The BCed twitter chat with Minister of Education George Abbott, hosted and moderated by Chris Wejr and David Wees was the first I had participated in. The tweets and questions were flying! A lot of different ideas were brought up and though they couldn’t be definitively answered in one tweetfest, I think most of us can see that we want to move in a similar direction and are looking for the most effective ways to do so. Reading back through the archive later I found one theme that resonated with me most for the moment and that was crystallized by the question,
How do you introduce the notion of Personalized Learning without it feeling like an attack?
When we share ideas with those of us involved in this chat and in most of our PLNs we know we’re preaching to the choir. How do we broaden the ripples in the pond, so to speak, without setting off the defence mechanisms of our fellow, but different thinking, teachers, who are also doing their jobs with the best of intentions? How do we convince parents that their children will indeed learn and learn better?
I think first we make sure we are looking at ourselves and the teachers we work with as learners.
We create a culture within our school where it is okay to not have all the answers. We encourage each other to share our strengths and collaborate to support each other in strengthening areas where we are weaker or just want to try something new. We would never have success with a student by badgering them about how bad/outdated/harmful/ineffective their ideas are. We may be more effective by inviting them to witness some of our successes. How?
Develop a common language and share ideas
One school has started a noon hour book club for the staff. They started by reading “What to Look For In A Classroom” by Alfie Kohn. They discuss their ideas and have a common language to use.
A twitter “book club” of fellow educators has started reading “Beyond Discipline” by the same author. #kohnbc
Set up displays outside your classroom with not only your students’ finished work, but also a guide outlining the steps you took as a group to get there, including what you overheard in discussions between students, rethinking and editing that was observed, decisions that were made regarding criteria, etc. similar to what you would find in a Reggio Emilia classroom.
Get to know each other. Have an school-wide Identity Day it also worked for this school. Make sure staff have a chance to share with each other as well as with their classes. Include the admin, the office support staff, the custodian. Every person who walks through the door of your school adds something of value. Make sure they feel included enough to share it.
Share your PLNs
Throw your twitter feed up on that Smart Board you’ve spent 2 years fundraising for.
Set up a twitter account for someone. It takes 30 seconds!
There will be some adamantly opposed to using any more technology than required. Email them a link to a blog post you think they might enjoy. Who knows, they might click on another post.
Include parents as both teachers and learners.
Invite parents into your classroom in September to show them the benefits of personalized learning, however that manifests in your classroom. Explain to them why you will or won’t be doing certain things throughout the year and how their children will benefit. Parents want to be involved in their children’s learning. They often feel out of the loop if homework isn’t coming home and they’re not seeing marks on quizzes at regular intervals. Provide an alternative.
- a note on their children’s progress – pick two kids a week
- an outline of a project with learning goals included
- instructions for a math game they can play at home
- a list of websites that are relevant to what your class is learning about
- start a class blog, so they can see what their kids are doing without you having to send anything home!
Poll parents to find out what their special interests and talents are. Not necessarily their job, but their passion. Invite them to share it with the class with a fieldtrip, an in class presentation, a book they love. While they’re with your class show them what kinds of discussions, recordings, projects, etc. the students can develop from what they have shared. Now they’ve been a teacher and also a learner about learning.
@davidwees “The deepest learning happens at the edges of your comfort zone.”
…at the edges, not 10 feet beyond. Don’t push too far, too fast or you’ll be guaranteed to get pushed back. Encourage each person, students and teachers alike, to start from where they are. They have no other choice. Someone who would feel in over their head to jump in to a completely interdisciplinary, student-led classroom in September may be willing to learn a new math game or to let their students choose individual books instead of a class novel.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. – Arthur Ashe