Next Generation Professional Learning

Top down, Industrial Age professional development steps aside for teacher-powered professional learning. From Twitter chats and Edcamps, teachers are empowered to differentiate their learning based on need, urgency, and passion.


Sit-and-get professional development, usually decided upon by administrators, may become a thing of the Industrial Age past. Herding educators together for one-size-fits-all professional development has been lamented by teachers for decades, as the information presented so often misses the mark of teachers’ real work.

Learning Forward’s decision to shift from Standards for Professional Development to Standards for Professional Learning, according to the organization, “signals the importance of educators taking an active role in their continuous development and places emphasis on their learning.”

And, educators are determining content, place, and time, especially as micro-credentials gain traction. No longer constrained by top-down, factory-style professional development, teachers are leading their own professional learning and on their own terms.

Sit-and-get professional development, usually decided upon by administrators, may become a thing of the Industrial Age past. 

Do It Yourself (DIY) professional learning, often fueled by connective technologies, comes in various forms, and the movement is growing. What are some models of next generation professional learning? Read On.

Connected Professional Learning: As more and more teachers direct their own professional growth, connected learning advances in importance.

  • Connected Educators Month (CEM), which networks educators worldwide, is this October. The event premiered in 2012, and now, in its fourth year, things are already gearing up to transform professional learning and bring about educational change. According to ConnectedEducators, “Never been part of an online professional community or network? Already part of a community or network, but want to be more connected?  The Connected Educator Month Starter Kit can help you on both fronts.  Written by The Connected Educator author Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Powerful Learning Practice in collaboration with the Connected Educators initiative, and loaded with helpful links and embedded videos, the kit takes a 31 days approach for this special month, giving you one simple way to get more connected every day.” Plus, in connection with CEM, Google will offer free online conferences beginning next month.
  • Learning Forward 2014 presentation Teachers Connect to Transform Our Practice and Our Profession lists over 20 online communities, from the Center for Teaching Quality Collaboratory to iEARN, teachers can tap into resources across disciplines and interests.
  • Apps expand virtual professional learning, according to “appologist” Robbie Melton, associate vice chancellor of mobilization emerging technology at the Tennessee Board of Regents. Melton offers suggestions to select apps for connected learning and don’t overlook the following:

APPitic – A directory of apps for education by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) to help you transform teaching and learning. These apps have been tested in a variety of different grade levels, instructional strategies and classroom settings.

App-A-Pedia –  An encyclopedia of educational apps, including professional learning.

Mobile Apps MERLOT – A collection of apps to connect you with an online community.

EdcampsThe Edcamp approach, founded on the principles of connected and participatory learning, is a free unconference, where content is crowdsourced and attendees dive-in to discussions and hands-on sessions.

PLAYDATE People Learning and Asking Y: Digital Age Teacher Exploration: The PLAYDATE model bubbled-up from the brainstorming of educators who wanted something different from traditional conferences.

  • These free events have been held worldwide and the PLAYDATE starter kits are complimentary.
  • Don’t overlook one of their most powerful features: shared resources via Google Docs and Sheets. Anyone can access and anyone can add additional links, videos, books, and ideas. The resources range from technology tips and step sheets to curriculum design and pedagogical approaches.

Inquiry-based Professional Learning: Inquiry is a basic tenant in Powerful Learning Practice’s (PLP) Professional Learning Communities framework. Checkout PLP’s inquiry model in action in one school’s journey to redesign space for modern learners – Extreme Makeover Classroom Edition. And principal George Couros posed the idea in his post Inquiry Based Professional Learning, where he outlines several benefits to the approach. Also known as action research, Digital Promise puts the inquiry-based model to work. Read Serena Hicks’ take on action research in Teachers as Researchers: The Power of Mindset.

District Models: With the increase of teachers determining their own learning needs, organizations are paying attention. Check out the EdSurge guide From Pre-Fab to Personalized: How Districts are Retooling Professional Development, which provides resources and a line-up on what progressive learning organizations are undertaking to provide meaningful, personalized professional learning opportunities.

Don’t overlook staying current on next generation professional learning at Learning Forward and engage in the Twitter hashtag #redesignPD.

How are you leading your own learning? What other next generation of professional learning models do you see emerging on the educational landscape? Please share your thoughts.

