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Through the collaboration of my co-worker and friend Jacob Standish its been an encouraging year of some new webtools that have influenced our district protocol. Here are few a of the tools we have “pushed.”
Yammer – It may seem small but it isn’t. It is huge. I wrote earlier about it here. With this Social Media program an entire shift of thought has taken place with many of our teachers. No longer do they feel there is no one to talk to or connect with, Yammer makes our big district feel small.
CMSWiki – Although Wikispaces has been in our district for a few years it took a big leap in the past year. It went from a side project to a major one. Our district does not allow many outside websites, and we needed something to help our teachers have a web presence.
Moodle Online PD – Professional Development in a district as big as ours is “difficult”. Moodle gives us an opportunity to pull them all together. Professional Development has focused heavily on IWB’s in previous years, and we have tried to bring an excitement and energy to other 21st Century Skills and Tools. Not my favorite tool, but can be useful to help PD.
Twitter – Twitter has been around for a while and we are trying to help our teachers be a positive force in directing them how to use their Professional Twitter Life. We can either be agents for good change, or we can be negative. Our desire has been to use Social Media Tools for the betterment of our district and staff. We try to connect our teachers together on Twitter, and learn together.
Edmodo – This has been a great tool to for students and teachers to connect and learn in a fun and new way. It has been great to hear all the excitement around learning through such a tool as Edmodo.
I also strongly feel that there needs to be some knowledge about the topic, subject, or thing that is being presented on. I think trainers can learn about things, but having some background knowledge seems necessary. If the trainers have no knowledge of what is going to be presented it is a sure beginning of failure. If the trainers haven’t gathered any of their own knowledge on their own then I question their commitment to the professional development. This leads into my next thought on what kind of person does it take to professional development: Passion.
I could write a lot about passion and how it plays into professional development. I would say that there needs to be a passion for the subject mater (whatever it is). I believe it is that passion that drives you to want to know about the subject, and there in have the knowledge to help guide people in their learning. It is in the passion that you will take the time to learn all about the subject so you are able to ‘break it down’ and help someone else get it. Passion is not an assignment given to you by your boss. It is the passion that gets under your skin, in your mind, and invades your day. When you are passionate about something you want to SHARE it and help others GET IT. I believe this is NECESSARY (yes I said necessary) for professional development to be GREAT, and successful. I believe passion is the lynch-pin to a successful great professional development.
Finally, notice that I did not say any one type of personality was “it”. There isn’t one type of person; extrovert, or introvert, or whatever that makes a professional development great. It does take presentation skills, and the more masterful the better, but it is not one “type” of person. I fully believe that for a professional development to be great it takes a team effort that has knowledge of the subject, and a lot of passion.
It is on the passion that hangs how great and successful the professional development will be.
What Status Quo?
Steve Jobs choosing not to do things the way others have wasn’t to just be different, but it was to stay true to his ideas, perseverance, and vision. I feel that when we go against the status quo it is because we have a strong backing and understanding of our idea and vision. This is something we need desperately in education. Such a strong understanding of the vision for education and technology that when the status quo is threatened its because the vision clearly states the course of action needs to be unique to educate our students.
Often times we are missing this aspect of Perseverance the most in the area of education and instructional technology. Instructional Technology is rapidly changing because information is vast and fast via the web. The challenge in today’s educational technology landscape is to persevere over the obstacles that are coming down the road of success. Many of these obstacles are people saying “give it up” to the ideas you know are going to challenge the status quo. But you know those ideas are the most powerful. Steve Jobs didn’t allow these people to derail him from the visions he knew would radically change the way we live our lives, and we shouldn’t allow people to stop us from bringing our radical instructional ideas to the classroom.
We all have our demons that we fight against: doubt, failure, impulse, expectations. They are no different for Steve Jobs and no different for anyone willing to take a risk and enter the world of Instructional Technology. The statement stated in this article that sticks out the most to me, and worth remembering when those demons enter our head, heart, and dreams:
“Nothing To Lose In Staying True To What You Envision”
In a time when we need more creative educators get your visions, create the ideas, and persevere.
I’ve done a lot of research on 21st Century skills across the globe
They all have the same aspects of 21st Century Skills highlighted (I guess that’s a good thing):
This is a short list of the major concepts that are quite weighty and in-depth centered around what 21st Century Skills are. Interesting? Take a look at the list (short list) and you notice a major “C” in our society is missing (and that is a good thing)…
There is No CONSUME in 21st Century Skills
What is consume? It is to take in, buy, absorb, and to use. At the core of who we all are, we “get” consume. We have been raised as consumers. The goal of every company is to get the mass public to consume their products. The thing is companies aren’t hiring consumers, they are hiring the people who have the attributes of 21st Century Skills.
Education and Consumption
The problem I see in the education system is much the same. Educators are looking for a product that they can give to their students, so their students can consume it and say they’ve been taught. We should not be raising students up to be consumers, but creators, innovators, leaders, able to learn, and make choices about their learning. This means our teachers need to be all these too! This is not easy, there is a reason why these attributes are the top of Revised Blooms. But if our students are going to be productive in the 21st Century (which we are already 10% into) they will have to move from consumers in the classroom to creators, innovators, collaborators, organizers, and leaders.
First Steps away from Consumption via Technology
The rest of our teaching collective conscience could be spent on the how to do this, but I would like to mention a first step to be taken in Instructional Technology. Take every opportunity for any webtool or venture to be a creative one for THE STUDENT. Looking at every aspect for the student to apply the higher blooms taxonomy. I truly believe if we (the teacher) put some creative thought into the tools we use, students will be creative. The first step, is to realize the potential for an online tool to be used in some creative fashion.