Constructivists, like myself, in education today would agree that technology is redefining the way we think, practice, communicate, and carry out the routines of day-to-day living. In my personal and professional life, I have become increasingly dependent on my personal devices, such as my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac. I may leave home without matching shoes, but you can bet I will have all my tech gadgets. My iCali is synced to at least 4 systems and so are my reminders. My life has changed for the better due to the synchronization of my tech tools. Evernote, Drop Box, Google Drive, Live Binders, iCalendar are just a few ways I can manage my career and family. One of the best things is that my devices have afforded me the luxury of having access to personalized professional development at any time of the day or night. Because of the technology, my leadership skills, pedagogical practices, content knowledge, etc. have soared during the past two years. I have allowed social media, blogging, and other web 2.0 tools to become a consistent standard in my life.
Professional development has always been a part of the educational system. Rebore (2012) described that the main purpose for a staff development program is to “increase the knowledge and skills of employees and thereby, increase the potential of the school district to attain its goals and objectives” (p. 112). Cooper and Johnson (2013) believe learning needs are always present, therefore, educators find staff development necessary to stay abreast of current trends and practices. Many districts will perform a needs assessment to gain useful information regarding the types of professional development that should be offered to employees. Using the data from the assessments, the district pays attention to employee deficits. These shortfalls will show up as gaps in staff knowledge and/or skills in certain areas of the profession. To orient staff with new knowledge and skills, a district or campus may provide professional development to help close the learning gaps between those educators who display strengths in a certain area and those who do not (2012).
Traditionally, many staff development models try engaging their audience with a single presenter, who shares new knowledge centered around an idea. These models are mostly called workshops or seminars. Research has shown that these particular models are frequently presented in isolation without the motivation needed to change practices (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). This delivery style is very common in the educational world. Who needs this old-fashioned, “sit-‘n-git”* approach to learning?? As a campus leader, I have the ability to move us away from tradition learning models and into the current era where there are means to personalizing PD for every single member on my staff. (* Thanks @ambercldrn for the “sit-n-git”…love it).
Research indicates that professional development is most effective when: “it involves the participants in concrete tasks; is participant driven while rooted in inquiry and reflection; is collaborative, connected to and derived from teachers work; and includes ongoing support” (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). With purposes quite the same as face-to-face counterparts, online teacher professional development (oTPD) operates using Web 2.0 tools, which have the potential to maximize principles due to flexibility and personalization for the educator. Web 2.0 oTPD engages and provides motivation for learners through reflection, review, connection, and immediate action, which are key to the constructivist experience (2013).
Our district administrators recently had the pleasure of hearing Maria Henderson, an Education Development Executive at Apple, Inc., speak to us about new and innovative ways of developing students and teachers on Web 2.0 tools. Henderson (2014) defended using 2.0 tools as an innovative way to personalize professional development for staff. I agree 100% with Ms. Henderson! Online professional development (oTPD) is not new but becoming more alive in the world of education. On my campus, I have tried using new apps and online resources to ease the time constraints that accompany traditional staff developments in an effort to deliver information. I have implemented the use of tools like Screen-Cast-O-Matic, Google Drive, Padlet, iMovie, YouTube, Teacher Channel, Blogging, Twitter, ScoopIt, Haiku Deck etc. Unlike traditional professional development, oTPD can be tailored to the professional or grade level, which increases engagement and the likelihood that the educator will apply what was learned or discussed.
With less time and more to learn than ever before, I often wonder why teachers do not embrace online learning more. Henderson (2014) stated it best when she said, “There has never been a more exciting time to be an educator or a student.” She is right! As an educator, I cannot wait to see where we go next. I am not afraid but rather anxiously await the next new, innovative tool to take us through our life’s journey. #EXCITING!
We have always lived with and adapted to change; however, today’s changes are fast and furious. In education, building networks globally can help us stay abreast of current research and tools. Using Twitter, users are able to collaborate professionally with other educators about interests personalized to them (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). Books and magazines have much to offer but, once written, they stay the same and are not able to update immediately. Online venues, such a Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook provide educators with current feed with around the clock access in real-time. Almost nightly, I am able to read a plethora of new information and decide what best relates to my needs. I am able to share and learn skills and content on my own time with others who I have accepted in my professional learning network. By participating in #chats, I am able to discuss even more specifically the topics, which are more relevant to me. This method sure does beat sitting in a cold, sterile meeting where I might (or might not) walk away with something worthwhile. When I am on Twitter, I walk away with new learning each time I log off. (Which…by the way…logging off Twitter is hard…VERY HARD!).
Blogging is another user-friendly Web 2.0 feature that puts professional learning at your fingertips. Blogs are intended to prompt dialogue between people who have a vested interest in the material presented. Well…like this one!! I hope the material I am presenting makes you think. Sometimes blogs can embed other attractive and engaging features, such as YouTube videos, graphs, media clips, trailers, etc. Cooper and Johnson (2013) found that most research on blogging and teacher development has taken place with preservice teachers. New teacher bloggers have shown ability to critically reflect and interact with others in their online communities. My own Learning and Leading blog has taken me to new levels of learning. For me, it has given me a voice and a platform to speak. I also know that it has helped other educators reflect and think about their own practices in education.
Online professional development using 2.0 tools and other online resources can connect and give authentic experiences to the constructivist through reflection, review, and collaboration with network members. Not only that, but it can making learning simpler and easier. Another added bonus, as Cooper and Johnson (2013) stated in their article, “Exploration of professional development with such technologies presents possibilities for their use in the educational settings, while also engaging teachers in 21st century learning.”
Cooper, T., & Johnson, C. (2013). Web 2.0 tools for constructivist online professional development. EdItLib, 2013(1), 1923-1926. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/112231
Henderson, M. (2014, 0320).Apple learning. Lecture. Waco, Texas.
Rebore, R. (2012). The essentials of human resources administration in education.(1st ed.).Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.