This is my most recent entry over at techLEARNING. I would love for you to stop by there an leave your comments! Let's put our ideas all in one place and get our collective PD 2.0 together.
When preparing for the recent three day workshop- High Schools New Face I tried to model the concepts I would be teaching and designed what I hoped would be seen as Professional Development 2.0. I wanted the secondary teachers, administrators, and superintendents attending to experience personalized learning, development of their own personal learning networks and virtual communities of practice.
Using Wikis to Build Learning Communities
Wikis are a wonderful tool for building community in a blended environment. My first goal in building community with my conference cohort was to have everyone join the wiki so that we could all edit and add to different pages. My thinking is that by creating a collaborative space we all experience a sense of ownership in that process.
I also wanted to use the workshop wiki to connect the face-to-face participants to the synchronous online guests giving them a way to connect and feel part of the same community.
I also used the wiki to:
--- access the workshop goals
--- deliver my curriculum
--- give everyone access to all the resources
--- store the materials and movies I used during the workshop
--- promote collaboration
--- link to all the content being created
The workshop goals for the three days were as follows:
1. PRIMARY OBJECTIVE - For you to go back and change at least one thing your are doing in your typical practice in the classroom. We will revisit this goal.
2. To expose you to several tools and strategies used to make connections with content experts beyond the four walls of your classroom.
3. To network you with some of the widely recognized 21st Century learners/teachers in the blogosphere for ongoing professional development.
4. To establish a virtual community of practice where you can continue to connect with each other long after the workshop ends.
5. To help you become comfortable with and create your own blog, wiki, podcasts and other social networking accounts in an effort to help you gain ownership of the new learning landscape.
6. To promote the knowledge, skills and sense of urgency for 21st Century teaching and learning.
Blogging for Reflection and Building a Sense of Trust
Another tool I used was a workshop blog. My purpose in doing so was three fold. I wanted to model the use of blogs, help participants understand the strength of comments, and allow a place for reflection. Using a group blog is a perfect "first step" towards encouraging the adoption of blogs as an educational strategy. This also gave the cohort a place to start sharing ideas and a way to get to know each other. Having introductions happen via the blog saves time and yet works toward instilling trust as we get to know a little about each other, while at the same time giving practice to those who have never used a blog.
In an intentional effort to build trust for our developing community I also created a team building activity within the wiki. This activity enabled participants to engage as a team, practice posting to a wiki, explore and discuss Creative Commons licenses and copyright issues. It also taught the skill of finding and posting a copyright free picture using proper citation. Once team identity was established the small groups discussed a few prompts that deepened their understanding and ownership of the changing educational landscape.
Developing the Professional Learning Network
The most powerful component of participatory media (Web 2.0) is the ability to build diverse personal and professional learning networks. Using a connectivism framework and Gizmo, a VoIP tool, we engaged in an activity called Virtual Speed Dating-Web 2.0 Discussion. While there was no dating intent involved, the quick introductions, high energy conversations and 15 minute per conversation time frame helped earn the provocative name. Educational bloggers who use Web 2.0 tools with their teachers or students from Australia, New Zealand, Wales, and across the US agreed to participate.
Speed Dating Set-Up
I asked ten tech savvy, blogging, Web 2.0 using, professionals to each download Gizmo and add me. Ten computers with Gizmo loaded were placed in various places in the training space. At the designated time we called each guest via Gizmo. Five to six participants sat at each table and began to introduce themselves. The invited guest had 15 minutes to lead a fast, succinct, informal conversation around how they use participatory media in their own teaching or PD opportunities and encourage a back and forth conversation.
Getting to know each group and sharing was fast and furious (like speed dating) as they only had 15 minutes before we transitioned to another fresh group of 5-6 people and the process started over again. We did this four times.
Outcomes of the Exercise
For the most part this wildly fun event went like planned, but even when the live events like this do not go exactly as planned they are still very valuable in terms of experience and learning. Wes Fryer, one of the virtual "speed daters" described the questions as "very challenging and thought provoking... reminded me of college debate cross examinations!" Paul Harrington, another one of the guests who actually podcasted his experience had this to say,
While I know some of the speed daters had technical problems, this happens with this technology sometimes. In fact, I often marvel at the way it actually works at all. We have all tried to push the envelope in our own ways, many of us trying out the technology in presentations because we are following your very considerable lead in tech use both in the classroom and the lecture hall.
I found even the pre-meeting Skype chat with fellow 'daters' an invaluable experience. I also appreciate how much the whole experience meant to the most important people there -the attendees at your course. After all our driving aim as educational technologists is to push more educators to join this phenomenal way of re-defining teaching and learning in our own classrooms.
The attendees enjoyed the experience as well. Several principals who were not in my cohort came up to me at dinner and shared how excited their staff was in describing the "speed dating" event. In addition, many listed "speed dating" as the most valuable part of the workshop.
