Professional Learning

 After I wrote yesterday’s post, I was working on the September ECOO mailing that will serve to promote the Bring IT, Together conference on November 5-7 in Niagara Falls.  It will be sent to all ECOO members and I’ll post it here once it goes out.  So, as I write this, I’ll be up front – this is about posting to my blog but it’s also an awareness piece for the conference.  I’m co-chairing the conference with my friend Cyndie Jacobs and we have just a wonderful group of volunteers making it happen.

Anyway, as I was writing the message, I wanted to make sure that I included a link to the Lanyrd site so that people could see the various conference offerings.  I was humbled to think that there are 275 presenters currently listed and over 200 events offered for registration.  Even at that, and we’ve added two more presentation spaces this year, there are something like 150 sessions that we couldn’t find room for at the Scotiabank Convention Centre.

My mind wanders again and I think about some of the blogs that I’ve read over the years with titles like:

  • My students taught me everything I know about technology;
  • It’s not about the technology;
  • Today’s kids know so much about technology;
  • I let my kids fail so that they can learn;

You get the idea, I’m sure.  They are nice titles and an invitation to read to see what the author is talking about.

When you peel back the skin from the onion, there’s a common thread that rolls through there.  The authors are pretty savvy technology using teachers themselves.  They know what’s possible and what’s not.  They know the difference between right and wrong.  They know what the promise of technology can deliver.  They’re constant learners themselves.

My mind wanders again and I have this image from a textbook we had at the Faculty of Education.  The author was Guy R. Lefrancois and the title was “Psychology for teaching: a bear rarely faces the front“.  What made the book unique was the inclusion of comics to reinforce his points.  There was one comic that I distinctly remember, on the topic of discovery learning, of a teacher talking to students and the caption read something like “OK, students…go out and discover a way to make teacher rich.”  I’m looking at my active bookshelf and don’t see it.  It’s probably out in the garage in the archives.  Rats!  It would have been nice to include the visual.

I recall a discussion I had at edCampSWO with a friend who made reference to the “fail” blog post and her comment was “My kids aren’t as good as theirs.  If I let them have free rein, who knows what would happen?”

Therein, as Paul Harvey would have said “is the rest of the story”.

You don’t turn 30 students loose on the internet with new whatever technology and hope that magic happens.  A good teacher “sets the table” and defines the conditions for success.  Even the students that fail, fail within the scope of the lesson.  They may come to the table with their self-taught magnificent skill set, some of it which may be foreign to the teacher, and apply these skills appropriately.  In that respect, the use of technology is no different than planning an art lesson where you make available the resources that will ensure success.

But free rein?  Hardly.

To really put that in perspective, take a read of this story from Graham Cluley’s security blog Hackers plotted fake Flappy Bird app to steal girls’ photos from Android phones“.  If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you and inspire the need to have well designed lessons, I don’t know what will.  Do these self-taught skills that are brought to the table by students include knowing digital safety, staying focused on the task, becoming engaged in the classroom activity?  If you haven’t done so, read Sophia Mavridi’s wonderful post “Student Engagement – with or without technology“.

How do you engage?  Where do you get ideas?

That’s where meeting with other professionals at an edCamp or ECOO conference or at your district’s professional learning event can be so valuable.  I’ve mentioned many times that teaching is a lonely profession.  It was reinforced being the only computer science teacher at your school.  How do you know that what you’re doing is right if you have nobody to compare notes with?  More importantly, how do you know in what areas to grow and push yourself?  Hopefully, you have a plan.  If not, you need to connect with the right group of learners.

In yesterday’s post about the infusion of technology in Ontario, one of my questions was about professional learning opportunities.  The technology, by itself, will not do the magic.  It’s your professionalism that will make the difference.  As if we had this planned, a professional that I look up to for my personal inspiration – Peter Skillen, commented on my post from yesterday and shared a blog post of his own from a few months back. “Another Brick in the Wall“.  Take a read and see if that doesn’t inspire.

What are your professional learning plans?

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