In part 1, Teachers are doing it for themselves - PLD that is! we explored the upsurgence of emerging communities of practice and increased opportunities for online professional learning - in organised online communities as well as personal learning networks, using social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Ning, VLN and Pond. It is fast becoming recognised we are in an emerging paradigm where learning isn’t confined to time and space, rather with the access to social learning tools, we can blend and ‘flip’ our learning to access PLD whenever, wherever we want. In this post, we ask, Are these forms of online PLD superficial or can they lead to transformative practice for teachers and leaders?
In What makes for effective PLD (12 July), Derek Wenmoth blogged about shared issues faced by teachers in regards to authentic and effective PLD.
“...teachers are time poor, the overloaded curriculum, lack of expertise, reluctance to change etc.”
Derek goes to to discuss his thoughts around what constitutes effective professional learning and development for teachers and by drawing on influences from key research offers:
It is in-depth
It is provided over time
It is related to practice
It is contextually relevant
and 5. it involves collaboration. Derek also indicates for PLD to be effective, it needs to be ‘targeted and relevant to teacher needs, [and] teacher-owned or initiated’. Questions remain; does this still mean localised PLD, delivered in real time, or all - at once? Surely the influence of new technologies and growing professional learning networks challenges these traditional notions?
Karen Melhuish’s in-depth research on, Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ p... has a rigorous focus on how the Virtual Learning Network groups can, “enable user-generated, effective professional learning.” (p 7) Her thesis outlines the significance of blended online professional learning, the literature that sits behind effective professional learning and the affordances social learning networks can offer to support sustainable, life-long learning. Outcomes from this research, show that there is a growing number of educators who recognise the need to connect socially and are enthusiastically engaging in informal, self-driven PLD which has resulted in their goals being realised.
Melhuish also reflects, “In addition, it would have been interesting to track the development of knowledge through the system in relationship to specific activities and their outcomes.” (P 180, Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ p...) Collecting cumulative data to show a causal effect between engaging online and actual ‘Realised value’ - where new knowledge construction, effective practice, critical analysis and reflection are evident, might be a good place to start.
Over the past four years, we have seen the number of members and their interactions grow in the Enabling e-Learning groups in the Virtual Learning Network. Conversations have varied from responsive to reflective. Over the next coming months, we’d like to explore how online communities and personal learning networks are relevant to both teachers’ and students’ learning and will endeavor to visibly highlight stories (such as Leading learning and responsive PLD at Ngatea Primary School | A le...) that reflect future-focused trends in a cycle of inquiry. We hope these will demonstrate specific instances where effective, blended PLD has brought or is bringing about transformative change to teaching and/or leadership practice.
If these formal and informal learning opportunities can bypass traditional constraints of time, accessibility, budgets and relevance while also adding value for educators, then the challenge remains to encourage learning organisations to provide flexible, personalised, sustainable learning opportunities for teachers – who also have diverse, individualised learning needs. Leaders of future-focused schools need to be responsive about how they meet those needs. As Melhuish writes,
“Educators need to understand how to strategically integrate networks such as the VLN Groups into their professional inquiries, and schools need to explore more deeply what potential exists for teachers to be both strategic and self-driven, in an era when information and colleagues beyond school are easier to reach.” (p 181, Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ p...)
How have you or your organisation encouraged teacher-initiated PLD using non-traditional methodologies? We’d love to hear more.
I currently work for CORE Education in the Te Toi Tupu consortium as the online facilitator for Enabling e-Learning. A big part of my role, is to help build a sense of community identity in the VLN/EEL community groups space. I'm there to help support partnerships within our professional network - which includes brokering relationships within and beyond the VLN/EEL groups.
I'm also there to support community members mentor others online, as we share opinions, ideas, resource and teacher reflections - that will enhance learning opportunities for all our learners. Conversations and live events have a priority focus on the effective role of e-learning in education. These will happen largely within the Enabling e-Learning community groups. Come join me there!
Add a Comment