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


katkin said...

Hi April,

I really like your idea of using blogging as a virtual classroom and how we can become mentors, and be mentored by others, on such diverse landscape. Reading comments left for our favorite bloggers is another way to connect and read more deeply for understanding... I think that's something I need to spend more time exploring. Thanks for your sharing these great ideas and sites.

Mrs. Hilland, Librarian said...

Thanks Katkin, I think that it is also something that I need to explore more within the scope of this course. I feel that I am meeting the requirements by blogging and reading other's blogs, but I am not taking advantage of continuing the conversation amongst my peers after my blog post has been published. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, April. I hadn't come across some of those blogs you quote and they look interesting--thanks for the links! Also, I think your point that commenting on others' blogs (and encouraging people to comment on your own)is an important part of's all part of the bigger conversation that is so engaging and important!

Joanie said...


Wow! You write an awesome blog entry. You take information, synthesize it and share your ideas at a level I think Richardson would call complex blogging. When I finished reading your post, you certainly made me feel inspired about using blogging as part of professional development

I decided to check out the Web 2.0 video by Stephen Downes and devoted 20 minutes of my day listening to him discuss interaction, usability and relevance as aspects of Web 2.0 learning. I ended up with a scribbled page of notes to use with my own entry this week. I really found what Downes had to say summarized the learning we have been doing and his comments about setting up a lifelong informal learning environment for ourselves.In many ways Joanne has had us using a similar model and less one of the traditional structured classroom.

Im curious to how you found this video. Is Downes one of your RSS feeds? In any case, this blog post of yours has helped me immensely and is a prime example of what this is all about - interaction, sharing, finding relevance and getting what you want. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.