I’m the sort of person who has happily jumped on the bandwagon of any e-learning venture. Usually these are backed up with some serious pedagogical research and linked to best practice, but I would have fallen for them anyway. It could be Google Apps, e-portfolios, PLNs, coding, robotics, Twitter, Google Classroom, Edmodo, the VLN, blogging – the list goes on. I’ve never needed any encouragement to spend some time out of school to investigate further; it just happened. What I’ve always had to wrestle with is not all teachers feel this way. My peers are often busy with other education-based passions like planning basketball coaching sessions, choreographing the latest school production and designing edible gardens. This year a whole school goal was to get all staff on board with global connectedness, so the focus needed to be on some e-learning geekery. Sounded good to me. I happily put my hand up to lead the project.
My first step was creating a realistic goal. I had been learning about change leadership (thanks to UC’s Future Focussed Education in Action paper) and one business model for change is ADKAR (www.prosci.com). The letters stand for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. It seemed feasible that the first two aspects (Awareness, Desire) could be achieved in the first year. If staff knew about what it meant to be globally connected and had the desire to engage, then the next steps would follow. To keep the project manageable connecting teachers was the first focus, and then connecting students globally could follow. These four questions guided the project (with a focus on the first two for this year):
1. How will reading blogs and other social media benefit my teaching practice?
2. How will actively engaging in personal learning networks, blogs, and other social media, benefit my teaching practice?
3. How will having my students read student-authored blogs and other online media, benefit student engagement and learning outcomes?
4. How will having my students author their own blogs and online media, and collaborate with other students globally, benefit their key competencies, engagement and learning outcomes?
The first PD sessions were workshops unpacking the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of Global Connectedness. Sherryl Nussbaum-Beach’s book, The Connected Educator (2011), was a great guide for me. She believes that the rise of social networking and participatory culture represents a profound shift in the way we can learn as educators. She states simply, ‘None of us is as good as all of us.’
Then it was time for working on Question 1 – reading and reflecting on blogs. I sent out four blogs to all staff. These were focused on Inquiry learning and student agency, thus providing engaging topics for discussion at the next staff meeting. We decided that all staff could provide interesting blogs and websites to visit but using email to communicate these was a bit cumbersome. The VLN and Twitter were still a little daunting so an idea came up to use a closed Facebook group as we were all Facebook users. Clarkville Connect was born. This provided an easy way to post blogs, sites and readings, and have online discussions using the comment feature. Clarkville Connect took off quickly and the first round of reflections highlighted how motivating these posts were. Teachers talked about how the discussion helped them to reflect on their practice and bring new ideas to the classroom.
If the posts started to wane over time, the page was reinvigorated with ‘live’ posting in real time during staff meetings based on online readings. Each person had to add a post and comment on the posts of others. A great balance of chaos and powerful PD!
After two terms the feedback has been positive. Teachers have enjoyed collaborating online, as we don’t always have time to talk face-to-face at school. There is an appreciation that we are all contributing to finding quality readings with a system that’s easy to follow. None of us is as good as all of us.
Just before the end of term we worked as a group to brainstorm our next goals. These include signing up to Twitter, joining the VLN, getting students to read student-authored blogs and getting our students to set up their own blogs.
It really is a testament to the positivity of the Clarkville staff and our whole school culture that everyone was on board and took on the challenge. We’re ready for building the Knowledge and Ability stages and moving onto Questions 3 and 4 of the original goals. I’m looking forward to the team hitting the Twittersphere in 2016 and experimenting with the best ways to get our students connected globally.
Do you think a Facebook group would work at your school? How have you had success getting teachers connected?
Linda Baran, AP, Clarkville School.
Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2011). The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. Solution Tree Press.