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Tag: PLN

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Making Professional Learning Personal

 

These days, too many teachers are leaving the profession because they may not be getting the support they need to do the job they are required to do. Now is the time to reverse the trend of teacher burnout. This can happen with improving their own professional learning by making it personal.

 

Every class, every teacher, and every learner is unique so each situation could bring up questions, opportunities, and even confusion. Teachers could find that they will be learning something new more often than not.  Teachers are the most valuable element in the classroom.

Teachers can be partners in learning with learners. To do this effectively, teachers need to determine their purpose for professional learning that defines learning goals specific to learning outcomes. Then they can identify instructional practices needed to implement so learners meet those learning outcomes. “One size fits all” professional development will not meet each teacher’s purpose and plan. Every teacher will need a plan with specific learning goals to personalize their professional learning.

Learning Forward [www.learningforward.org] created a workbook for States, Districts, and Schools: Professional Learning Plans as the navigation system for the comprehensive professional learning system as the engine that powers educator learning. A program of professional learning is “a set of purposeful, planned actions and the support system necessary to achieve the identified goals.” Professional learning plans focus on the specific content, learning designs, implementation support, and evaluation of professional learning. The comprehensive professional learning system establishes the overall infrastructure and operations that support effective professional learning. The workbook provides teachers, schools, and districts the tools, resources, examples and models that will assist them in developing whole system professional learning plans and personal professional learning plans.

 

Some key questions to drive the development of your plan:

  • What results do we seek for our learners?
  • What teacher practices contribute to those results?
  • What must change in order to achieve those results?

 

The goal of professional learning should be stated in terms of learner outcomes. Changes in educator knowledge, skills, dispositions, and practice are the means to changes in learning. Learner and teacher goals written in the SMART format increases the strength and clarity of the goals. Working SMARTER, not harder: SMART goals keep key objectives in focus as follows:

SMART Goals

S  = Specific
M = Measurable
A  = Attainable
R  = Results-based
T  = Time-bound

Consider this question: What learner outcomes do you want to see that can be transformative?

Teachers need collaborative time to review and analyze learner data. There are schools that are scheduling time once, twice and, in some cases, daily, where teachers meet to plan together. Teachers usually work alone and have been isolated behind closed classroom doors for too long. When teachers have the time to work together, they can review how their students are learning, what they are learning, and any challenges. They can use SMART goals to develop learning objectives. For example, if teachers determine that 42% of their high school learners do not understand linear equations, they can develop a learning goal that targets these learners.

 

Example SMART Goal

42% of the high school learners will have resources and opportunities for small group, one-to-one instruction and ongoing peer support to increase their knowledge and skills around linear equations.

Teachers only know what they know or were taught. Many follow a pacing guide and use existing curriculum even though we now know that doesn’t work for all learners. A teacher who is trying to “cover” the curriculum based on the pacing guide will never meet the needs of those learners who are falling behind.

When teachers start putting together SMART goals around learning outcomes based on data, they can go several steps further to determine how each of the 42% learners learn best along with any challenges they might have. There are always several learners in your class that stand out with unique characteristics. Teachers may find out that more than one learner may have trouble understanding math symbols where others have issues focusing on how the problems are stated. When you know specific issues that are challenges for your learners, you can pull together strategies to target those challenges. This is where the Personal Professional Learning Plan comes in for each teacher.

 

Sample Personal Professional Learning Plan

(adapted from source: http://www.esclakeeriewest.org/files/Sample-Goals.pdf)

  1. State the Action you will take
  2. Describe an Area of Focus for the Learning
  3. Include the Rationale
  4. Add the Activities

 

State Action Describe Focus Include Rationale Add Activities
Improve Teaching Skills Assist at-risk students Stay current with new practices
Develop Proficiency in technology tools Support instruction Identify specific tools and resources

 

The activities are personal to each teacher. This is where teachers can take control of their own learning. If a teacher wants to improve their teaching skills to assist at-risk learners, they can use alternative learning opportunities to support them with their research. Traditional PD usually doesn’t allow time for personalized support and attention. Some questions teachers have asked about PD:

  • How do you stay current with new practices if you sit in a lecture that does not support your learning goal?
  • How do you find specific resources around Algebra if PD that day is on classroom management?

 

Teachers can get support by building their Personal Learning Network (PLN) in their school, district, community, and in social media. There are multiple learning opportunities outside of traditional professional development. This is where “personal” expands professional learning with opportunities that include:

  • Common Planning TimeTeachers helping teachers
  • Unconferences
  • Edcamps
  • Using Social Media
    • Twitter chats
    • Facebook pages
    • Google+ Communities
    • Linkedin Groups

 

Common Planning Time

Common planning time is different than “teacher preparation time” or “prep periods,” which are periods of time during the school day when teachers, typically working on their own, can plan and prepare for their classes, meet with students, or grade assignments. Common planning time is an evolution of the traditional preparation period to time that encourages more frequent and purposeful collaboration among educators. Its primary purpose is to bring teachers together to learn from one another and collaborate on projects that will lead to improvements in lesson quality, instructional effectiveness, and student achievement.

