Sunday, December 28, 2014

A year of professional learning

This is my final blog post as I reflect back on the things I’ve been thinking and learning about in 2014. My biggest learning last year came in the area of coaching, which I have found to be truly transformative. Other ideas that I’ve been exploring over the past year include flipped learning, global trends, technology trends in education and leadership. This post is about professional development and how we have moved forward with professional learning at ASB.

This year in R&D I was part of the task force looking at PD 3.0. We were charged with developing a new model of professional growth and development for schools for the future. The task force began the year by reading about PD and collecting data on what was the current situation with PD at ASB. We did surveys and interviews of our own teachers and leaders, as well as those working in schools around the world, about successful and effective PD practices. During the year we also prototyped a PlayDate model as one form of learning that could be incorporated in a new model. A PlayDate is an unconference where teachers and assistants can get together to explore and play with new technology tools with a view to exploring how to use it with students. We held our first PlayDate in the Elementary School in February and prior to this sent out a survey to find out what everyone was interested in exploring. We came up with 8 different tools or types or technologies and found 8 volunteers to facilitate the learning spaces. The participants were free to choose where to go and when to move between the spaces. They were also able to go to a break-out space with colleagues if the 8 options offered didn't meet their needs. At the end we sent out a survey which resulted in excellent feedback: 98% responded that they had learned something new and 96% said that they want to explore another tool that they did not have time for during the PlayDate. About 40% of our faculty said that after this session they are confident to use at least one app or tool that they have never used before. 74% said it was more engaging than most other PD experiences and 26% said it was the most engaging PD format they have ever experienced. We were very encouraged that many of the responses asked for more - as there are many more tools they wanted to explore. Based on the success of the PlayDate we have held further PlayDates in the Middle and Secondary Schools this year.

In September we presented our PD 3.0 report. One of the things that was central to our proposal was a change of wording: from professional development to professional learning. We also strongly believed that professional learning needs to be personalized. The Professional Learning 3.0 model is a flipped model in which the individual “owns” his or her learning. Learners keep their own records of personal learning throughout the year in the form of blogs, journals, portfolios, videos or other forums to record and reflect upon professional growth. We also felt it is important that each learner develops and maintains a flexible professional learning network. This may include colleagues at their school and others outside the school. These flexible PLNs would naturally change over time along with the learners professional learning needs and pursuits.

One of the suggestions for improving PD is that it needs to be focused around the 4Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. These are not really skills that are focused on by colleges of education/teacher training and so the chances are that many teachers have not had much training in these 21st century skills. One of the things we did over the last year was to review and refigure the roles of our personnel to make them more focused on PD, and this also included the appointment of 10 tech integration coaches. During the 2013-14 school year we had already started to personalized PD based on our previous year’s tech audit. We collected and analyzed student artifacts in order to examine the rigor of technology use, and then we shared this information with our teachers in order to create a PD plan personalized to the needs of each of them. This has been further developed during the past year with the tech integration coaches, who meet individually with each teacher to discuss progress towards goals with the aim of helping them achieve the goals they have set. Peer coaching is something that has proved so far to be very successful. Rather than hiring new personnel, we identified teachers who have the most potential for serving as peer coaches and then trained them as coaches. Generally these coaches have strong communication and collaboration skills and know about best practices in tech integration. We did not expecting them to be experts, they are collaborators and facilitators and most important of all they are co-learners.

This year we have also been talking about ASB as a center for lifelong learning. We pride ourselves on being a center of learning for students, educators and thought leaders from around the world, in an environment where all members are constantly in pursuit of personal and professional growth and development. In addition we have continued to build global communities of learners and researchers through sharing data, content, tools and ideas with colleagues and schools around the world. ASB also hosts a range of educational conferences and learning events, from our Maker Saturdays, TRAI Summits, Global Social Entrepreneurship Summits and TEDx ASB events for students, to conferences such as ASB Un-Plugged, Future Forwards, InspirED and the Google Summits for educators from India and around the world.

Looking back at 2014 I feel that we have come a long way in both our understanding and implementation of professional learning at ASB, and with more PD already planned for 2015, I’m excited that the learning is going on and on.

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