I have been a teacher for 30 years, and have both attended and presented many CPD events (known as “courses” in the olden days!). Most of these have been devised and presented to teachers, who attend, participate to various degrees, evaluate, and leave. Evaluations almost always highlight that people like learning what other teachers are doing, and sometimes the most valuable part of the course is the informal social learning that takes place during rest breaks!
I was stopped in my tracks and caused to reflect on this recently. A tweet from @mhallissy pointed towards a Weblogg-ed blog post by leading 21st century edublogger Will Richardson (@willrich45). He spoke of teachers and learning communities, who were “directing their own learning”. This concept wasn’t new to me, but the acronym he used to describe is was one I found remarkable – DIYPD!
On reflection, I realized that most of my own CPD in the last two years has been totally DIY. There are four places I have found my teacher education (areas of interest – science and ICTs) has taken place, in a mixture of virtual and face to face, formal and informal learning. One thing they all have in common is that they are a two way street – you can get and you can give. Here they are, in the order in which I encountered them…
CESI-list: This Google Group was set up by the Computers in Education Society of Ireland as an open forum for its membership. Membership is drawn from all levels and areas of education, so the variety of question, answer, argument, ideas and information is terrific, mostly useful, and at times highly entertaining. I receive the postings as emails, so whenever I check my email I usually learn something new and interesting.
TeachMeet online: These Scottish-born semi-formal unconference events can be attended in person, but they really have become DIY lately – one can sign up and attend online. The short and snappy presentations are by teachers who highlight what’s going well for them in class. Most TMs concentrate on use of ICTs, but more recently have been organised around subject areas. Attending online is a surreal experience at first, but gets to be good fun when the back room chatting begins between online attendees. Recently I signed into a TM in Blackpool – mainly because they had Professor Stephen Heppel as a presenter. Over the evening I (i)“met” a UK colleague who also teaches second-level science – immediate learning for me as we began to swap links and ideas in the chat room (ii)learned how other teachers use favourites such as StoryBird, Wordle, PhotoStory, PoissonRouge, PowerPoint, Scratch and Alice with their classes and (iii) found many brand new ideas, all free, to try out – the most arresting being from a primary teacher who uses myebooks to allow students to build their own online books as they learn. TeachMeet events are flagged here.
CESI Meets: CESI has taken the TeachMeet formula to Ireland, tweaked it slightly, and the result is good. Short presentations (2 or 7 minutes) by teachers for teachers, and a great social occasion thrown in. I have attended (in person or online) all four CESI Meets to date which have been presided over by @magsamond, @johnmayo and @annemcm in various venues – Maldron Hotel Tallaght, Digital Hub, Heritage Hotel Portlaoise, Anner Hotel Thurles, and I certainly have learned a lot at each one. Those links will give you a flavour of what goes on. Rumour has it there may be one in Kerry in the Autumn term.
Twitter: The ultimate DIYPD tool if ever there was one. I have found that it is like having a whole team of researchers who don’t asked to be paid. I’ve already mentioned a few teachers I follow above, others are @lismiss, @seomraranga, @simonmlewis, @joedale, @ncteireland, @teachnet, @tektweets, @physicsteacher and @ted. These generous souls share with others what they have found useful for the classroom. Sometimes that’s all a busy teacher wants to know!
So, CPD for me is no longer something handed down from on high and passively received – and I am so glad to know I am not the only one. To happily mis-quote the song: “teachers are doing it for themselves”. Come along and join in.