|Figure 1. Wall of overwhelming Stuff. (Abbott, 2011)|
Recent research has identified some models of Professional Development to be less effective than others, e.g. one-day workshops or conferences not directly connected to a school’s academic programmes or teaching practises.
“Spontaneous, experiential, and unplanned” (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009, p. 122) informal learning driven by the urgent ‘just in time’ desires of teachers (Timperley, 2011) also seem to lack the impact of sustained professional learning with clear outcomes, driven by evidence and inquiry.
Contemporary ideas about teaching and learning endorse proactive participation of the learner in the learning process (Das Gupta, 1994). Therefore, it could be argued that social online tools fit within this practice. Blogging helps learners to express their ideas and collaborate with others, supporting both individual and social learning activities (Minocha & Kerawalla, 2010) as we become ‘Produsers - a hybrid of producer and user” (Bruns, 2007), and the boundary between consumers and creators of content is blurred. The greater the social capital (investment of time) of an individual or community, the greater the chance for improved practice and gain (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 21).
|Figure 2. On-line Learning and Knowledge Building (Harasim, 2014)|
My professional online networks include Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Weebly, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Youtube, TeachersPayTeachers and Teachers Notebook which I use to connect with teachers from around the world.
My use of online social media changes with my role and interests in education.
Teacher-authors who write about observations in their own practise can be highly informative and motivating. The more you engage, the quicker you can weed out the weaker content and find deeply reflective practitioners willing to share ideas and findings, or expose you to diverging ideas and practices.
But how much influence does it have on student achievement? And how much quality control is there from the site moderators of the content being shared? Is this a place for poorly thought through ideas and responses not based in theory, nor considerate of impact on practise, (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010)? Perhaps that role of moderator falls on us - the knowledge community!
|Figure 3. On-line Learning and Knowledge Building (Harasim, 2014)|
Most educators look for 'affirmation of practice, advice on experiences within the classroom, new resources, and mentorship' in their online communities (Melhuish, K., 2013). Geographically separated or single subject teachers like me, working in isolation, can develop a collaborative, participatory model with others who were previously inaccessible, as I did this week to connect with Hamish (Betts, 2017), an art teacher from Singapore. Through our online profiles, I was able to contact and meet up in person with this expert in the field during a brief trip to New Zealand.
Online communities are comprised of mostly anonymous members connected by a communal interest and attending by choice. They range in experience, background and perspective which will challenge your preconceptions or provide support with an issue in your practice.
Currently, I use my daily commute for independent online PD. A great way to tune in/front load knowledge is by listening to podcast channels recommended by my social networks.
|My Podcast Channels (Willemse 2018).|
I also engage with focused Google+, Twitter, and Facebook groups which trigger personal investigations or keep me informed about evolving conversations in my areas of interests.
|My Twitter Feeds (Willemse 2018).|
People engage to the level of their comfort or need but is 'lurking' a legitimate way of learning (Melhuish, K., 2013)? While this doesn't appear to contribute to community building, followership numbers boost the participation of active members, and learning through reading replicates print resource material from the past. But those that engaging in practice based discourse find this leads to more effective professional learning.
|My Facebook Groups (Willemse 2018).|
As connected 21C educators, we need to at least raise our heads over the walls of our classrooms and experience that cognitive dissonance to drive reflection on our practice. Melhuish, K.(2013) recognises the value of networking with educators beyond your own environment and vital for experiencing divergent thinking, that external voice is crucial to effective professional development (Ministry of Education, 2008; Timperley et al., 2007).
So jump in and enjoy the view!
|Figure 4. Jump!! (AnneCN, 2011).|
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