Saturday, May 29, 2010

Things Changed

Read Write Web ran a story on the Real Time Web and K-12 Education yesterday. Educators the likes of Steven Anderson, Silvia Tolisano, and Kyle Pace all have interesting things to say in the piece; and Audrey Watters, the reporter on the piece, included one of my Google Wave classroom Jings -- which is way cool: thanks!

As for the article itself, Pace, in particular, voiced an issue that I think admins need to pay attention to. Namely, as illustrated in the article by the fact that
78% of teachers responding to the NCES study said that they found independent learning the best way to learn about new technologies (as opposed to 61% who said that in-district training was the best way to gain new tech skills).
Pace is quoted on his feelings about #edchat noting: "You cannot buy this kind of professional development."

And he is absolutely right. From #edchat to the daily links to research and best practices to compendiums of crowdsourced reference libraries to instant cross-cultural communication with education professionals the world over, no admin could ever have afforded this kind of professional development pre-Real Time Web.

Last month I sat on a panel in front of the heads of independent schools throughout the Baltimore area. Asked what I thought was the best way to prepare teachers for the new paradigm, I replied: "Twitter is the best vehicle for professional development our profession has ever known. Stop spending money bringing 'experts' into your schools for in-service days and instead give teachers the tools and time to explore what's happening in real-time as thousands of teachers throughout the Twitterverse take it upon themselves professionally to experiment, share, and develop as a new community of teachers."

The room went silent except for audible gasps.

Those were gasps of realization. Realization that the old system of training and development is hopefully outdated. And a new way of doing things developed among engaged teachers while most of the folks in charge didn't even realize there was a problem with the status quo.


  1. I can't make sense of the 78% and 61% figures... mathematically, how can those both be correct?

  2. For those educators who don't know how to "independently learn" about new technologies, they do well with in-service workshops--- as a new teacher I attended many tech workshops my first year and I greatly benefited from them. It was because of THOSE workshops that I learned how to get on the internet and independently learn about new tools. By my second year, I was holding workshops for the faculty at my school to teach them.

    But I also agree that while some schools are willing to pay a lot of money for these types of in-services or even send teachers off to conferences, we have to realize that there are many FREE resources online. For example, I attended last year's NECC and my school ended up paying around $1000 for all the costs. Months later I joined an online tech community which held the same types of workshops, all online, and for free.

  3. I was putting together my "planner" for #ISTE10 today and I realized my subconscious criterion for deciding if I wanted to attend a session or not: if, from the title and description, the session sounded like it could just as easily be a blog post that I could read on my own time, it wasn't a session I wanted to attend.

    If a session at a conference is going to be the kind where there is a "lecture", then time for questions at the end, it could just be a blog post that I leave a comment on if I have a question.

    I want to attend sessions that start with an interesting question then opens up the floor to conversation.

    I recognize that I don't speak for everyone when I describe what I want out of a conference (or professional development from my district). I do think, though, that we are being pushed to move away from sit-and-get in our classrooms, but the same move doesn't seem to be happening in our professional development.

  4. @mrpullen

    They were two different questions in a series asking about the effectiveness of several different sorts of dev opportunities and rating on quality of effectiveness. See Table 9:

    Yes, it's worded weirdly.


  5. @ Miss Tati K

    I think conferences can be enormously beneficial -- given the right conference. The f2f time you can share with other engaged professionals is well worth it (though the fees certain conferences charge are pretty crazy).

    So, I'm actually all for professional conferences. What I'm against is bringing in a professional to lecture at your faculty on the school's dime. There is so much more value in introducing teachers to Twitter, setting up a PLN, and creating local in-school task forces comprised of the teachers in the building to lead local and personalized professional development among peers.


  6. @ Russ

    "I want to attend sessions that start with an interesting question then opens up the floor to conversation."

    That's exactly what makes Educon the best teacher's conference going.


  7. I'd be curious if the gasps were realization of needed changes or shock you would suggest such a thing. In my district it would be the latter. Thanks for the great quote about Twitter. I hope folks here will buy in.

  8. The Commission on Professional Development for CAIS realized something similar about two years ago. Now we almost never bring in outside consultants. We communicate with our member schools to find teachers in the classroom that are doing cool things, and we find audiences for them among other teachers. We stopped paying presenters, and started talking to each other.

    We still get together for face-to-face time, because facetime is important... but now our facetime is spent talking to other teachers and listening to other teachers, instead of to so called experts who have no idea what we do in the classroom all day.

  9. Thanks again for letting me use your Wave in my article. And most importantly, thanks for all you do for education, technology, and *cough* Latin. (You know, my favorite teacher ever was my juniorn high Latin teacher. But that's another story altogether.)


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