Thursday, January 15, 2015

Creating a Professional Learning Playlist

It started in High School. I made my first mix tape by recording songs from the radio. That tape had every song I liked on one cassette and it was all me, and all mine. I later recorded my favorite TV shows on a VHS tape. It was amazing! I could watch my favorite TV show over and over again, whenever I wanted. As technology evolved so did my personalization, I had over 100 CD's of legally download music from... Napster. Each CD had an inspirational name based on the reason I grouped those songs together including: "Dirty Old Man", "Snowball", and "Best Songs I, II and III".

The fact that I made these tapes, videos, and playlists is not unique. I know many friends and colleagues that have made mixed tapes in the past and now have playlists on their devices. The unique part is the reasoning for grouping certain songs together... it could be to ease a long commute, enjoy a long run, or even soothe a crying baby. Each playlist is created with a purpose and a desired outcome.... now what if professional learning was developed with the similar idea?

There are so many ways for educators to learn and grow as professionals. Examples include: Edcamps, twitter chats, MOOCs, book studies, lesson studies, curriculum writing, webinars, etc.

Imagine this: An educator knows that her students are struggling with "explaining addition and subtraction solutions". This educator then participates in #mathchat on Twitter, participates in a Math MOOC, and then discusses with her colleagues these new ideas. As a team, they implement new strategies to improve math explanation skills. This educator made a playlist of professional learning opportunities based on her student needs in the classroom. It was not a mandatory workshop based on the needs of the majority of a population, it was what was needed in her classroom at that specific time. 

This kind of professional learning occurs daily with educators across the world (if you doubt this.. check out these links #edcamp and #edchat). The problem is these opportunities are not always recognized as professional learning because they are not structure or hours based. As Kyle Pace, Steve Anderson, and Tom Murray discuss in their Webinar:Personalized Professional Learning in a Digital Age, "today's professional development is calculated by seat time". For example, if an educator sits through 15 hours of PD they will receive "credit" and thus be professional developed even though this may or may not meet their specific need to grow professionally.

Educators will participate in non-traditional professional learning regardless if it counts toward their professional development requirements. I believe if educators are doing the work, growing personally and seeing student growth then these non-traditional methods should be recognized. Educators should be able to make their own "playlist" based on what they need and like to do as professionals.

There are places where this is happening.....

In Maryland, some schools are creating a new model to support the idea of educators making their own choices when it comes to professional learning. Patapsco High School in Baltimore County developed "Patapsco University". Through this portal, educators can chose their own professional learning activity, provide a reflection, and receive "credits" to fulfill a professional growth need. Liberty High School has a similar model with "Liberty Professional Learning Portal". Through this portal, educators are expected to take ownership of their professional learning. Halstead Academy in Baltimore County has developed "Halstead 2.0" at the elementary level. By looking at data, educators at Halstead develop a problem/questions then through action research and professional learning a solution is published.

These schools are not only on the cutting edge of personalizing professional learning for educators but they are taking it to the next level and allowing non-traditional methods of professional learning to count instead of "seat hours".

Recognition at the State-Level

Maryland State Department of Education is ready to start their own program that will recognize  Professional Learning choices for educators across the state. The Maryland Professional Learning Program, allows educators to choose from a list of professional learning activities with different point values.

When an educator has reached a set number of points, an email is sent to their principal/supervisor to approve the activities. If approved, educators receive a "Level Up" and certificate. This initiative will allow Maryland Educators to manage their own professional learning by choosing activities based upon their professional needs. It should be a regular part of the conversation with the principal or supervisor regarding an educator's professional learning plan.

I believe this is the future of professional learning. As the pilot starts and we move forward in Maryland, we hope to be a model for other schools, districts, and states that want to provide choice for educators for both formal and informal professional learning.

No comments:

Post a Comment