As technology has evolved to the level of mobile computing and web-based apps, the popularity of educational technology has soared. Demands for workshops on apps, interactive whiteboards, and mobile devices has never been greater; however, the classic model of professional development for teachers has not been able to keep up.
Sending teachers to a specific place at a specific time to learn in groups from a trainer, who did not necessarily have classroom teaching experience, is the traditional format of workshops for teachers. While these sessions can offer great information, and even some hands-on time with technology, the demand for more training cannot be met with these types of workshops alone.
Emerging media avenues and the technology of today have made it possible for professional development, especially that focused on educational technology, to be transformed. As teachers seek to integrate digital learning in their classrooms using available technology, it is possible for professional learning to take place digitally, as well.
Teachers can now connect with other teachers via social media channels, blogs, websites, podcasts and more. Just as classroom instruction has shifted from a more teacher-centered to learner-centered model, so too has the format of professional learning. The hurdles to professional development caused by dependence on a workshop and a trainer at a physical place and a single time, has been completely flattened.
Teachers are sharing online all the time about what they are doing with technology in their classrooms. This has reinvented professional development into professional learning. The learning can take place at any time, any place, any way, and at any pace. It is self-directed and thus tailored to teacher interests.
Teachers are documenting and chronicling their lesson ideas on blogs. Regularly, you’ll see posts sharing apps, devices, and web resources for integrating technology into the classroom. The beauty of teacher-run blogs are that they are authentic, vetted, and usually include real classroom examples. Teachers are sharing about digital literacy, using blogs with students, digital notes, and social media in the classroom. Reading teacher blogs can give you great ideas for actionable steps to technology integration. Writing teacher blogs gives your classroom a voice, and can help you reflect on your professional practice. Teachers can even join the blogging challenge to help them get started using blogs to share their classroom with the world.
Chats, PLNs, and sharing media of projects all help teachers to become connected educators. Using Twitter, teachers can easily connect and chat with other teachers around the world, all in real time. They can reach out to an individual to have a conversation, ask questions, or join in one of the many education chats happening each week. Twitter is one of many ways to share ideas from classrooms using technology by linking to a blog or website. With newer social channels, like Google+, video chats are now possible with multiple teachers able to share face to face over a distance. Podcasting, like the MichEd or Connected Educators Series, is allowing teachers to share their ideas and classroom examples using audio and video, which in turn is providing a clearer look into what’s happening in other classrooms with technology.
A third way that teachers are learning about technology from each other is happening in a more traditional way, in-person; however, the newest twist on getting together is proving to be a much more attractive model for professional learning. The unconference model is a ‘for teachers, by teachers’ take on conferences. Teachers get together, decide what they’d like to present or talk about that day, post it on a wall grid, and then participants choose where to go. Because of the informal design, the connections and sharing become more of the focus, as opposed to the pressure of presenting at a formal conference. Unconferences, such as Edcamp, are happening all over the world to bring teachers together to share what they do with technology in their classrooms.
With the asynchronous and on-demand potential for professional learning afforded by modern technologies, teachers are becoming connected educators and learning from one another. Ultimately, one type of professional development is not going to be the panacea, but with the flexibility made possible by technology more teachers can learn from each other and engage in digital learning themselves. With these newer options for professional learning, teachers can get better access to ideas of how they can develop a digital classroom and being digital learning to their students.
Image Credits: Gary G. Abud, Jr.