Sunday, April 13, 2008

PD Proposal

I’d like to begin this post by sending an on-line sate, a virtual bouquet and a sincere thank you to Step Ippen, who let me to Mike Curtin and his very practical five points for professional development programs. Curtin writes that PD endeavors should be sustained, gradual and incremental, collaborative, practical and transformative. These descriptors form a solid, comprehensive pentagonal framework for PD.

The Web 2.0 tool that I’ve chosen to offer my staff is Blogging. In my opinion, blogs and bloggins can satisfy all of Curtin’s (literal) handful of qualifiers – and more.

Consider Curtin’s point that PD be sustained. Blogs, by their very nature, are sustainable entities, designed to grow and flow, elasticize and expand, evolve and explore. Blogs are not “one-off” endeavors. Their journal/diary/soapbox/pulpit/outlet amalgams have a commitment to sustainability hard-wired right in.

Blogs also have the capacity to gradually and incrementally add more Web 2.0 tools onto their platforms. (Witness our own EDES 545 assignments!) Once a blog is established, it becomes a skeleton that invites additions: the muscle of wikis and video sharing, podcasting fingerprints, the pulmonary chambers of voicethreads, social networking, photosharing, and social bookmarking….Blogs have the powerful potential to layer more technological tools and talents – and to introduce them according to the users’ timelines and desires. Doug Johnson writes that we should “eat the elephant one bite at a time” – blogs allow for this culinary adventure.

Curtin advocates that PD be collaborative. Communication, as the essence of blogging, evokes collaboration as reciprocal avenues to question, challenge, compliment, relate, confirm, etc. are established among writers and readers. And, of course, this collaboration is on a planetary scale – participants may arrive on your virual doorstep anytime and from anywhere touched by technology.

Curtin’s fourth point is that PD should be practical; it should directly meet the needs of its participants. Blogging can perform the very practical service, not only of establishing communication among professionals, but also of establishing lines of communication between homes and schools. (A parent of one of my students recently stopped me in the street to let me know how much she appreciated our classroom blog, as she often worked late into the evening and could check out the blog at her work. Another parent – one who does not live in the same household as her daughter – also appreciates the blog, as it helps her keep in touch with her child’s educational activities. A third parent likes the math links on the blog.) Students at our school currently use agendas to record homework, announcements, etc. Class blogs could perform this same service – in greater detail, as the space in the students’ agendas is limited – and simultaneously saving money and hounouring environmental awareness and stewardship.

Curtin’s final point is that PD should be transformative. Writing from personal experience, I’ve gone from not knowing what a URL is , let alone a blog, RSS feeds, voicethreads, Flickr, virtual school libraries, wikis, etc. – to someone who has gained a reasonable familiarity with Web 2.0 tools – and, perhaps more importantly, the courage to tackle the stress and fear that new tech learning can hold. As Doug Johnson writes, “Whadda I Need That I Ain’t Got? Courage IS a Technology Skill.”

Beyond Curtin’s points, I’ve always believed in the concept of servant leadership - that is, finding out what a staff needs or desires, then working to accommodate it. With that in mind, I think it would be essential to OFFER, not mandate, blogging, as a PD activity at our school. Teachers who are not ready or unwilling to use blogs will not easily appreciate its value and will probably use it grudgingly or inadequately, if at all. Probably a good way to offer PD blog sessions would be at our Nerd nights (we schedule these for interested staff as tech needs or desires arise) or on an individual mentoring-type
Basis (a la Glazer and Page). Once teachers have committed to blogging PD, some realistic goals/deadlines could be collaboratively established to keep the PD flow going.

A good starting point for inservicing teachers could be Blog Basics for the Classroom which has good practical considerations for starting blogs or for safety concerns and issues.

I intend to continue blogging for my own PD and anticipate that the blog I have established in EDES 545 will be a reference source hat I’ll be able to refer to again and again. I can also see the value of blogging as an integral part of research - a key element in any graduate level program.

I’m grateful for my introduction to blogging and hope that I will be able to share what I’ve learned with others. Our tech lead teacher has already expressed an interest in setting up a class blog – could it be the tip of a technological iceberg for our staff?!

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hi Linda. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my ideas about professional development. I love the part that you added about servant leadership and not unilaterally forcing it down teachers' throats. That's an approach in which I believe quite strongly. I like to devote my PD efforts to individuals and small groups who have a vague idea about something they want to do or learn but need help getting it off the ground. I also try to do everything I can to build forums where teachers can communicate freely with one another about best practices. I think good PD focuses on developing and strengthening the network, not shooting people with a firehose of "stuff." And I agree that blogging is one of the best tools we have to build that network.