Category Archives: professional learning

Spoon-Fed Learning

Speaking about the opportunities there are for learning in our world today through technology, I asked educators in the room to do a “Twitter Video Reflection” and share their learning back to the hashtag.  Since many of them were new to Twitter, they didn’t know how to do it, so I decided to not help them.

Not a type…I decided to not help them.

Here’s the thing…they all figured it out. Some took longer than others, and some figured it out after they saw that someone else could.  I actually think it went faster than if I would have shown them step-by-step.

Too often we talk about how we want to develop learners as students, but we still set up too much of our professional development where we will walk people through every element of any type of learning.

The balance of supporting and pressuring needs to be place; we can not spoon-feed learning to the adults in the room, or we model the exact opposite of what we say we want from our kids.

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6 Ways to Use Twitter To Enhance In-School Professional Learning


Here is a tweet I received from Jamie Sweeney on using Twitter to “enhance professional development”:

Connecting globally is really powerful, but how do we use this medium in a way to enhance professional learning and empower the voice of teachers in our own building.  Sometimes seeing the impact of using Twitter on a global level brings ideas back into our classrooms, but perhaps using Twitter locally could push people to connect others globally.

Just remember that “Twitter” isn’t just for days that you are discussing technology.  It can amplify and accelerate learning in any topic, whether it is on health initiatives, assessment practices, or deep understanding of any topic. It is easy to do, yet can share several mediums, which allows for different types of processing and understanding.

Here are a few ideas below.

  1. Hashtag for professional learning days (and beyond).  This one sets the stage for the other suggestions, as it makes it easy to “pre-filter” information towards a hashtag.  Check for a hashtag before you start using it, and ensure that it is not being used by another group. This gives an opportunity for the “room” to tap into one another, not just learn from any one person.  If you are interested in doing this, I would suggest finding a hashtag that goes beyond any single day; you want to start a movement, not share a moment. (For the purpose of this post, I am going to use #InnovatorSchool as the hashtag.)Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 5.37.08 PM
  2. 20 Minute Summary. Little ideas like this can help further deeper learning.  Stopping every 20 minutes and asking participants to share a 140 character reflection (minus the hashtag), and encourage them to limit it to only one tweet.  Having to summarize and be succinct in a tweet, provides a bit of a challenge, but it is also encouraging “mini-reflection”. It is also a nice assessment of where learners are at during that moment.
  3. Image Sharing. The beautiful thing about Twitter is the opportunity to capture different mediums.  Groups may have to draw some type of summary of learning, but share it to this group.  Here was one suggestion from Bethany Ligon in a book study she was doing with a group on “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

    Using Play Doh, pipe cleaners, and multi-colors of Post It papers, create models to represent a fixed mindset, a growth mindset, and an innovator’s mindset. Take a picture(s) of your structures and insert them into a single Google Drawings. Also insert a text box and write a brief blurb describing your thinking…if any. :)

    This is a great way to capture the visible learning that happens in these days, but also gives people a reference long after the fact.

  4. Group Hashtag Modification. Sometimes I will ask for groups to share a “big idea” together in some type of reflection. I have seen things such as 140 character tweets, captured images of writing, videos, etc., which provides lots of opportunities for learning.  The problem is finding this information the more any hashtag is used.  To do this in a simple way, I always suggest making slight modifications to hashtags for different questions.  So if the original hashtag is #InnovationSchool, then for the first question, I would simply change it to #InnovationSchoolQ1, and so on.  This way, again, you are pre-filtering to find information from any particular question in a simple and succint way.
  5. 30 Second Video Reflections. Twitter has an awesome video function (only on phones that I know of at this point), that allows you to take 30 seconds of video.  What I love about this is the unedited, raw learning that can be shared.  As people are finishing off the day, I think encouraging them to share a 30 second video reflection is a great way for them to process their thinking and can literally be done on a walk out of the building.  If someone does not feel comfortable taking a “video selfie” (#Velfies), I have seen some people turn their camera on an object or screen and discuss what they have learned.  This promotes the importance of “open reflection”, which is beneficial to not only the person doing the reflecting, but the community, as we can learn from one another.
  6. Collect Ideas in a Storify. Storify is one of my favourite sites as it makes it simple to not only capture tweets, but put them into context.  Random tweets might not make much sense to someone outside of the process, but using this site to give further explanation and share media (it is not limited to tweets, but has a wide range of social media services you can pull from), encourages people to share professional learning days from a wide-range of views, not just from what one person said.

Here are some of the benefits from this process.

  1. Assessment of professional learning days. What do the tweets tell you about the takeaways from the day?
  2. Sharing your learning with your community.  Shouldn’t parents know what educators are learning on professional learning days and doesn’t this help dispel the myth that many have about professional learning days that they are just a “day off”?
  3. Positive development of school and personal digital footprint. We can’t teach something we have never learned.
  4. Modelling things that you are able to do in the classroom. Asking at the end of the day how we would use these things in classrooms (because it will differ through K-12) helps create the connection between what was just experienced, and how it applies to learning in the classroom.

As I write this, I think how simple these ideas could be, yet how much of an impact they could have to make great learning go viral.  We have tons of experts in our own buildings, so we need to create these opportunities to shine a light on them and their thinking, for the benefit of each other, as well as our communities, both local and global.

Connecting Professional Learning and Leadership

Years ago I heard about a great program from a school district that wanted to work with their teachers on deepening their understanding about using technology for learning.  They created 50 spots for teachers that would have to attend 12 sessions,  on their own time, to further their learning in this initiative.  As incentive, at the end of the 12 sessions, they would be given their own laptop to use at their discretion.  The district explaining the process was very excited about these 50 teachers that had developed these new skills, but something stuck with me.  What about all of the other teachers in the division?  How would they develop these skills? Would the program run with 50 teachers at a time, or would it only be for these 50 teachers?

