PD with urgency [2]

Part [1] Recap

In part 1 of this series, I shared my struggles with getting started creating my own personal PD and the difficulty I was having.  In this post, I continue the expedition and share the tools I used to create my own PD experience.

Part [2]

Boy was I excited when new people followed me after I tweeted some things out. I would watch my Twitter count go up and when it didn’t, I felt like a failure. Was I really failing? No. Did I know that? Yes. Why did I feel that way? Because I wanted to be good at it. I came to notice a trend in the tweeps and the hashtags I would follow. Rather than have a conversation, as Twitter says, “Keep the conversation going.”, many folks just pumped out massive amounts of links to sites and blogs. That irritated me. Why? Because I wanted to talk to people and not just see a bunch of resources. I came to understand, after reading some blogs, that educational tweeting wasn’t about the conversation so much as it is about the resources for people to find and use as they teach. Admittedly, I was still irritated that I couldn’t get a conversation going. At the same time, I was contemplating starting a blog.  Am I a glutton for punishment or what?

Starting a blog was painful for me. I am very particular about how things look so I searched for the right looking blog format. I am a minimalist at heart and ended up using this format. As I searched,  I thought about what the blog should be called. I wanted it to represent who I am and what I am thinking about in my role as a teacher, thinker, tech/teacher coach, constructivist, and person. This, again, was painful as I agonized over what to title the blog. Eventually, after many \ideas, I settled on reformed, the title of this blog, because it was who I am. I am reformed in my thinking, teaching, pedagogy, coaching and view of education in light of how quickly technology is changing it. I took the plunge as a blogger and now have two. This blog and my school blog titled Sync Tech. It took until now to actually get comfortable with Twitter and blogging. To blog and tweet, I needed a source of information to get ideas and stay relevant.

I determined that I had to have a way of getting information so I could keep up with the quickly evolving education arena. I had Google Reader but wanted something with more savvy. I searched for RSS feed aggregators and finally settled on Feedly and began feeding it RSS feeds of blogs and sites. Not only did I want information, and was hungry for it, but wanted a way to save everything I was finding. In comes Evernote Webclipper and the whole concept of curating.

Curating is essential to a life online and learning. If you cannot curate, you will drown in the sea of information that flows through all of social media. Using Feedly was one way to curate, and using Evernote Webclipper and Diigo was another. The key concept behind curating is determining what is essential to keep and what to discard. Moving through sites and blogs forced me to really think about what was important for me to learn. As I dove into this endeavor with Twitter and blogging, I curated information, using Feedly, that would me learn and help the teachers I coach.

I chose jump in with both feet first because I knew I was behind and I had to catch up. My urgency was being relevant as a teacher with a strong pedagogy, vision and technologist so I could be an asset. My urgency drove me like herding cats to wrangle the different streams and directions education is heading with my rope being my will and mind to pull it all together…I was feeling guilty I wasn’t up on the latest.

I still struggle to keep up with the fast pace of education. How do you keep up?

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Constantly thinking constructivism & creationism

Steven Anderson, here is something I am thinking about.

I am constantly thinking about different ways students can demonstrate their individual and collective knowledge and last nights #edchat forced me to make a generalization I had not known before.  Constructivism and Creationism, two schools of thought that are driving the Twitter conversation, are intimately tied.  

Construction is building from the ground up, working with a group of people to create a plan, and sending individuals off to do their job.  Problem solving is key in building because glitches occur and creativity is needed to solve those problems.  With a solution in place, the worker can go on to complete his work.  This sounds like education – bring staff and students together, create a learning plan, and send people off to learn and create new knowledge.

Creation is making something new.  This new product may be new to you though others may have created something similar, or it is an entirely new product.  Yesterday, Tuesday, October 30th, I created a Storify titled “Teacher Inspiration” by Pinteresting from Edutopia’sBe Inspired” board.  My Storify was just something I felt like doing to bring motivation to teachers who might read this blog or find the “Teacher Inspiration” Storify.  After creating it I thought, “Is it possible to export or embed this into my blog?”  Everything these days can get embedded or exported in some fashion.  Unsurprisingly, my new story can be published to this blog.  What I created was a new way to publish blog posts that are visual and take you to my Storify.  Now, I am pretty sure this has been done by other people, but it was new to me as a way of creating new knowledge and sharing it with others.

So, I have this constant stream of pedagogy running through my head about constructivism and creationism always looking for another to take content and transforming it into new knowledge.

What keeps running through your head?

Divorced from learning

The learning process is an individual one; one that requires a person to ask pressing questions about the world around them focusing in on their interests for the sake of learning.

Do we know how to be self-directed learners?

Can we model for students how to start with a question, finding answers in a variety of places, and pulling together all of the information to create a product that displays what we have learned?

How do we recognize this within ourselves as a driving force for new knowledge?

Being told how to do it

Do you like to be told what to do?  How about having someone look over your shoulder every minute to make sure you are doing it right?  Do the students we teach like this if we ourselves do not?  Managed learning really isn’t learning at all.  I have changed my point of view over the past two years because I have realized that what I learn for myself is my learning.  I own it.  I value it.  I am willing to share it.  While there is a need to have direct instruction, it should be minimal to allow students to venture in the “wonderment” side of learning.  Stimulate their thinking by asking questions that are open ended without a clear answer or path to get to that answer.  To do this a teacher has to become a coach and coach students through the learning process offering them support when needed, questioning them often to clarify their thinking, and ask them to reflect on their learning.  In contrast, scaled learning at every step divorces students from the real process of learning.

Divorced learning is characterized by classrooms that force students into a learning process where thinking is minimal and their creation of knowledge is rote memory practice.  Not all classrooms are alike, and realize this as I am typing.  What causes divorced learning?  Standardized tests that force teachers to teach to it so that their “score” at the end of the school year is in the excellent range.  Is the teacher really worried about deep learning or having a favorable review?  I think the answer to that is obvious.  The learning process is simply divorced from the content because having the facts that the standardized tests are testing is better than kids knowing how to learn.  With so much structure, how do students really learn?

Teachers as learners

As a teacher, my interest lies in giving kids methods to create new knowledge and how to find information.  So, I am a coach and as a coach it is my job to have a vision for learning and helping students to understand the learning process.  As a teacher I

  • continuously search for bleeding edge teaching and learning methods
  • read other teachers points of view
  • subscribe to blogs that help me learn
  • follow other teachers on Twitter
  • follow my own learning process religiously

Teachers as learners extends, for the most part, to professional development instances that are small shots of learning that usually doesn’t benefit the teacher.  Again, this is a general statement and teachers do find PD valuable.  Personal PD is more valuable than contrived instances with the hope that teachers take away something valuable for themselves.  Personal PD is self-directed learning and the teacher becomes the learner.  What does this mean for students?

  • Model how to learn
  • Reflect on your own learning process
  • Create learning products
  • Show how to find information
  • Let students struggle with their learning process


How do you learn?  Do you need overt structure to learn?  Is it difficult for you to synthesize your learning?  How do you innovate and authenticate your own learning?

Let Kids Rule the School – NYTimes.com.

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