I had the opportunity to join a team from November Learning last week in Louisiana. Our fearless leader Jim Wenzloff, with GPS in hand, brought together Seth Bowers, Lainie Rowell, Howie DeBlasi and I, and set us up to present the world of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting, PLN’s and other Web2.0 tools to groups of teachers divided up by grade groupings.
The teachers were great! Their school year just ended and there they were all ready to continue their learning, challenging themselves in a way that, for many of them, was still fairly new and very challenging.
I had the honour of working with the Red Team.
Megan, a teacher in my group, wrote this on a VoiceThread:
“One of the challenges I face is mastering one piece of technology before a newer one is introduced. I feel as though as soon as I become comfortable with one method of technology, I am asked to learn another and incorporate it into my teaching.”
There is amazing & inspiring work going on around the world, in your own country and in your own district. It is important to not only make it accessible, but also realistic and digestible for teachers. When we support growth amongst ourselves as professionals, we are better prepared to nurture growth for our students – because after all, we are all students in this journey together!
There was a lot of learning that went on in Louisiana, but just as in my 2 Point Oh Yeah presentation, the learning created more questions than answers… at least for me.
When introducing ‘new’ tools to teachers what’s the right mix of breadth and depth? How much should we expose teachers to at one time? And how deep should we get with a single tool, a tool that may or may not interest all of the participants?
How do we differentiate instruction for our learners?
What kind of incremental successes should we build in? (For example, I wanted all of my participants to contribute to the VoiceThread, and to edit and practice working on our wiki).
How important is the process?
Perhaps it is just me, but I wonder sometimes if we don’t drown people with our good intentions? We send wave after wave of information ‘at’ them hoping something floats. This doesn’t work with our students, what makes us think it will work for adults?
Don’t get me wrong, I think there was an incredible amount of learning that went on. In talking to teachers it seemed that they were genuinely excited about what they learned. The goal for this training was that every teacher would take one thing back to their classrooms and to their schools to share… my sense was that the teachers we worked with were excited about doing this!
My questions are about my own practice and my own learning. How can I be more effective and have greater influence when introducing learning tools?
Or is it really the tools that even matter?
In my presentation on Thursday morning to the whole group, I spent a bit of time talking about how as adults we let fear hold us back. Perhaps this is where we need to spend more time. Carolyn Foote talks about having a Beginner’s Mind:
Teachers are often accustomed to being considered the “expert mind,” so it is not just that we are asking teachers to see the uses of a particular tool in the classroom–what we are really asking is for is an entire paradigm shift–for teachers to approach their classrooms with a beginner’s mind, a child’s mind.
I’m trying to bring that beginner’s mind to what I do as a presenter. What can I tinker with and try in order to help teachers play and learn more meaningfully?
Another thing that I’m still trying to figure out is how to effectively ‘show’ teachers the value of a PLN?
If you fail to connect to the network of learners, you miss out on a global conversation about what you are passionate about. And missing out is a darn shame because it can save you time, energy, and increase your reach, no matter how brilliant (or not) you are. That’s a powerful idea. Smart people get smarter because they have access to the network of learners. People who are just starting out are able to learn as fast as they can to accomplish what they need to do.
Something interesting happened at the dinner table with our team on Tuesday night, (we were joined by Thomas Daccord and Brian Mull who were working locally with another group). The waiter asked, “Where Y’all from?” And we had to go one-by-one around the table naming different cities across North America, and yet we were there as a team. And now miles away from them, I am hyper-linking to them and inviting them, and inviting you, to help me look at my own growth and learning. This sharing, linking and conversing is hard to quantify to someone who doesn’t live it.
How do you explain that a simple request on Twitter leads to a flurry of emails and a list of great examples of effective use of digital tools for learning that I never could have found on my own?
In summary, a lot of great learning went on in Louisiana! The question now is how do we meaningfully continue it?
How do we improve our effectiveness in promoting meaningful integration of technology for learning?
How do we show teachers the value of developing a PLN?
How do we continue to challenge ourselves on our own personal learning journeys?