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Educators as Learners (a navel gazing post) - cross-blogged from thebelbird.blogspot.com

In my opinion, navel gazing is part of being a reflective practitioner. Over the last few months, a few pennies have been dropping for me, and I have decided I will share these 'aha' moments with you.

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For some time I have been thinking about the concept of truly modelling in professional development what we want to see in classrooms. We want to see group work, UDL, learner directed activities - let's do this in PLD. We want to see modern learning pedagogy, flipped learning - we should do this in PLD. We learners to be curious, follow their passions, hack their learning - are we providing for this in PLD?

In my mind there are three tiers of learners in my slice of the education system:

My realisation is that if we want education to change for our students, we might need to change the way PLD is delivered for teachers and for facilitators. We might need to fully embrace everything we facilitators are talking about for classrooms in our own facilitation practise. We need to truly walk the talk!

What might this look like?

Some of my ideas include the use of online learning management platforms to access learning wherever whenever, fully embracing the future focus themes like changing the understanding of knowledge (we are all creators of knowledge), rethinking roles of learners and teachers etc. Use of blended learning, of flipped learning, mixed groups that change with need / interest. Teachers and facilitators documenting their learning on a digital platform.

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So how could I make this work?

I think to a certain degree I am still stuck in the 'sage on the stage' mode. I still run staff meetings with me talking to (at?) and with teachers, and I hope that in the future I can start introducing aspects of flipped learning, asking them to view a video before the staff meeting for example and then using the time in the meeting to discuss, drill down into a topic, explore further. (My biggest issue is still hearing my own voice on video, though, as we were told at the GAFE Summit in Auckland in April, everyone else has to hear it, so I better get over it!).

Here is New Zealand we are using the 'Teaching as Inquiry' model already in PLD where teachers inquire into their practise to improve student outcomes. What about teacher passions, though? I have been thinking how I could create a virtual 'wonder wall' for teachers where they can explore their education related passions. Is this necessary / helpful?

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What else could your PLD provider do for you to empower you as a learner?

Following this idea further, another penny dropped recently:

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For a while I have been saying that, should I return to the classroom, I would want to have a mixed platform of 1:1 devices, and being a tutu, I am sure I would make the multi-platform part work. I have often contemplated if prescribing a particular device is limiting the potential in a classroom. While I have acknowledged for a while that having to deal with only one device benefits the teacher, I only recently realised that teachers are learners in this aspect, too, they are on a continuum, and we need to provide scaffolding and assistance where required.

For example, you have a teacher who is not so confident in the higher stages of Numeracy - you probably assign them the lower stages when cross-grouping, or you might provide them with coaching to support them. And still, some such teachers might never come to enjoy teaching stages 6+, so we accommodate this in some shape or form.

The same applies to teachers and technology I think. We require all teachers to incorporate technology effectively into their programme, but that doesn't mean they have to become fanatic technoholics, they might just be most comfortable with working with one particular device and the multitude of options it provides in their classroom.

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My learning as facilitator: Walk the talk, understand that educators are learners at all ages, support them just as I want learners supported in their classrooms.

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Comment by Hazel Owen on November 28, 2014 at 8:13

I wholeheartedly agree, Monika: "if we want education to change for our students, we ... need to change the way PLD is delivered for teachers and for facilitators". If, as human beings, we learn a lot by being immersed in experiences, and by learning from the way other folks do things, then it stands to reason that professional develop should model the type of practice we are hoping students will participate in as part of their learning experiences. 

As you suggest, we don't need to do everything at once, so offering opportunities to explore an approach (e.g. professional inquiry) in a number of ways...with choice build in...prior to then actually participating in the approach or applying the concept, seems to make a lot of sense. In addition, acknowledging that each individual will progress at different rates, is a fundamental part of learning - and if this is something we understand for our students, why wouldn't we also take it on board for professionals who are still learning?

It was, therefore, super to read your reflections, Monika...and my wondering is, since unpacking the learnings you describe, have you noticed any differences in the way your learners respond? Learn? Feedback? Also, has it impacted on the ways in which you prepare for a facilitated session? Do you use language differently to describe your role and the way you interact with your learners?

Thanks, as always, for your open, honest, thought-provoking posts :)

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