Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's All About Learning

I’ve been recently working with district and building professional development plans in addition to re-examining how we do professional development at MNW. Our board has always been very supportive of our inservices because they know they are a critical component to improving. Our professional development goal has always been to increase teachers’ knowledge and skills to improve student learning. That will remain the same.

As I reviewed and learned more about current best practices in professional development, I found a quote by Linda Darling-Hammond that sums it up well. She says, “Effective professional development is intensive, ongoing, and connected to practice; focuses on the teaching and learning of specific content (reading, math, science, social studies);…and builds strong working relationships among teachers.

With that in mind, here are the bullet points of professional learning at MNW:
• All staff participate—it’s not optional
• We choose our content based on what students need. In other words, what do teachers need as a result of what students need?
• Our collaborative teams meet to discuss and analyze what’s happening in the classroom as a result of what teachers are learning and implementing.
• Our initiatives are based on current best practice and are implemented as they were intended.
• Everyone, including teachers and administrators are committed to sustaining our efforts. Our efforts are ongoing.
• Although there is a K12 focus, the inservices meet the needs of the students and teachers in individual buildings.

Where does technology fit into professional development? Technology integration comes with a high learning curve for some staff members. We appreciate this and have had many technology rich inservices as well as informal summer learning sessions (see my August blog post). We believe integrating technology with sound pedagogy is at the heart of authentic learning and preparing students for success in the 21st Century. Integrating technology is also part of our K12 Vision for Teaching and Learning. While technology is new and exciting and very engaging for students, it’s important to keep the goal in mind—student learning.

I recently participated in a live, interactive web interview with George Siemens, a social media strategist and learning theorist. He talked about technology integration and suggested that whenever you partner technology with anything, for example student learning, technology becomes the dominant partner. If this is true, we must be very careful about what our technology integration looks like. It should be based on the strong content of the Iowa Core and implemented with a sound instructional foundation such as the Characteristics of Effective Instruction.

Even though there is some angst around the technology integration and a 21st Century Learning emphasis, there is also excitement with students and teachers alike. I think most teachers will agree that we are learning with and from each other. Our professional development is about learning. Our inservices are learning environments.

Henry Ford says, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” Since I consider myself a learner first and an educator second, does that mean I’ve stopped growing old? If that’s the case, anyone want to join me?

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