Running the digital river of learning with you,

Emily

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1:1 Laptop Program Marks 25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, the first one-to-one laptop program began. But, have learning environments, content, and expectations changed with the advent of personal computing?


Recently, the first one-to-one laptop program celebrated its 25th anniversary. Over at Modern Learners, Audrey Watters reflected on this event in What You Should Know This Week (requires free registration to view content) where she wrote:

But what has changed with laptops at school? Certainly more students are learning in one-to-one environments. But do these environments encourage ownership of the machines and the learning? Do they encourage students to build and program in order to make use of these powerful machines? Or do they simply encourage students to “do school” in a traditional sense just on digital devices?

Often, one-to-one programs are touted, but do they support “the way things have always been done” or are they exceptional? Are digital platforms being used largely for note taking, as a digital notebook? Or, are students creating and crafting multimedia presentations or manipulating code to learn? Are they largely answering questions that can be Googled or are students asked to show mastery through individual presentations? Or, as Audrey asks, do students own their learning?

In her article, Audrey quotes Seymour Papert from his 1993 book The Children’s Machine:

Little by little the subversive features of the computer were eroded away: Instead of cutting across and so challenging the very idea of subject boundaries, the computer now defined a new subject; instead of changing the emphasis from impersonal curriculum to excited live exploration by students, the computer was now used to reinforce School’s ways. What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation.

I’ve written about “playing school” and shifts for student-centered models in previous posts, including here and here, to bolster student responsibility in learning by avoiding the layering of technology on top of traditional pedagogy, curriculum designs, assessment strategies, and use of space and time.

Twenty-five years later there are numerous examples of innovative schools and education models where students don’t “play school,” such as the League of Innovative Schools and New Tech Network.

Please share your success stories. How does your one-to-one program encourage student ownership of learning through the “live exploration by students” by “challenging the very idea of subject boundaries” that Papert notes? How does your one-to-one program break the constraints of “School’s ways”?

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,

Emily Vickery

Teacher Preparation: Relevance (Not Courses) Rule

Teacher educators must reshape teacher preparation for the new emerging landscape of learning that is modular, competency-based, and personalized, while also offered in a range of environments, including face-to-face, virtual, and face/flip.

In this previous post, it was noted that modular design (not “classes” or “courses”) is surfacing as marketing models support competency-based learning founded on specific skills personalized for individual students. This shifting model is one that teacher educators must examine to reshape curriculum designed as “modules” of experience, where an individual can demonstrate mastery and “move on” to new knowledge and skills to  overcome deficits. Coupled with module design, delivery and participant environments of engagement are shifting as well, including blended and face/flip.

To dismiss module, competency-based experiences in preparing teacher candidates is, perhaps, foolhardy. Recently, in Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, Michelle R. Weise and Clayton Christensen contend that modular design, coupled with online competency-based approaches, will become the more valued option for targeted skill attainment.

Further, Andy Calkins, Deputy Director of Next Generation Learning Challenges, an initiative managed by EDUCAUSE, noted in Moving Towards Next Generation Learning that next generation learning is blended, competency-based, and personalized.

Consumers – future teachers – are growing smarter, pushing non-traditional markets to respond by increasing choice and return on investment to meet personal and professional needs. Merged with real-world mentoring with teacher leaders, this emerging model could provide a more practical and meaningful approach in becoming an effective teacher at a lower cost.

Consumers – future teachers – are growing smarter, pushing non-traditional markets to respond by increasing choice and return on investment to meet personal and professional needs.

David Wiley, professor of psychology and instructional technology at Brigham Young University, chief openness officer of Flat World Knowledge, and founder of the Open High School of Utah, wrote the following in his blog post University Presidents on “Irrelevance”:

For years I’ve been saying that our nation’s universities must evolve to reflect basic changes in their broader societal contexts or risk becoming completely irrelevant.

How has your learning organization responded to shifting markets by redesigning teacher preparation? Please share your story.

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,

Emily Vickery

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Hacking the Economic Future of Educational Markets

According to Michelle R. Weise and Clayton Christensen, modular competency-based learning is bringing about “tectonic shifts” in higher education. If so, what are the implications for K12 to remain relevant to contemporary learners? What will be the impact on teacher preparation?

