Sunday, November 23, 2008
Redefining Professional Development
This week's topic is Blogs & Blogging for Professional Development. How Web 2.0 tools have redefined the traditional model of Professional Development.
Professional Development used to occur within a school, district, or within a province. Time, money, educational resources and travel limitations would restrict what a professional could do for professional development. With the introduction of the internet and now with Web 2.0 tools, professional development is no longer bound by those limitations. Professional development has become a global collaboration event.
In my school district, we have a "learning communities fund" as well as grants for groups of teachers looking to participate in a professional development activitiy. Although I still believe that there is much to be said for face to face interaction, Web 2.0 tools have greatly increased the scope of a professsional's collaborative team. For instance, a group of teachers in the same district may get together to collaborate, investigate, and explore their teaching practice. That group may consist of 3, 5, or even 8 teachers. That is a lot of collaboration! However, that group is limited by school hours, professional development funds for release time, and extra curricular schedules. But imagine a global professional development opportunity where there is a potential for hundreds or thousands of teachers from around the world to collaborate and respond to one another's queries? That is where blogging fits in.
After reading Ron Lebensky's blog, I started to think about how a blog is like a virtual classroom. It is a space where learning and collaboration take place. There are no limitations like there are in a physical space, anyone can walk in that virtual door and become a participant. Ron refers to this space as a PLE. A Personal Learning Environment. He states that:
“ a Personal Learning Environment is a facility for an individual to access, aggregate, configure and manipulate digital artefacts of their ongoing learning experiences.”
Imagine that! A whiteboard, notebook, classroom, and portfolio in one! As a teacher, I keep a portfolio of my experiences and successes. My portfolio was created by me, alone, in my office and is only viewed by a small audience, usually only at job interviews. Now that I have created a blog, I have a collaborative portfolio that can be viewed and authored by many professionals!
Not only that, I have control over my PLE.
Now in saying that, I hit the web looking for educators that use blogging as professional development. I came across Joel's blog and one of his posts: 8 Ways Blogging Makes Me a Better Teacher. Now, being aware that professional development not only happens by reading the initial post, but by the dicussion that follows, I read to the bottom of the post to see how others reacted to Joel's musings. Trina commented,
"I’ve also found that writing about subjects on a regular basis makes me think about them more deeply, and in a more creative way. The results of having a topic running in the background in your brain on a regular basis can be profound."
Linking from another comment, I found myself at Lisa Huff's blog and really liked what she had to say about the power of blogs as scaffolding tools. Lisa says,
"Blogging teachers are thinking teachers, modeling the habits of mind educators ultimately hope to instill in students. Blogging teachers are models of literacy and 21st Century learning."
I think that not only do those "blogging teachers" become a model for their students but for other teachers. I know that reading other's blogs certainly have helped me become a better reflective practictioner.
As for the implications of this in my classroom, well, where can I start? First of all, reading and writing, and participating in professional discourse via blogs will help me become a more reflective professional, I will be a mentor and be mentored by educators on a global scale, I will have torn down the barriers that limited my professional development, and I will become a model for my students showing them that learning is a life-long activity.
If this has managed to whet your appetite for Web 2.0 and professional development. Here are some other sites to visit to continue your exploration!
Web 2.0 Tools and Your Own Learning- Video
Band of Bloggers- Blogging as a Reflective Practice
The Lonley Teacher- Blogging as the Solution for the Sometimes Isolated Teacher