 

Unconferences and Edcamps

An unconference is a conference organized, structured and led by the people attending it. Instead of passive listening, all attendees and organizers are encouraged to become participants, with discussion leaders providing moderation and structure for attendees.

Unconferences are founded upon The Law of Two Feet, which states that:

If during the course of the gathering, any person finds themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.

An Edcamp is a user-generated conference – commonly referred to as an “unconference“. Edcamps are designed to provide participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators. In both cases, instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions. All of the space and time are reserved for the things people want to talk about.

 

Twitter Chat

A Twitter or Tweet Chat is a planned “chat” on Twitter that organizes a group of people with similar interests in a particular subject matter. The host of the chat is the person that arranges and promotes it to their followers by picking a regularly scheduled time for the chat to happen. Teachers that are looking for specific resources can find them fast. Sign up with your own handle and find hashtags to follow like #edchat, #edtechchat, #tlap, and #plearnchat.

#plearnchat is our Twitter chat we host every other Monday at 7pm ET, 4pm PT. Join us!

 

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These are just a few strategies that teachers can use to take control of their own learning. Learning is personal and teachers are learners too. Check out what Vicki Davis wrote about 12 Choices to Help You Step Back from Burnout if you find yourself feeling a little blue.

Learning Forward. Professional Learning Plans. http://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/commoncore/professional-learning-plans.pdf

This post was first published in OnCUE  Spring 2015 Vol 37 No 1 p. 23 and 26

2

Curate your own Learning

Social media is behind all of this. You can retweet and curate resources other people have shared. My Scoop-it Making Learning Personal made it all clear to me where we are going with learning. All of us can be curators of our own learning.

Scoop-it: Making Learning Personal

It’s easy to set up your Scoop-it.

Dashboard: Your dashboard keeps track of the activity:

  • Topic of the Day (whoever is the most active)

  • What’s New (your friends who started a new topic)
  • your Curated Topics (you can have as many as you want)
  • Trending Topics (most active topics)
  • Your Community (links to people who you may be following or who are following you or who have the same tags)
  • Your Stats (number of posts and views)
  • Connect to social media (you choose which ones you want to connect to)
  • Link to your profile (keeps track on the progress of your scoop-it and the topics you follow)
  • Curate: Review suggested content and Scoop-it!
    Scoop-it uses the tags you suggested to find sources from other curators. You then either remove the source, discard it (not sure of the difference yet) or Scoop-it! Your latest scoop appears in your Scoop-it which you can use the move feature to move it where you want it on the page.

    Explore: Review what’s new on the 5 topics you follow.
    Scoop-it uses your tags to find resources with the same tags. You can then rescoop any of the resources.

    Another social media tool that lets you curate your learning is Pearltrees that is a social curation community using a visual map. Just signed up so will be learning and sharing more.

    Pearltrees

    This is the first step for learners to own their learning. They get to choose the resources, but I see a problem. It’s easy to just choose anything that maybe relates to your topic. When you do a Google search, the robots and spiders return millions of resources based on your search. Using your tags Scoop-it and Pearltrees retrieve resources where others have used those tags. I’m finding I’m receiving lots of resources that have nothing to do with my tags. So I need to be very discerning and careful about reviewing the resource to make sure it is relevant to my topic.

    Let’s be real. Will young learners really do this well? This is a skill we will need to teach learners. How to be a critical curator!

    I see the need for a personal guide on the side. This is where teachers, librarians, counselors, and peers as student experts could support learners. Been thinking about this for some time. I’m a coach. Designed a coaching community (My eCoach), and see the need for some type of coach, guide or curator to your curating. Even with a guide, learners will need a new skill:

    critical curating skills

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BYOL + PLC = CoP

BYOL means Bring Your Own Laptop. I know I know – acronyms – Why? I’m trying to make a point here. If you have enough resources for each child (BYOL), then you can grow professional learning communities (PLC) with all learners. When you have these communities sprouting up around your district, you build communities of practice (CoP).

Forest Hills Local Schools in Cincinatti, OH launched their laptop program in January 2011. They focused on all 7th grade students who would bring their own computers to school or use the school’s laptops. They decided to start with a pilot program to gather data and learn what works and what didn’t work before they expanded to more grade levels across the district.

