV wasn’t screen resolution, but lousy programming. They were innovating on the wrong problem.
Before we solve a problem it’s important to make sure we’re working on the right problem. We need to do the same when improving education.
Popular efforts to improve education are focusing on the wrong problem. Millions of dollars and hours of innovation are being spent on improving how we deliver content in an era when content matters less and how we interact with it matters more.
What do all these all have in common? They are one-way content delivery systems and large corporations stand to make a lot of money from them.
However, the weak link in our current learning paradigm isn’t content delivery. Traditional textbooks deliver content efficiently and effectively, and access to content is cheaper and easier than at any other time in history thanks to the internet. It’s only with the guidance of a skilled teacher and interaction with other learners that content becomes relevant and engaging. That’s what makes good teaching important. Future education is better served by investing in and developing tools that support discussion and interaction, not improving content delivery.
New uses of the internet (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are social. Web 2.0 is about users interacting and collaborating. The power of YouTube is that users create, share and discuss their own videos. That’s what makes it unique. Using it to show lectures so students can watch their homework while playing World of Warcraft turns it into a TV channel, nothing more.
Promoting interaction and discussion is the most effective way to use technology to support learning. Social media promotes and extends discussion, which is far more effective and transformative than putting lectures on YouTube or textbooks on tablets will ever be.
We need to focus on using and developing technological tools that make learning more interactive and collaborative. It’s is a more effective and innovative way of improving learning than simply finding new ways to deliver content.