As an adaptation of this program, I developed a program that was similar, but with less sessions, and more focus not only understanding what learning can look like, but also how to spread these ideas with their colleagues.  Instead of teaching 50 that would simply gain knowledge, we would work with 50 (actually turned out to be more), that would share their knowledge and help develop others.

As the proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But what if you adopt the idea that if you teach someone to fish you could also teach them to lead others to fish as well?  The possibilities the become endless.

Joel McLean shared the following image below and it sparked this idea:


As many professional learning opportunities tend to have little impact division wide, how often do we ask the question, “how will this learning spread to their colleagues?”  Simply sharing a YouTube video that shares the ideas learned to others, is not enough.  Time should be spent on working with leadership strategies. How do you work with others that may be reluctant?  How do you deal with what has already been done, and replace it with this?

That being said, if you want ideas to spread, we must take time developing ideas together.  It is not only about getting people to “buy in”, but it is about creating a vision together and moving forward.  The more advocates there are for any initiative, the quicker it can spread, yet for people to become advocates, many of them need to feel (and should feel) ownership over the process. It is much easier to spread “our ideas” than it is to spread “your idea”.  Empowerment needs ownership.

So instead of simply asking or identifying, “What will be learned?”, you should also ask, “How will we support others to lead this initiative?”

We should not only focus on developing professional learning opportunities, but leadership opportunities as well.  Teaching others to lead will ensure that ideas worth spreading will flourish, not die.

Lessons From 70+ Ignites

Over the past 18 months, I’ve hosted 8 Ignite Events as part of my role as Community Manager for Discovery Education. If you’re not familiar with these events, here’s a brief invitation I created for our upcoming event in Vancouver.

I’ve heard superintendents, principals, teachers, community members and students share over 70 of these talks. Mostly hosted in pubs or restaurants, there are several factors that make this one of the best networking/learning events I’ve been a part of.

  • Location: The fact we hold them in a pub is important. It’s purposely not in a school and not just because people can drink, although that can helpful. 😉 An offsite location immediately relaxes people, let’s them know this isn’t necessarily work related as well it represents a neutral meeting space. In addition, the less fancy, the better. Each location has had its challenges in terms of viewing screens and hearing speakers but those constraints actually make people work harder to support one another.
  • Social first, learning second: The order is important. In most professional learning environments, social is at best acknowledged, at worst ignored. Our focus is on the networking. We create time and space to have conversations. For many participants,
Read the rest

Professional Learning is Messy

Many people say learning is messy. But is professional learning messy?

There seems to be an ongoing search by districts and teachers for the best kind of professional learning. That’s a bit like searching for the best kind of food. I appreciate the need to provide better learning opportunities but like food, there is a wide range of learning that is essential or preferred depending on the learning and the learner.

When it comes to student learning, we often hear, “hands-on” or active learning is the best. If we’re talking about professional learning, it’s similar but now we might hear about job-embedded learning as being a preferred or optimal type. Job-embedded learning is associated with results. Results are important but they aren’t the only outcomes we should be seeking in our learning. Or at least, we shouldn’t ignore that many kinds of learning occurs before results might ever be considered.

This recent  quote from Will Richardson about learning makes me think:

if learning is measured by a desire to learn more, to continue learning, then the focus is on creating the conditions for that to happen

Those conditions are created in a variety of ways and indeed the new role of … Read the rest

Professional Development and Professional Learning #miamidevice

Simply processing through writing…

Sitting in Adam Bellow’s session this morning discussing “professional development”, I tweeted the following:

As he used the term “professional development” and the conversation centred around how to make it more meaningful, I thought about the term “professional learning” and these are thoughts that stuck out in my brain.

  1. Professional development is something done to me, while professional learning is something I do for myself (which was reiterated by several people on Twitter).
  2. Professional development seems to be more connected to an “event” (conference) or an objective, where as professional learning 
  3. The feelings the term professional development invoke something negative (for me) as opposed to the positive thoughts that professional learning invokes.

Now I am not sharing these as absolute truths, but thoughts.  The thing that is essential to understand is that we have shared goals in schools, and time to provide for development in those areas are crucial. But the other aspect that I have been thinking about is do we provide time for our own professional learning?  This is not only about what we are learning, but more importantly how we are learning it.

This is a great analogy from Seymour Papert:

If I wanted to become a better carpenter, I’d go find a good carpenter, and I’ll work with this carpenter on doing carpentry or making things. And that’s how I’ll get to be a better carpenter. So if I want to be a better learner, I’ll go find somebody who’s a good learner and with this person do some learning. But this is the opposite of what we do in our schools. We don’t allow the teacher to do any learning. We don’t allow the kids to have the experience of learning with the teacher because that’s incompatible with the concept of the curriculum where what is being taught is what’s already known.

If educators are going to develop in their profession, we must ensure that we see our own growth as continuous, as opposed to a singular event. It is not about the terms or terminology, as much as it is about the process, but as educators, if we only focus on the product, and not the individual process, we probably won’t create those opportunities for our students to learn beyond the “event” of school.

It’s Over Already?!?!

This video is adorable:

Watching the baby cry at the end of the book, makes me think of how later in life, many kids are simply waiting for the bell to ring.  How do we create learning experiences where kids are sad to leave at the end of the day, not ecstatic that it’s over?

One of the biggest compliments I can receive as a workshops facilitator, is when I go over the allotted amount of time, and nobody notices, including myself. When people stay after to continue their learning, that is even a bigger compliment, because my hope is that I have sparked something.  Yet, is this the norm?  And if we are not creating learning opportunities for ourselves that we become upset when they are over, why would we create them for our students?

We often create what we experience.