Cary HarrodI’ve known Cary Harrod (caryharrod@foresthills.edu), the Instructional Technology Specialist, for many years and knew how persistent she was to get a program like this off the ground. I remember her saying to me several years ago, “it’s all about the kids” and “how do we make change when there aren’t enough resources?”

So after I heard that Forest Hills piloted a BYOL project, I interviewed Cary last week. She shared with me how the district proposed a 1:1, where the district would purchase laptops for all students but that it was cost prohibitive for a district of 7,800 students with 6 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 2 high schools. Two years later (April 2010), they wanted the tech team to come up with something different and we decided to go BYOL. The school board and administration supported it and the technology leads researched existing 1:1 programs. They wanted to focus on digital learning that supports student-centered learning pedagogy.
@1st Centurizing Learning

A critical piece was designing a professional development plan that incorporated 21st century learning. They agreed on the importance of personal learning as the first step towards understanding the shifts occurring in education. They wanted to create a “hothouse” where great ideas begin, new methods of learning are shared and communities are rooted.

The structure included:

  • cultivating a professional learning community (Ning, Twitter, Diigo, Skype, f2f meetings)

  • providing for sustained practice and anytime learning (Ning, Twitter, Diigo, Skype)
  • modeling Inquiry Learning
  • providing coaching
  • modeling effective collaboration
  • developing Theoretical & Practical Understanding.

The district, school board, and the 7th grade administrator, Natasha Adams, developed a partnership with teachers, students, and parents to bring everyone on board. Only a small percentage were resistant. In November 2010, the district has a showcase of projects where teachers set up booths and invited parents. They also set up

CAMPL

Conversations
About
My
Personal
Learning

along with conference style tool workshops after school and on Saturdays. For all families that were included in the BYOL program, there was a mandatory session on the Nuts and Bolts of laptop maintenance and safety. Over 1,000 people attended all of the sessions.

While the professional development began with conversations about the tools, they quickly
began talking about what this will look like in the classroom.

The principal required all teachers to develop their PLN (Personal Learning Network) and read and discussed Tribes by Seth Godin. 40 teachers went through the Partnership for Powerful Learning. Forest Hills TeachersAfter spending a month on how to articulate the move from 20th century to 21st century learning, the teachers brainstormed a list of characteristics of a classroom with good teaching and good learning. They then used the characteristics to transform a 20th century lesson and give it a 21st century bent.

The pilot started with 7th grade with 559 students, 353 brought in a device. There were already 160 laptops available to lend and the rest of the parents provided their children laptops. Now that every 7th grader had a laptop, support at home, and the teachers were ready, they focused on lesson design.

Students used their devices in all subject areas and utilized the many tools available to access, manage and organize information; connect with other students and experts; and create multi-media projects.

Due to the success of the project, the program has expanded, allowing all eighth graders to bring in their own devices. Currently, over 580 students are bringing in their own device. Further expansion will occur in the 2012-2013 school year, when the program moves to grades 9-12 with a possible expansion to the elementary grades in subsequent years.

Links:
Link to BYOL
Nagel Middle School, Forest Hills Local Schools

4

Your PLN helps your PLC become a CoP

Learning can happen anywhere at anytime from anyone and anything. Your connections and any information you use are learning experiences that can help you grow personally and professionally. I wrote this article for CUE in 2009 and felt it was appropriate to update it for the ISTE 2011 Conference in 2011.  I’ll be there — very busy but learning so much from the people in my PLN.

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

There is nothing new about PLNs. They are the people and information sources that help you meet your learning goals. Building your PLN means that you not only seek to learn from others but you also help others in the network learn. Anyone can make a contribution. Your PLN can be your most powerful learning tool no matter what the subject. My PLN used to be the people I met face-to-face: the people I worked with, classes I took or taught, friends and family, organizations I joined and the information was what I googled on the Internet, in books, textbooks, or periodicals at the library. Remember how long it used to take to find what you were looking for?

Now my PLN connects me to others and to information in ways I never thought possible a few years ago. I still use Google to search for information but now I can find trends, maps, and even literature reviews. Social networks connect me to friends, work contacts, and friends of friends. I can see what they are doing in Twitter, updates on their conversations and links to new information. Facebook not only updates the status of each of my connections, I can join groups set up by friends and learn from wall posts. Here’s a diagram of some of my PLN:

Personal Learning Network

Use a mindmapping program such as Inspiration or Mindmeister to diagram your own PLN.

So how can your PLN help you build your Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

Your PLN can help you meet your personal and/or professional learning goals. A PLC is where you focus on student learning. Your PLC focuses on a specific problem area of the students in your school. Richard DuFour shares three critical questions that drive the work of the PLC:

  • What do we want each student to learn?
  • How will we know when each student has learned it?
  • How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?

