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Anytime Anywhere Professional Learning

One of the topics that heads many professional conversations around 1-to-1 relates to workforce capacity. We've spent years creating the notion of Professional Development, which I feel too often becomes something someone does to you, rather than it being something for which you take responsibility.

Hence the rise of professional learning and learning communities, which is rapidly becoming the more normal or natural means of teachers building ongoing knowledge.
So this presents a continuum of learning opportunities for teachers, which provide a diverse and continuous forum for their developments as professionals. At one extreme we have the intense experiences of a multi-day residential Institute; a practice-changing experience which has both maximum impact but is at the same time expensive and not easily scalable. At the other end we have the most common form of professional learning which is found across all sectors of business and beyond...turning to a colleague, and asking "how do I do this?"...the one-on-one short tutoring experience that is the basis on which most people build their basic skills. The teacher as the "lonely artisan" in their classroom longs for more of these opportunities, but as we see teaching becoming more and more de-privatised the use of this format will increase.

So moving back from this one-on-one, we are seeing extra tutoring sources coming from things such as on-line forums and simple questions into Google..."how do I do.."; and of course the continuum includes traditional conferences, inservice workshops and a complete spectrum of choices. However there are three resources that are emerging as the most influential in providing the most effective professional learning opportunities for teachers, and will become foundation ideas that support the concept of the many also referred to as continuous professional development (CPD).

The first is the growing use of coaches to provide incidental, as-required, just-in-time, not just-in-case support and advice for teachers within the context of their class, their school, their school day. Coaching per se is nothing new, but its role in dramatically improving the impact of learning opportunities for teachers, most notably by its ability to provide effective support in context, is becoming very significant. It can be provided regionally or within a District, but is most effective when site-based either across a sub-school, grade level or discipline.

The second, webcasting/online courses, is rapidly becoming a more common format for teachers as it usually allows for the thing teachers most strive for, time flexibility. These learning opportunities are run live or synchronously, but are usually recorded to allow others who could not attend time to review or reflect over the content at a time suitable to them. A number of Higher Ed institutions such as Pepperdine have been running Masters courses in this format, while companies such as SchoolKit.com have had significant impact reaching large numbers of teachers in both West Virginia and West Australia. One of the early adopters in the field, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson, has been very successful with their PLP courses which are built around a blend of face-to-face supported by Elluminate and Ning sessions.

The third has been a sleeper, but will, I'm sure, become a very important professional resource for teachers. Imagine if you had access, to a complete array of short 2-4 minute videos online that covered a whole range of areas that you could access easily, at anytime. They would cover all manner of subjects and topics and would be a forum of great ideas that teachers have found useful. It would have better indexing and sequencing than anything like You/TeacherTube; would have as engaging an interface as TED.org, and would be the ultimate resource for anytime anywhere professional learning for teachers. The essence of such a site would not be the content, but rather the ease with which teachers could access information that was of value to them, and was relevant in their own context.

All three forms are already popular in some countries, and will become an everyday part of all teachers' professional learning repertoire in the very near future, and will ensure they have access to ideas and expertise at their fingertips, anytime, anywhere.

As always, I'm very interested in your thoughts and ideas around the topic...

Regards,

Bruce.
January 20th, 2011 @ 9:05AM