Friday, June 7, 2013

Reflection on my personalized PD

It's the first day of the holidays and I'm in a reflective mood.  As I look back over the past year I do it with a feeling of satisfaction, with the feeling that a lot was accomplished and a lot was learned and the knowledge that I have developed in many different directions as an educator.  At this time last year, I was reflecting too.  I was reflecting on my experiences in a very different place, on what I had learned about myself, about what I could and couldn't accept, about the kind of school where I wanted to work and the kind of school where I knew I would never work again.  I was reflecting on how when people respect, value and support you that you are motivated to work hard and achieve your best, and that when they don't - well, it's pretty soul-destroying.

Over this past year I have learned so many different things, basically by being in control of my own professional development and by being encouraged to grow and become a better educator.  I did a 10 week photography course through ASB's Online Academy - and I then went on to teach students about photography in our Day 9 initiative.  I learned about how to use data to inform decision making by doing a DataWise workshop with Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.  I trained to be an IB online workshop leader and then went on to facilitate 3 online workshops over the course of the year.  I completed 2 Google MOOCs on searching and advanced power searching and I was a presenter at Google's first ever India Summit.  That same month I also presented at a very different conference - Teach For India's InspirED about assessment techniques that DIDN'T use technology.  Through the R&D team I've investigated internships and prototyped BYOM.  I did a course through ASB's Online Academy in Creativity, Curriculum and Multimedia and another online course on the 5Ws of Personalized Learning.  I also participated in the Flat Classroom Leadership Workshop and learned a lot more about the brain and learning at ASB's Un-Plugged Impact Conference.  I considered doing a MAE in Educational Leadership, but on balance decided I didn't have enough time to do this along with all the other areas that I wanted to grow in professionally. I decided I'm more of a "Lonely Planet" kind of learner, rather than the "Club Med" type.  I'm happy to read about and put together my own itinerary of learning to make a personal PD plan for myself, rather than taking a university master's package.  I feel that my approach takes me where I want to go, to explore the things I'm really interested in.  I feel that I've learned more in one year - and have been able to share and give back that learning - than I have in the previous three.

Today I had the luxury of time.  I've come back to Switzerland to visit friends and spent the morning sitting on the balcony enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and spectacular views of the mountains and I had the time to read the latest edition of ISTE's Learning & Leading with Technology.  Because I have just finished the 5Ws of Personalized Learning course, I was interested to read the article by the workshop leaders, Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey.  The very first sentence jumped out at me - because it applies to both our students and our teachers:
Over the past 100 - or even 1,000 - years, learners haven't changed much.  They have always learned in their own unique and variable ways.  What has changed is technology ... now, perhaps for the first time, we have the ability to meet learners where they are, to teach them all in the ways that they learn best, and to facilitate optimal learning experiences for everyone, anytime and anywhere.
As Barbara and Kathleen go on to mention, the idea of personalized learning (or personalized PD) is focused on the learner's motivation, engagement and voice.  Next year our aim is to personalize PD for all our teachers, based on the needs that have emerged through our recent tech audit.  I've been considering how Open Badges might be used as digital backpacks as teachers build their own professional ePortfolios.  Although Barbara and Kathleen have focused on student learning, I feel that what they write is equally applicable to teachers - they too (just like I have done this year) need to be able to own their learning and to have voice and choice in how they learn. The first step is that all learners need to be coached so that they understand how they learn best.  Once they know this, then can start to "acquire the skills to choose and use the tools that work best for their learning qualities" and self-direct their own learning.

So today I started to think about what I want to learn next year.  As I was browsing for ideas I came across the new free Coursera Teacher Professional Development courses, which are 3 - 5 week courses that run throughout the year, each course taking between 2 - 4 hours per week to complete.  The first one I signed up for was Coaching Teachers:  Promoting Changes that Stick.  I quickly found another that also seemed interesting entitled On the Hunt for Feedback:  Self-Directed Teacher Improvement.  Here are some others that I'm considering:

  • Student Thinking at the Core - this course explores how teachers can capitalize on what students bring to the classroom - their ideas, perceptions, and misunderstandings - to advance the learning of all students in the class.
  • Foundations of Virtual Instruction - learn what it takes to teach a K-12 online course.  Investigate the history of virtual education, explore innovative tools, and examine key issues related to K-12 virtual instruction.
  • Emerging Trends and Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom - investigate how we can more deeply engage students in the virtual classroom through the use of innovative practices and technologies.
  • Tinkering Fundamentals:  Integrating Making Activities into your STEM Classroom - research-based insights into design principles and learning indicators related to high-quality STEM-rich tinkering.
So as one year ends, I've already started thinking about what I can do for next year to move forward and become the best educator that I can be, and I'm thankful beyond words that I am in a school that encourages and supports teachers moving forward through personalized professional development.

Photo Credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML via Compfight cc


  1. Hello Ms. Maggie,

    The views you´ve expressed in your article reminds me of Sugata Mitra´s talk at TED -

    Its quite interesting how controlled self-learning can actually deliver quite impressive results.

    Like you said, ´´I feel that I've learned more in one year - and have been able to share and give back that learning - than I have in the previous three.´´

    BTW, monsoon has started here in Mumbai. Enjoy your time in the amazing Alps.

  2. Thanks Allan, I think I brought the sun with me from Mumbai. I heard this was only the 2nd sunny day here during the whole of 2013 and also that in Mumbai it was raining - so I'm glad I flew here overnight yesterday before the monsoon started. BTW I'm interested in how you found my blog - I see you are a photographer and not an educator.

  3. Great reflection which will be an inspiration for a lot of teachers. I found your post from Twitter. Edna Sackson who's part of my PLN shared the link.
    Didn't find you on Twitter - thats a great place for Personal(ized) PD

  4. Hi Ove, I agree - one of my colleagues refers to Twitter as DIY PD. I am also on Twitter (@MumbaiMaggie).