We know a teacher can make a difference to the children in their classroom. However, a school may find many of the children in the entire school are falling through the cracks. The teachers in the school as a PLC can collaborate to improve or restructure how they reach at-risk students. They can analyze student data reviewing patterns and trends. Each teacher can use their PLN to research background information about specific issues brought to light from the data analysis, to ask questions of others in similar situations, to connect with other classrooms for global collaborations, and to share the findings from their PLC.

The PLC becomes a Community of Practice (CoP)

The CoP is where you take what you learned in the PLC and transfer it to practice where teachers can work together to do action research and/or lesson study. The teacher can ask “What does it take for me to change my practice to include this new learning?” This is deep, thoughtful work involving modeling new methodologies, observations from another teacher or coach, reflections on the results and process by asking what worked, what didn’t work.

Your PLN connects you to other professionals and to the information that will help you with your work in your PLC and CoP. Not only will the PLN help you, you can use your PLN to share best practices, blog reflections, and post examples of student work.

1

Making a Difference

Teachers go into teaching to make a difference. Then reality hits. This time in history is hitting everybody. 60% of Americans feel the country is in decline. State education budgets are devastated. Teachers want to make their lessons engaging but there are so many reasons or excuses that they find to go back to what is safe and easy. Actually, I’m starting to understand their position.

I’m a coach who comes into their classrooms and shares with them strategies to engage students and then I leave. I set up a way to virtually support them. What I see is a different teacher than when I worked with teachers 20 years ago. The world is different. Their training is different. The curriculum is different. The pressures they have today are overwhelming. Teachers are told to follow the pacing guide. Why are you not on page 262 on Thursday? This is impossible if you want to engage students in the learning process. Reading from a script is boring for the students and the teacher. It creates a power struggle between the teachers and the students. Teachers become more isolated in their classrooms instead of where we were going – a more collaborative network of professionals learning from each other. When you read from a script, you don’t need collaboration.

Changing the learning environment depends on the school, the administrator, and the willingness for the school community to take risks. Risk-taking and being okay with failing is the way we learn. There cannot be one right answer if we want to solve global issues.

What if we stop and rethink what school is all about. It’s all about the kids. Their future is at stake. It’s a moral issue. It needs to be about learning not teaching. Our children are not prepared for their future. Pacing guides, meeting the standards, teaching to the test, are just not enough anymore. So if you are a teacher who wants to make a difference in kid’s lives and are in a situation where you and your students talents and creativity may be stifled, there are several things you can do before you give in or give up.

  • Start your digital footprint by following people who believe in the same things as you and follow them.
  • Build your personal learning network (PLN) using social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Classroom 2.0 on Ning, and more.
  • Join My eCoach and voice your challenges and successes in the Conversation Corner. Look for projects or lessons in the eLibrary and clone and adapt any of them.
  • Write a blog or comment on people’s posts so there are trackbacks to you. Quote and link to those people who write and talk the way you want to write and talk. I welcome your comments and invite you to follow me.
  • Attend conferences virtually if you cannot go to the conferences in person. Some conferences include: K12 Online Conference, Connecting Online Conference (CO11), Global Education Conference, and Educon 2.3. If the conferences are over, then watch the archives.
  • Check out collaborative global projects like iEARN, Global Schoolhouse, and ePals. Your students want to make a difference too and need a way to connect the curriculum to the real world.
  • Find, clone, or create and implement one lesson that infuses some creativity as a replacement unit. You can use the Universal builder — it’s easy. Or use Google Sites or Wikispaces. Just take a risk to publish online.
  • Capture moments using digital media of students working on a unit without creativity and comparing it with the replacement unit. If you don’t have a camera, ask your coach to capture it for you.

Start small. Change takes time. Learning is all about change. Learning never ends. It means that your students as  learners want to grow and add skills or knowledge to what they know and do to reach their learning goals. You are their co-learner, guide, coach, mentor… facilitating the process. They may not have goals so you may be guiding them to learn how to question, be a critical thinker and problem solver. Your learning never ends either. That’s why you are reading this.

To be an agent of change (that’s what this type of teacher is), you cannot do it alone. Ask for help. Find a coach or mentor to work with you on the backend. A coach is there to guide you to success. It only takes starting with one project. It may not be an overwhelming success where you see gigantic breakthroughs, but take into account the tone in your classroom– where it is and where you want it to go. You still may need to do direct instruction. The forces and atmosphere are still traditional teaching and direct instruction but this is where you can make a difference.

One teacher at a time — One classroom at a time — One PLN at a time –All of us sharing why we need to change so we have evidence — real evidence that this works.

So what does success look like to you? How are you making a difference in a child’s life? How can we help you?

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