In an earlier post, I examined the lessons that K12 could learn from MIT’s report The Future of MIT Education. Outlined in the report’s seventh recommendation was the growing importance of curriculum designed in modules, which the report defines as “breaking a subject into learning units or modules, which can be studied in sequence or separately.”  The modular design provides a foundation for online competency-based models that are aligned to meet workforce needs.

In Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, Michelle R. Weise and Clayton Christensen observe that post-secondary is “structurally incapable” of adjusting to student needs in learning new skills necessary for “jobs emerging on a day-to-day basis” forcing the consumer to question the return on college investment.

Weise and Christensen contend that modular design, coupled with online competency-based approaches, will become the more valued option for targeted skill attainment that employers are seeking. They write:

An examination of online competency-based education unveils the tectonic shifts to come to higher education. Over time, the industry-validated experiences that emerge from the strong partnership between online competency-based providers and employers will ultimately have the power to override the importance of college rankings and accreditation.

While this economic trend of “purchase for skills” (not degrees, courses or classes) may seem applicable only to higher education, think again. K12 public and private education has some skin in the game. I’ve written before about how an Educational Debit Card will provide learners (and families) more choice and the popular rise of micro-credentials (badges) to acknowledge informal but powerful learning. As modular competency-based education catches on in higher education and the demand for post-secondary diminishes, K12 must revamp the curriculum and experiences for students by providing more pathways for learners to access passion and interests.

K12 must revamp the curriculum and experiences for students as the demand for post-secondary diminishes, giving way to passion and interests of learners.

In coming posts, I will examine the impact of modular competency-based education on teacher preparation, liberal arts, and cities of learning. Meanwhile, how is your learning organization revamping curriculum and pedagogical designs to meet the needs of contemporary learners? How can your learning organization prepare to compete in an expanding market of educational choices?

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,

Emily Vickery

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If Coding is the New Literacy, How Do We Close the Opportunity Gap?

Learning to code is a new literacy – as important as reading, writing, and math – but, how do we close the opportunity gap between those who have access and those who don’t?


In the 1983 Education Leadership article Equity in Computer Education, John P. Lipkin shed light on how “microcomputers are widening the gap between rich schools and poor ones.” He wrote:

One of the outstanding implications of the new information technology is that poor people are the last to receives its benefits, and those who lack the prerequisite skills of reading, writing, and computation are handicapped in attaining computer literacy. Thus, the economically and educationally disadvantaged are prime candidates to join the ranks of this new category of disadvantaged—the computer nonliterate.

Lipkin points out the findings of Daniel Watt in Education for Citizenship in Computer-Based Society:

Affluent students are thus learning to tell the computer what to do while less affluent students are learning to do what the computer tells them.

And, over 20 years later, things haven’t changed. Harold Wenglinsky’s research findings in Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools confirmed Watt’s earlier observation:

Students of color and low socioeconomic status predominately use technology for drill and practice and not for higher order thinking skills.

And, yet – again – things haven’t changed in 2014 in regards to how children of color and less affluent students interact with technology. Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses “‘are more prevalent in suburban and private schools than in urban, poor schools,'” according to Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Institute for Technology, in an interview with Education Week. In Mississippi alone, where the African American population is 37%, there was no African-American AP computer science test-taker.

Students of color and low socioeconomic status predominately use technology for drill and practice and not for higher order thinking skills.
Research findings of Harold Wenglinsky

Mother Jones reports in We Can Code It! Why Computer Literacy is Key to Winning the 21st Century that “the children of the privileged” are learning to code and employing computational thinking. This thirst to code has prompted some parents to hire coding tutors, as Mark Zuckerberg’s parents did when he was in middle school. The demand for coding tutors has increased, with New York City alone seeing a doubling “each of the past two year[s].”

scratch-image

An example of playing and coding with Scratch.

According to Mark Guzdial, a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, “Coding is absolutely a question of literacy. Those who don’t have access to this kind of education are going to be missing a core skill.”

And, Mitchel Resnick, MIT Professor of Learning Research and head of the Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group, agrees: “Coding is the new literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding.”

Today, coding and computer programming are considered necessary skills for everyone. Even Harvard Business School has caught the coding bug for plans are underway to add a computer science elective as the “changing nature of the workforce” includes coding for MBAs.

