Effective Professional Learning

I like a good challenge.

Stephen Hurley threw out one yesterday in the VOICED.CA blog.  His post was titled “Effective Professional Learning – A New Topic For Discussion“.  So, I’ll throw in my two cents worth.  Thanks for the challenge, Stephen.

I actually shared my thoughts about this at edcampSWO/edcampLondon last year and at the Ontario Teachers’ Federation Minds on Media session in Markham this summer.  The talk was called “The Best PD”.

I framed my thoughts by going in the other direction.  What was the least effective professional learning experience?  That was actually an easier topic to address.  I have so many visions of presenters who have little vested in my learning.

Their sessions were filled with comments like:

  • “I got this Powerpoint from a session I was at.”;
  • “I’m not quite sure what they were talking about but I’m sure it was important”;
  • “They’re the expert in the field.  So, we should blindly adopt their work without question.”

All the while, they’re reading from prepared notes – perhaps even the speaking notes from the borrowed Powerpoint – and visibly trembling because they are just not sure of the topic or what’s coming next.  And hoping that nobody asks questions!

Let’s flip the perspective and get back to Stephen’s challenge.

It’s everything BUT this!

For me, the blogging model describes some of the best professional learning I’ve experienced.

  • I’m there learning by choice;
  • I can take a long time to learn or a short time depending upon my needs;
  • I can bookmark the learning and revisit it if necessary.  It doesn’t have to be a one-time event;
  • I can compare one person’s interpretation with another and draw my own conclusions;
  • The author has done her/his research and is speaking from personal experience;
  • The author conveys his/her enthusiasm and passion from the topic.  (Bonus points for pictures, videos, screen captures of the topic in actual action);
  • I can interact with the author via comments – if I want more clarification, I can get it;
  • There are links to additional resources to extend the learning;
  • I’m inspired to change my practice or my thoughts because I see the value for me;
  • and, most importantly, I can expand my network of learners by making contact with others who are engaged at the blog and presumably have the same interest in the topic.

If I think about these points, I can completely understand why I take away great learning at a conference, at an edcamp, at a coffee shop, or during a break at one of those least effective events.

Wouldn’t the blogging model go a long way to support learning for all?

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