I am currently attending the Consortiuum of School Networking Conference (CoSN) in Washington DC and had the pleasure this morning to attend an excellent session on the future of “long-term embedded teacher professional development”. The session was led by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach who described a world where teachers build their own learning networks. Having listened to their presentation I was in violent agreement with them on many fronts as they described a world where teachers are using the Internet to take control of their own learning. They are involved in a project entitled the Powerful Learning Practice, which at its core is the notion that we need to equip teachers with the skills to direct their own learning. They used the terms “passion-based learning” on a number of occasions and recommended we start there to get teachers interested in Web 2.0 tools. And it does not have to be school related – imagine someone in your school who is interested in mountain biking, well get them started finding blogs, wikis and podcasts on this topic. We just need to get them started.
Will pointed out that the skills teachers require for today’s world are changing and gave the example of the standards published on the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) website which expects English teachers to cater to the needs of the 21st century students in their classrooms. Richardson noted that we need to reach a point where English teachers are self-evaluating their own skills against the standards and then plotting a “self-directed” learning path for themselves. Teachers are empowered to go on such a journey with others, they are not alone – and they use a range of social networking tools. Tools such as Blogs, Wikis, podcasts, YouTube and Twitter to name but a few. Twitter he observed is his number one tool for Professional Development, which was a wake up call for me as I have been wondering for sometime about to use this tool in meaningful ways! Will observed that it is great for sharing reports, videos and podcasts that you find useful with your virtual network and as someone who is constantly grazing Blogs, YouTube videos and podcasts I need to start tweeting. I will start over again today.
I think TeachNet is doing alot of the things mentioned in Will’s and Sheryl’s talk but we can do more to provide Irish teachers with access to a wider network of learners from around the world. We plan to explore how we can link with the Powerful Learning Practice network and see how we can collaborate more in the future. So take some time to visit Sheryl’s Wiki where you will find the slides from today and you can embark on your own learning journey.