But, if coding is the new literacy, what happens to children of color and those from low socioeconomic status if, as mentioned above, they are exposed to only responding to a “drill and kill” (lower order critical thinking) use of technology instead of creating and coding (higher order critical thinking)?

How can these children prepare for the 1.4 million jobs to be created by 2020, with more than 70 percent involving computing? What initiatives must be undertaken to increase more children of color to take computer science AP courses? How can this opportunity gap be closed?

Fortunately, there are some forward-thinking programs and organizations to increase access to the new literacy of coding as schools, libraries, and community organizations offer coding camps, certifications, and hackathons.

Listed below are only a few of many resources to advance coding skills and computational thinking. For a much more exhaustive list (300+), see the Kapor Center for Social Impact report Coding Nation and its companion, Coding Landscape Database, to keep abreast of happenings in your area and online.

  • Digital Youth Network  “is a project that supports organizations, educators and researchers in learning best practices to help develop our youths’ technical, creative, and analytical skills.”
  • Black Girls CODE ”introduces computer-coding lessons to young girls from underrepresented communities in programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails.”
  • Level Playing Field is “committed to eliminating the barriers faced by unrepresented people of color.”
  • CompuGirls is a “culturally relevant technology program for adolescent (grades 8-12) girls from under-resourced school districts in the Greater Phoenix area and in Colorado.”
  • GirlDevelop provides “affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction.”
  • The Code-to-Learn Foundation “promotes computational fluency for everyone..and supports projects that engage young people in learning through coding, enabling them to develop as creative thinkers, designers, and innovators.”

What is happening in your school and community to close the opportunity gap in learning the new literacy of coding? How are your school principals, district administrators, and policymakers assuring that all students learn this new literacy? Please share your thoughts and stories.

Oh, and, if you would like to learn more about what coding is all about, watch Dr. Mitchel Resnick’s engaging TEDTalk below.

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,

Emily Vickery

“Coding isn’t just for computer whizzes, says Mitch Resnick of MIT Media Lab — it’s for everyone. In a fun, demo-filled talk Resnick outlines the benefits of teaching kids to code, so they can do more than just ‘read’ new technologies — but also create them.”

Coding to Learn: Momentum Grows Beyond “Tech” Classes

Coding to learn continues to grow in popularity and seen as a necessary skill – for everyone, not just “techies.”

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Fueled by projected STEM job growth of 9 million between 2012 and 2022 , the call for students to code has been growing over the past few years. Last fall, the non-profit Code.org announced “a nationwide campaign calling on every K-12 student in America to join an ‘Hour of Code.’ The initiative asked schools, teachers, and parents across the country to help introduce more than 10 million students of all ages to computer programming during Computer Science Education Week.”
According to Computer Science Education Week, over 39 million have “tried the Hour of Code.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.31.39 AM

And, where coding isn’t taught in school, community organizations, such as Mozilla’s HIVE Learning Network, are springing up and linking schools with community non-profits, and parents are hiring “coding” tutors so their children can dive into the worlds of HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and Python.

The craze for coding to learn is not only a phenomena for the young and old in the U.S., but students worldwide are learning the basics of coding for schools are adding the fun to the curriculum.

The United Kingdom now requires every student learn to code, beginning at age five as demand grows for “’computational thinking’”: the ability to formulate problems in such a way that they can be tackled by computers.

“According to Adam Enbar, founder of New York’s Flatiron School, which offers 12-week, $12,000 programs to turn novices into developers, said, ’Not everyone needs to be Shakespeare, just as not everyone needs to be an amazing developer,’ he says. ‘But…we’re entering a world where every job if not already, will be technical,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

And, if every job will be technical, Harvard Business School has caught the coding bug for plans are underway to add a computer science elective as the “changing nature of the workforce” includes coding for MBAs.

K12 is catching on to the importance of computer science. According to Education Week, “Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have policies in place that allow computer science to count as a mathematics or science credit, rather than as an elective, in high schools—and that number is on the rise. Wisconsin, Alabama, and Maryland have adopted such policies since December, and Idaho has a legislative measure awaiting final action.”

Some are branching out beyond the traditional computer science course. Keep a keen eye on on the progressive Beaver County Day School. According to Mashable, Beaver County Day School became the first school in the nation to implement computer programming into all of its classes.

