In a recent conversation I had with teachers, we were asked to name one thing we had learned recently—these could be very basic tasks or skills, or even “life lessons” that were reflected upon. Once we all had something in mind, the next question was the critical one: How did we go about learning this? The answers ranged from experience to failure, YouTube to books, and colleagues in person to colleagues on Twitter. Of the eight of us in the room, we had eight different avenues for new learning.
This is the norm both in education and in life. We don’t wait around until the next training opportunity, just like we don’t wait around until 8:00 for Cheers to come on the television like we used to. Our world is more “on demand” than ever before, and learning is no exception.
Finding Learning Opportunities
So where do teachers go to learn? What are some options, best practices, and pitfalls to each of these learning opportunities? How are educational leaders meeting teachers where they are at in terms of content, scheduling, and flexibility? And where are teachers going to learn new skills and strategies?
There are many answers to these questions. Here is a list of options with a short reflection on each one. My hope is that as educators read this, they may find a new avenue that is perfect for their learning style and busy schedule. Some of these are more traditional and structured approaches, while others are more flexible and innovative. I have ranked each on a “innovation” level, with 10 being the most innovative and 1 being the most traditional.
Edcamp: “Edcamp” may not be the best description for what actually goes on at an Edcamp. The philosophy is very simple: Teachers show up, brainstorm topics they want to know more about, and then break into groups to share ideas and learn from one another. Teachers attending these need to be willing to collaborate and direct their own learning. For many teachers I know, this is their favorite kind of professional learning.
Innovation Level = 8
Book Study: The structure of a book study can be very versatile—some teachers collaborate with others online, while some meet in person. Book studies are good because they are easy to provide teachers with choice. In order for them to be most effective, reflection questions should be available to guide discussions.
Innovation Level = 5
College Campus: Even though colleges have found many different varieties of methods for delivering content (face-to-face, blended, online, virtual, etc.), most courses are still set up in a traditional sense. The course title aligns with a program and specific objectives are to be learned. College courses have an advantage over other types of learning because of the higher level of rigor they typically have (compared to a workshop or conference).
Innovation Level = 3
Onsite Workshops: This is probably one of the most traditional avenues for teacher learning—which doesn’t make it bad in and of itself. If there are specific skills that are needed with curriculum and technology, this can be a great way to learn. The downside is that the timing of the courses may not always be there when the teacher needs the knowledge.
Innovation level = 1
Online Courses: This type of learning is ever-evolving. It takes some motivation on the teacher side of things, but many online courses are much more flexible for teachers with busy schedules. These are good because they can provide adequate college credit for teachers who need it, but it is important to keep in mind that teaching is an active skill and one that needs to be practiced. Just like I wouldn’t want my surgeon learning only through only courses without hands-on training, teachers shouldn’t learn this way either.
Innovation Level = 4
Twitter Chats: If you have never tried EdChat on Twitter, I would highly recommend giving it a try. The concept is pretty simple: A moderator will post questions, and anyone around the globe can answer with a hashtag that everyone following the chat can read. It creates both a reflection through the response and a deeper learning by reading other responses. These are usually scheduled for a certain time in the evening, but you can even “slow chat” your responses and answer them later. The number of topics for Twitter chats are many and varied—there are professional learning chats, first grade chats, trauma informed chats, and administrator chats.
Innovation Level = 10
Another great resource can be the company that created the technology and software you use on a daily basis. From live online sessions to on demand videos, there is a wide range of tools available to help you more effectively and efficiently incorporate technology into your lessons and student learning. Boxlight does a good job of this by offering a variety of videos, live sessions, quick start guides, and recorded sessions, so you can select what works best for you.
Hopefully teachers can find the learning that works best for them in order to help do what is best for their students. Everyone has a method that works for them, so experiment and try something new this year with a different type of learning!
What’s your favorite learning resource? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to check out these training offerings to learn how to best incorporate Boxlight technology and solutions in the classroom. And to stay up to date with the latest trends in education technology, subscribe to the Educator blog today!