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Teaching the way we learn the best

An off hand comment by Miguel Guhlin has been niggling at me for the past week or so. In response to my blog entry about using Web 2.0 tools to foster Professional Learning Communities, he suggested: I like your list, but I think you need to be more subversive about it.

I thought I was being subversive by embedding these new technologies into staff development activities in non-technology related areas. Here's why...

doris-day-teacher's-pet3.jpgThe old adage says that teachers teach the way they've been taught. But I believe it is more accurate to say that teachers teach the way they themselves learn. And unless teachers have had the opportunity to learn in new ways, it is unlikely they will teach in new ways.

So by helping teachers learn with the help of technology, the likelihood of them using it with students increases. My real goal is not to help teachers themselves learn by using technology, but to get them to use it with their students after they realize the benefit as learners themselves. (Real goal does not equal stated goal = subversion.)

It's my perception that learning opportunities for practicing teachers still primarily take the form of classes where lecture, or at best lecture/discussion, is the primary means of teaching. Too often staff development opportunities still resemble boot camps of a week of summer classes. Too often there is but a single method that is acceptable of how teachers can learn and narrow range of what is considered acceptable to learn. Too often technology skills are taught in isolation. All the same traditional methods we use with kids, we also use with adults.

Here are my modest suggestions for improving staff development in all areas, not just technology training:

  • Clearly articulated expectation of teacher competencies. We have worked on clear, high standards for students. Why not for adults as well? The ISTE NETS for Teachers standards are a good start, but they need to be made more concrete, more readily assessed. The CODE 77 rubrics do this. (These will undergo revision this summer to reflect new Web 2.0 skills.)
  • IEPs for teachers to meet those competencies. Every teacher is different both in learning styles and in the skills that need to be acquired. Therefore every individual teacher needs his or her own learning plan - or professional growth plan. One model can be found in the second half of this article from Leading and Learning.
  • Project-based learning activities. Teachers need to experience project-based learning, learning by creating an actual useful product, if they are going to ask students to do this.
  • Authentic assessments of teacher work. In the past, we have asked teachers to create portfolios that contain examples of the work they have produced using technology along with reflections about their experiences. Which leads to greater self-assessment, recognition of growth and other nice things.
  • Accountability. The principal or other supervisor needs to take staff development seriously and hold all teachers accountable for the successful completion of what ever plan they've designed. We've designed our program so that teachers do not get new computers unless they agree to complete training. Simple as that.
  • Work in teams. Professional growth plans should be able to be not just individual efforts, but reflect group goals. All good strategies that go into designing successful classroom group work need to be used here as well.
  • A chance for reflection. This may be the most exciting thing about professional learning communities when they are set up correctly - that they encourage constructive reflection about educational practices. (As well as a venue for group work.) This is where blogging seems to fit so well.

We can talk about constructivist-based education, inquiry and information literacy units, 21st century skills, problem-based learning, formative and authentic assessments, etc. ad infinitum. But until we give teachers a means to experience these methodologies to increase their own learning, I don't anticipate much change in the their classrooms.


Groucho on Wikipedia

171932Groucho-Marx-Posters.jpgI would not want to rely on any encyclopedia that would accept me as a contributor.

This is the advice librarian Martin Swist  at The American School In Japan gives his students. I love it!


Shuffling towards geezerdom


midjeff1.jpgA beautiful, wet Sunday here on the lake. I got the lawn mowed yesterday just before the rain started. And I was inordinately happy that I managed to get this one over on mother nature until it occurred to me that "lawn pride" is just one more sign that my geezerdom is not just close, but may well have arrived. This entire past week seemed filled with such portentous signs:

  • I thought my workshops down in Olathe, Kansas, were going pretty well. Until I noticed one lunchtime that I had given the entire morning's workshop with two large coffee stains on the front of my white dress shirt. While I do remember drinking coffee that morning, I don't remember there being any spillage. Please tell me I haven't become one of those pathetic old men who routinely sport stained clothes, miss great swatches of whiskers shaving, and wear their trousers with an over-the-belly at the waist and high-water at the cuff look.
  • I appreciated Will Richardson's Note to Myself blog entry about unplugging and doing things more important than blogging.
  • Which one needed babysitting last Memorial Day weekend? The 18 month old or his grandfather?
  • I am re-reading Neal Stephenson's book Snow Crash. When the LWW asked if I liked it as well the second time, I couldn't really tell her since I remembered so little about it from the first reading. It is a great book that is prescient about MUVE's, global information systems and the privatization of government services.
  • I spent yesterday morning doing helping my Kiwanis Club clean the trash out of our two-mile section of road ditch just south of Mankato. Who'd of thunk it would be so much fun to do a civic-minded volunteer program with these codgers? And then to join them at the coffee shop afterward to grouch about the piggishness of the human race? roadcrew.jpg




  • At least I got to a party populated by glamorous, witty people on Saturday night at a beautiful beach house. Oh, yeah, it was in Second Life and I attended wearing my bathrobe and in my recliner . (Thanks to Victoria and Viparious for the nice time.)
So how does the old expression go again - "Getting old's a bitch... but it beats the alternative"?
I remember social anthropologist Jennifer James once explain why old people have a "the world's going to hell in a hand basket" mentality. At some point, all of us recognize our own mortality and we find it easier to acknowledge if we think we are leaving a world that is getting worse rather than better. At least I am not there yet - I think the world's still getting better. Not fast enough for sure, but better.
And there are some definite advantages to getting older, believe it or not.
  • If one enjoys watching young women, one's definition of "young" encompasses a vastly larger percentage of the population.
  • There seem to be fewer and fewer "hills worth dying on" at work. That leaves one time and energy to engage in the important things.
  • One can relax knowing that one's potential for becoming a professional athlete, musician or porn star are long past.
  • It's a pleasant change to worry more about the lack of time than the lack of money in one's life.
  • In athletic events, one doesn't have to finish first, just finish, for people to be astounded.
  • It's fun to tease one's spouse about all the mailings she's getting from AARP.
  • Shoes can be purchases based on comfort, not looks. (Oh, I guess I have always done that.
  • One word: Grandchildren.
  • Mid-life crisis  - been there, done that. Moving on.
  • With all one's children over 21, one is responsible only for one's own mistakes.
  • One is expected to complain about one's aches and pains.
So far this aging thing, I'm happy to say, has been a lot more good than bad. I hope to be a problem to others for at least another 20 years.