“The school isn’t launching mandatory programming courses into the schedule, exactly, but is instead having its teachers introduce coding (ideally, in the most organic ways possible) into their respective subjects. Calculation-heavy courses such as math and science, as well as humanities such as English, Spanish and history — even theater and music — will all be getting a coded upgrade.”

Beaver’s head Peter Hutton believes “‘the current curriculum — which any American who has gone to school in the last century is familiar with — is blatantly outdated…Do schools need to change? Absolutely,” he says. ‘”

“We’re still preparing our kids to go to work in 1988. Certainly not 2020.”
Peter Hutton

While coding to learn resources grow each day, below is a sampling of how teachers are coding to learn with students, and it isn’t just in STEM courses but casts the net wide across content areas.

Take some time to explore these resources and spark interest at your school to participate in Hour of Code.

How are you coding to learn in your classes? Is coding to learn shifting your learning organization from the traditional model? What are your ideas for participating in Hour of Code?

Book “The Alliance” and Lessons for Learning Organzations

Personal branding and Tours of Duty? Can learning organizations learn lessons from the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, which calls for a bold, new blueprint of conducting business?

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We realize that lifetime employment in one organization is a thing of the past, especially considering the average U. S. worker median tenure in a current job to be 4.4 years, a trend which is perhaps silently influenced by the invisible “second economy.”

But, whatScreen Shot 2014-07-20 at 2.23.39 PM would happen in learning organizations if we capitalize on a bold, new blueprint of conducting business? Imagine the shift of hierarchical power play giving way to Tours of Duty, networking, and branding based on the mutual benefit of employer and employee? Those are a few founding principles found in the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and chairman of LInkedin, Ben Casnocha, entrepreneur and author, and Chris Yeh, writer and investor.

While organizations cannot innovate if everyone acts as a free agent, the authors contend there is another pattern to growth (Check out their slideshow here.): “Stop thinking of employees as families or free agents” but, rather, regard them as “allies on a Tour of Duty.” The relationship between employee and employer is based on how each can add value to the other, thus, building trust. In this symbiotic relationship, the individual, while building personal brand, focuses on the organization’s success, while the organization increases the individual’s market value.

While the authors admit that the phrase “Tour of Duty” may have military implications and it isn’t a perfect analogy, there is a shared characteristic: “honorably accomplishing a specific, finite mission…with a realistic time horizon.”

Because roles and responsibilities vary, the authors outline three Tours of Duty: Rotational; Foundational; and Transformational. (For more information on the Tours of Duty, click here.) “The tour of duty approach relieves the pressure on you [organization or business] and your employees alike because it builds trust incrementally. Everyone commits in smaller steps and the relationship deepens as each side proves itself.”

The agreement between employee and employer within each Tour of Duty sets out specific growth goals for each. One example: “Over the next 18 months you will develop excellent negotiation skills.”  (Avoiding vagueness, such as gaining “valuable experience,” is key.)

But, what is one important turnkey in this model? The authors acknowledge the benefit of honest conversation and ask a potential employee: What do you want to do once you leave employment here?

There. The elephant in the room is acknowledged and provides the basis for building the symbiotic relationship of trust and success for both parties through Tours of Duty, building value of the organization and the independent individual.

And, even when an employee leaves the organization, the value continues as networks and “know how” remain within reach of the organization, which is able to tap into the web of connections it helped the individual create. (The alumni always stay in touch.)

Wow. I wonder how this upfront frankness about career goals and schools helping their employees grow to transform an organization would pan out. While there are numerous reasons teachers leave the classroom, would these honest conversations help stem the tide of 38% of teachers quitting because of dissatisfaction with administration or the 14% who leave after one year? Are industrial-style schools and slow-moving bureaucracies ready for this truthful conversation with themselves and others, including teachers, students, and parents?

There are some transformational movements taking hold, such as the Center for Teaching Quality’s work on building a new brand of teacher leadership through teacherpreneurs, and Connected Educators Month, to strengthen teacher learning networks and the connections the authors believe valuable. But, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to incubate ideas using this new approach to acknowledge and nurture talent in the networked age? Aren’t there implications not only for teachers but students as well?

I’m game for a discussion. Are you? Interested in a book study? Let’s connect! 

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,

Emily