Another networking strategy I used was to offer an Elluminate session with four of the Alabama Best Practice Center 21st Century Fellows. The Fellows were new to Web 2.0 tools just two short years ago. I felt that by having them share their stories in Elluminate breakout rooms participants could get a feel for a virtual classroom, while also learning about how these teachers developed their 21st Century pedagogy using Web 2.0 tools to create projects that aligned with school and district goals. Everyone put on head sets and logged into our virtual classroom. After a quick overview of the tools we went into virtual break out rooms with about 10-15 participants each. After a brief presentation (inside Elluminate) showing wikis, slides, and blogs related to the projects, the Fellows opened the room up to questions. Participants raised their hands virtually and used a microphone to ask teachers in Alabama to explain details. After 20 minutes we switched rooms and the participants got to hear a different Fellow speak.
Twitter Camp- (picture is from Alan's NMC conference- not ours)
Another networking tool that provided connections and yet another way for participants to build their own personal learning networks was Twitter. I had each of the participants create an account and to add me as a friend. Like in the picture above, I added a message that showed how they could post to our camp. I also alerted others who were my friend in Twitter to please add our @hsnf account. So that throughout the first day of the workshop participants and my friends in the blogosphere communicated and made connections.
Blogging Begins with Reading
As a way of introducing blogging for scholarship and how just like good writing begins with reading, so does blogging, I had participants visit the blogs of Edubloggers who came to the NECC Edubloggercon.The participants were asked to spend sometime reading and exploring these blogs and then post a reflection on the workshop blog of what they found interesting. We also practiced embedding the link of the blog they read by using html code.
The activity was an intentional way to model the building of personal/professional networks by locating blogs and adding them to an RSS feed. We created our own feeds and practiced adding some newly favored blogs.
The component I think is really missing from most professional development opportunities is follow through. Typically, we send teachers to workshops and they get fired up and come back unable to sustain the momentum without support.
One solution to this problem is to create a virtual learning community (VLC) using one of the available platforms like Tapped In or Ning. Getting the participants established in the community while you are still together face-to-face helps ensure use of the resource after the workshop ends. Obviously, most of us who deliver professional development will not have time to facilitate a learning community for each workshop given, so it is imperative that ownership for the community is given to several interested attendees while you are at the workshop. They take on the role of moderator.
We decided to create a learning community inside Tapped In as a way of staying connected long after the workshop ends. We explored Ning too and many joined Classroom 2.0. One superintendent even created his own Ning community to use with his teachers.
It's All about the Learning
Teachers like tangibles. I think the reason there is so much focus on the tools, rather than how to use the tools to support learning is because when we are learning something new we want something concrete to manipulate. Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis and podcasts give us that concrete fix. Teachers, like their students, need time to explore the tools before getting on with the learning. However, at some point in a PD 2.0 workshop the focus needs to switch from the tool itself to making the tool a seamless medium for mastery of standards-based objectives and 21st Century life skills.
After looking at many examples of 21st Century teaching and learning, we broke into groups based on disciplines. Using Post It notes each person at the table generated one idea per note for how these new concepts and tools could translate to learning in the classroom. Next, we worked in pairs to chunk the ideas into manageable categories. Finally, as a group we used chart paper and synthesized the information into workable lesson ideas. A reporter in the group then captured what was generated for the wiki so everyone could benefit.
The final activity was a Birds of a Feather exercise where we grouped by interests: blogs, social networking tools, podcasting, Second Life, or virtual learning communities. Groups then took an unconference approach to what was discussed. The activity was intentionally unstructured and the learning needs/wants of the individual were met by others who could informally show them what they needed to know. The discussions and demos developed organically based on learner interest and "just in time" learning needs.
One distinctive factor of PD 2.0 is that after the workshop ends the communication and collaboration doesn't. Using our VLC, linking to and commenting on each others blogs, and bumping into each other on Twitter, Skype, delicious and other social networking tools will ensure that we all continue to learn and grow from each other. Individuals involved in my cohort in New York become part of the larger international community and as champions develop and teach others, the ideas spread and educational reform takes place through a "none of us are as good as all of us" mentality. Even as we speak, Paul Harrington has joined the Tapped In group and is answering questions from the NY teachers about how he uses Classblogmeister.
Professional Development 2.0 is about personalized learning for teachers. It is about ownership, developing your online voice and joining professional networks. As teachers we must first own these concepts and skills before we can give them to our students. And by using these 21st Century strategies to create networks of 'teachers teaching teachers' we can ensure that none of us get left behind and that every child will be prepared to meet the future that awaits them.
Your PD 2.0 Ideas Needed
What 21st Century strategies have you used in a PD 2.0 workshop? What ideas have you tried that worked or didn't work in helping teachers to understand the changing learning landscape? Do share!
As my friend in New Zealand, Jane Nicholls likes to say, "Problem solving is more fun with a friend."