Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Professional Development for Learner 2.0

I am at the four-hour Intel® Teach to the Future Leadership Forum designed to guide instructional leaders as they support and promote effective integration of technology in classrooms. The Intel leadership forum is worthwhile and 20th Century leaders will get a lot out of it, but to better address the needs of the 21st Century leader it needs updating, an infusion of some obvious Web 2.0 tools, more modeling of best practices for the 2.0 Leader and it falls into the common education trap of talking the talk, but still struggling to walk the 1.0 walk.

I do not believe this is unique to the Intel Institute. It is prevalent in conferences, forums, presentations, and professional development proclaiming to be for 21st Century learners. Will Richardson reflected a similar sentiment at NECC 2007 when he said,

The total irony of the moment was that in this “Web 2.0″ and “School 2.0″ session that was supposed to celebrate the uses of the tools, the random notes were being taken on screen in a very un Web 2.0 tool called Microsoft Word. No transparency. No collaboration. No thought to sharing.--The Problem in a Nutshell…The UnProblem in a Nutshell

Here are five thoughts and suggestions I have about how today's experience in particular, but professional development in general, can be more meaningful for the 2.0 learner.

  • Provide Digital Materials
  • Provide An Overview of Digital Materials and Use 21st Century Formats to Share
  • Demonstrate the Power of 21st Century Tools to Capture Opinions and Feedback
  • Ask 2.0 Questions
  • Use Web 2.0 Tools to Capture Work, Facilitate Learning and Best Practices, and Keep Conversations Going

Provide Digital Materials

Materials should be digitally accessible BEFORE the session begins. Not doing so is no longer acceptable in classes for 21st Century leaders and learners. I see this as poor planning. At the very least 2.0 learners should receive the session handbook and PowerPoint in a digital format that can accept notes (i.e. not in a pdf that you can not take notes on). This enables 2.0 learners to get beyond needlessly copying down what their PowerPoint slides say, and allow them to get to the thinking faster by actually recording higher-order thoughts and ideas on these slides. Taken to another level, these PowerPoint slides could be a Google collaborative presentation allowing for shared note taking and collaborative meaning-creation on the slides. The simple introduction of a digital handbook and PowerPoint would enable facilitators to model best practices of how to write and take deeper notes on the digital documents and the added bonus is the learners won’t have to carry the materials around, but rather these tools are available anytime, anywhere, on demand along with their other digital resources. And, who are we kidding. If we don’t have these materials digitally, and accessible on demand in seconds through a search, they end up in a pile somewhere along with all the other conference material.

Provide An Overview of Digital Materials and Use 21st Century Formats to Share
Participants received a CD with supplemental materials that come with the book for participants to take a look at later. As a facilitator with more than a decade of experience teaching and supporting others in doing so, I can tell you that most participants rarely go back and upload these materials. For real impact the materials distributed should be explored and used in class. A great way to do this is to begin the class with an introduction to what is on the CD, where to find the materials and each time a document is being used the class should be shown where to access it.

The other issue I had is that while CDs are inexpensive to distribute, I would recommend against using a 20th Century format to distribute materials in an outdated medium such as CDs. Many laptops (and most in the room) have eliminated CD drives to reduce weight and instead people use usb drives or rely on material being downloadable from the internet.

Demonstrate the Power of 21st Century Tools to Capture Opinions and Feedback

The forum began with a paper PowerPoint survey about leader’s attitudes, experience, and behaviors. My facilitators happened to create a digital survey so we had the opportunity to see the data from participants across NYC, but I was disappointed that this wasn't the way Intel designed it. They solely had a paper version for discussion and are not capturing this data which would not only be beneficial for Intel, but it would be of great interest for Principals to see how they compared among their peers. Student response systems are the big rage. While they are great for a classroom without laptops, a classroom full of laptops should be using these free and powerful survey tools that enable facilitators to capture and instantly analyze learner’s feedback.

Ask 2.0 Questions

This was a future leadership forum but they were asking 20th Century questions. While there is value in seeing participants answers to 1.0 questions, the future leaders should be asked 2.0 questions as well if for nothing more than enabling them to be aware that they need to be aware. The outdated questions included questions like what do you use word processing programs for? I don’t even know people who say word processing anymore. And how does a texting, social networking, berrying, blog commenting, emailing, wiki-ing, tweet trying, collaborative doc writing, IMer really answer that when most of her writing is not even within a “word processing” program. So 20th Century! A better question is, "how much of your writing is done digitally?"

While I may be over dramatizing the word processing question, my problem was the survey was completely devoid of any 2.0 questions like: How often do you comment on a blog or discussion board? Do you have an active blog? Do you belong to any social networks? Do you Tweet? Do you have an avatar? Do you play any MMORPGs? Do you have a wiki that you created or use frequently to work efficiently? Do you listen to podcasts? How many blogs do you subscribe to in an RSS reader?

While many leaders may not know what we’re talking about, they should know there is a whole lot of questions that they need to be able to answer, because many of their teachers and even more of their students can. Questions such as those can stimulate thinking and potentially shake up their minds to what they could/should be exploring.

Use Web 2.0 Tools to Capture Work, Facilitate Learning and Best Practices, and Keep Conversations Going

I also was disappointed because while there were ample opportunities to enhance the forum with web 2.0 tools the only one that was used was Google docs which was something added in by the facilitator and not already embedded in the class. The forum would have been a wonderful opportunity to introduce discussion boards, blogs, social networks, etc. that principals could tap into to begin building a global personal learning network with other leaders who have participated in this work. It also would engage them in a community where they could stay connected to like-interested colleagues, and keep the conversation going.

Another avenue I felt would have been enhanced with Web 2.0 tools was in the creation of personal action plans. Each leader has their own, but they don't have the option to look at exemplars, share, view, and learn from others, comment, connect or discuss. If they had an option to post the documents, share and get feedback, this would be an incentive to go back to the work and would make for smart and obvious follow up conversation with individuals supporting the implementation of the plan including those within a school and those outside of the school.

Final Thoughts

While I was disappointed with the un21st Century-ness of my experience today, I do support utilizing this forum for leaders because they will come away with a lot. There are a ton of valuable resources and a tremendous amount of food for thought. It is also very well-thought out, planned, and better than most PD experiences. Additionally, I found more value from this forum then I did from my three days at Microsoft’s Executive Briefing where they could not secure laptops or internet for participants and none of the aforementioned suggestions were employed. Furthermore even at NECC, and the plethora of other PD experiences I attend, facilitators can talk a good game, but they aren’t modeling what they are preaching. That said, I think it’s up to Innovative Educators to push themselves to start using the tools and practices they talk about and provide experiences that are more engaging for 2.0 Learners.

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