Integrating formal and informal learning has continued as an underlying theme in many of the activities, events, and resources of Connected Educator Month during in second two weeks. Three of the sub-themes identified in our post on Week 1 continue to provide structure to the discussion: time, credit, and culture.
In the social media discussions about being connected educators that unfolded at breakneck pace over the last two weeks, there has been much consideration of how individual educators find, or make, the time to learning through communities and networks. Several educators published “day in the life” blog posts. For example, Anne Mirtschin shared a typical day in her life as a connected teacher in Australia. Stacy Schmidt illustrated her day as a connected superintendent via an infographic. Molly Shields wrote to urge connected educators to stop complaining about not having enough time. In her opinion, we have a professional responsibility to make time.
In the opening sessions, participants suggested that a focus on collaboration is one approach to finding time. The second two weeks have featured new and ongoing opportunities to learn about and engage in collaboration. IDEO’s Creative Confidence Challenge in engaging teachers in an open design thinking process on their OpenIDEO platform; An Estuary is engaging teachers in collaborative action research using Sanderling, a mobile “field journal” app; and LearnZillion shared how it’s organizing teachers to produce high quality, standard-aligned learning materials for use across the country.
Each appealing, these innovative collaborative efforts still require teachers to make time on their own in order to participate. This raises a key question about time: How do you integrate innovative collaboration designs into the school day and year? What can we learn from connected educators existing time-making strategies to inform this integration?
The theme of giving credit for learning and collaboration from communities and networks was central to two of the Connected Principals (#cpchat) chats co-hosted by NAESP and NASSP to jointly celebrate Connected Educator Month and National Principals Month. Particularly interesting is “Patapsco University” at Patapsco High School in Baltimore County, MD, where teachers can choose from a number of flexible, blended professional learning opportunities, with the option to co-develop their own, for professional development credit.
Badges continue to be one means for documenting learning and providing recognition of considerable interest. For example, the HP Catalyst Program, which offers compelling short courses on cutting edge educational technology topics for teachers, award teachers a series of badges to recognize their progress through the program. In addition, Connected Educators Month participants continued to earn badges, which we made easier through the addition of FAQs and how-to videos. Increasingly, educators were nominating each other for peer-to-peer badges to recognize collaborations and contributions to each other’s learning.
A recurring question about badges: What do I do with them once I earn them? Who’s the audience for badges?
Several sessions of the nightly Connected Café focused on integrating formal and informal learning. The most prominent sub-theme in these conversations was professional learning culture. Lucy Gray emphasized the importance of “professional generosity,” which involves not only helping people learn but also giving them the opportunity to act autonomously as professionals, and suggested the GlobalEdCon is designed around this principal. Peggy George, too, pointed to the importance of supporting others in taking ownership of their own learning, suggesting that it’s easy to fall into an “enabler” mode that keeps them dependent on you.
In the chat, Jim Vanides (a guest in another terrific session later that week) shared his satisfaction in seeing students move from depending on him for answers to “constructing their own knowledge together.” This is how professional learning ought to work. Steven Anderson introduced another challenge for both students and educators learning about using technology in their learning, shifting focus from the device to the process of teaching and learning. In general, participants agreed that connected learning for teachers and students goes hand in hand. In the series of GeekOuts, HIVE Learning Networks and the National Writing Project powerfully illustrated this through inviting students to teach educators how to, for example, program with the Scratch.
A key question about culture: Can we preserve autonomy in informal professional learning when it begins to be more systemically embraced through school and district programming?