I’m more than a little critical when it comes to effective teacher professional development. I’ve seen, participated in and facilitated a wide variety of different methods of PD. The way I see it (and perhaps I’m over-simplifying things), every time I’m facilitating teacher-PD, my goal should be to work myself out of a job. Collaboration is key and I think facilitators will always be important, but at the end of the day, we all need to own and guide our own learning. Helping teachers develop these learning skills should be supported in addition to other specific goals.
This morning I had the honour of working with a group of teachers who model an amazing PD opportunity. IGNITEd, or Island Gatherings to Network Innovative Teachers is an organic collaboration among teachers on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario. They run a saturday morning workshop once a month where they decide on a topic together and then invite someone to share ideas and invigorate the learning. After their speaker, they work together on tasks they decide on among themselves and create “things” (lessons, collaborations, projects, etc.) for use in their classrooms.
A while back I got an email from Heather Theijsmeijer asking if I would be able to be their guest for a session on “global collaboration”. As soon as I read her message, I responded saying that I was 100% “in”, but that I knew someone way better than me to help out. Mali Bickley graciously agreed to help out. Mali is one of the iEARN Canada country coordinators, whose classroom is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. Her students are continuously engaged in global collaborations and are some of the most socially aware young people I have met.
This morning, using Adobe Connect, Mali, Heather, Yana, myself met with teachers, consultants and administrators from Manitoulin Island, Sudbury and Latvia. We discussed global collaboration projects that are formally created and facilitated in addition to organic collaborations. Conversations around how to support teachers in making that leap to be self-directed learners and to join in collaborations were rich and honest. We talked about the importance of sharing what happens in our classrooms.
As we wrap up the morning I am left with one of the most positive and hopeful feelings I’ve ever had about the direction of education in Ontario. That may seem dramatic and drastic, but it’s true. If Ontario has teachers with this type of motivation, direction, willingness, eagerness and drive to 100% completely own their own learning in addition to quite clearly wanting all the best things for their students – we are headed in an amazing direction.
Thank you Heather and Yana for letting Mali and I be a part of your learning today. I have learned so much about what truly ‘teacher-directed’ learning can look like.
Below are some of the resources used during the session:
Wiki with resources from Mali and Jac: http://globalcollaborationignited.wikispaces.com
Caroline’s and Julie’s presentation: on their experiences with collaboration (daily scribe, flat connections, mystery skype, etc.)
Manitoulin IGNITEd blog: http://manignited.blogspot.ca