Professional Learning

I had a conversation recently with a person who has the job of Computer Trainer.  Ever the smart alec, I asked what this person trained the computer to do.  I was corrected – the goal was to train teachers.  Interesting.

It’s a term that has always bothered me.  I use the example all the time that we train dogs and we train cats.  But, do we train teachers?  My mind goes back to university and the work of B.F.Skinner.  I’ll never forget the video of the pigeons playing ping pong in their own way.

As a leader in research in how people learn, Skinner did offer insights about how to operantly condition desired behaviours.  In fact, I’m doing my best with our new puppy.  It can be a challenge to find those moments where you can give a little positive reinforcement.

But, do we want to learn computer skills this way?  Skinner had some thoughts about that as well.  Can you remember his teaching machine?

It isn’t a big leap to imagine a modern computer lab where teachers are sitting in front of a machine doing the current electronic version of this.  Purchase the software and we could abdicate any responsibility for ensuring success and just call it self-paced learning.

There really is so much to be learned to stay somewhat current in today’s technology world.  The examples above, and I’m sure that you’re imagining others, it seems to me are all based on the premise that the leader knows all and that the learner knows nothing.  Is that really true?  Perhaps in the case of the pigeon, but…

We all bring our attitudes, skills, and knowledge to any learning environment.  In that respect, training just doesn’t cut it.  The focus should be on professional development and based upon the knowledge that participants aren’t necessarily blank slates.  These learning sessions should honour all that everyone brings to the learning and build upon it.

Nowhere does this become more evident than when you turn to an environment like Twitter as a vehicle for learning.  At 140 characters, you’ll certainly not get every single step spelled out for you.  In fact, at 140 characters at a time, the learning may not even be delivered in the most expedient manner.  I would submit though that the learning is incredibly powerful.  Not only are you developing your abilities, but you’re making the connections necessary for continued learning should you need it.

There are pretty smart people building on this and other technologies that allow for continuous, powerful professional development online.  A constant question is “Why can’t this be considered a course or an upgrading course?”

Why can’t it?

I think of the myriad of things that I’ve learned online and continually to learn daily motivated by my own desire to learn and understand.  These smart people need to find a way to bottle this.  Imagine a learning environment where we respect all people for learning that fits their immediate needs.  Imagine a learning environment where the face to face meetings are consolidation events instead of the main course!

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3 Replies to “Professional Learning”

  1. I keep reading about artists and novelists who receive grants from Governments to write and create their next big thing. Why can’t this apply to teachers who learn by themselves and share their learning through blog posts and twitter feeds? Surely we’re saving them a ton of money already, but really, we deserve some financial incentive too. Doing all of this for ‘free’ has an impact on so many other parts of our lives.

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  2. I was only half joking with @danikabarker last week when I said I was going to write a post after I finished my MEd called “Most of this I’ve already learned from Twitter.”

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  3. Great post Doug! I’ve been having a back-and-forth for the last day or so with @shannoninottawa @adriander12 and @haledogg about the Annual Learning Plan (ALP) for teachers and why there is so much resistance to it, whether from OSSTF (as Chris suggests) or the individual teachers. I suggest that it’s not that teachers do not want to (or cannot) articulate their own professional growth with the ALP, it’s more in the ‘how’ of the implementation of the process. As with most initiatives from Mount Mowat, this comes down from the powers that be.

    Wouldn’t it be great if teachers could choose their own professional growth with their PLN from Twitter??

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