“You Find Yourself Yet?” by Mikey G Ottawa (Flickr)
What does teacher professional learning look like in a digital age? What kind of impact on student learning outcomes and the school community does a highly connected, digitally literate teacher have? How can educators work more effectively with one another using available tools? I’m incredibly lucky to be an Education student at a time when pertinent questions like these are still waiting to be fully investigated. Now in the second year, my doctoral research has led me to explore the professional learning of teachers, principals, preservice teachers and school leaders. While I’ll never be an expert in this area, it’s exciting to see what’s now possible and to know there are so many awesome teachers out there.
We’re witnessing a shift taking place – from the now antiquated professional “development” forms of lectures, one-day training courses and PD days to more highly personalised, relevant professional learning that’s tailored to the needs of the individual teacher. I’m optimistic that more and more teachers can become effective learners in the digital age and empower themselves and their students in the process. I’ve often felt that school leaders (and principals especially) need to be on board. My recent work experience has also led me to believe that we should do everything we can to support preservice teachers to learn far beyond the life of their degrees.
I’ve been especially lucky to work with Cathie Howe, Professional Learning & Leadership Advisor at Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre (MacICT). Cathie is a passionate educator who supports teachers in schools across Greater Sydney and New South Wales. Professional Learning in a Digital Age (PLDA) is a course that we’ve developed at MacICT to reflect the new, connected ways in which teachers can learn. The course provides first-time support through training sessions in a range of current tools for content aggregation and people-to-people connections, including Feedly, Google Plus Communities, Twitter and Creative Commons. These sessions are run in both face-to-face and online modes. Following the training, participants engage a four-week Mini-Online Course (MOC), with weekly activities where they use digital tools to practice the Four Cs of communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity.
Being able to teach in an area so close to my doctoral research is incredibly rewarding. As always, I have a lot to learn – so do we all. Perhaps the biggest challenge is finding our community, building connections and discovering our voices. It’s a pleasure to support our thirty-nine teachers on this journey.