Engaging in Professional Growth and Leadership
Being an ELL teacher can feel isolating at times. I can’t count the times I’ve been excited about PD days only to look through available workshops and feel none of them really apply to my needs or objectives. We are a minority group of educators. Our students come from diverse backgrounds, with the majority in the United States attending urban high poverty schools. As specialists, it’s rare to have more than one ELL teacher per building. So how can we collaborate?
For our final blogpost this quarter, we’ve been asked to reflect on ISTE Teaching Standard #5. The timing for this seems in sync with end of year reflections at school as well as multiple articles that are advocating for schools to revamp their delivery of professional development. Looking closely at ISTE Standard 5a, this prompted me to question “How can teachers actively participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning?
With technology rapidly changing the way we teach, it’s no surprise that it’s also changing the way we communicate professionally. Take for example, Miriam Clifford’s post “20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network”. Clifford highlights the advantages of joining PLNs (Professional Learning Networks). The post written in 2013, shares great examples on how to join and use technology to our advantage as tool to connect and share with others. Prior to starting this Masters Program at SPU, I would have felt lost in the jargon used in this article and simply moved on to other resources that seemed more relevant or consistent with what I experience in my district.
With these changes however, a PLN can now also refer to Personalized Learning Networks. Moving beyond localized collaboration in my building and district, Personalized Learning Networks prompt me to expand globally. Beginning to look more into PLNs, I began to question, how has my understanding of professional development and collaboration changed in the past 5 years?
Five years ago, I’d say 90% of the PD I attended took place in a library, possibly with a video to watch, and time for round table discussions. Lots of poster making, sharing out, but all contributors were physically present in the room. Then 4 years ago I participated in my first MOOC. I remember the excitement of connecting with ELL teachers in other states and countries. We would email responses back and forth. Presently at the building level, we still remain primarily in the library. At the district level, it’s hard to get together in person due to the sheer size of our district, distance people have to commute, method of transportation, varying school hours, and personal lives. Our district has thousands of talented educators, yet I feel limited in my knowledge of how any of them successfully integrate technology in the classroom.
Personalizing Professional Development
This year has been transformational for me in numerous ways. I cannot overlook the power of networking and global connections. I had considered blogging before, but didn’t know where or how to start. This program has helped to take a leap with blogging, using Google HangOut and Twitter. Reading Mike Patterson’s post “Tips for Transforming Educational Technology through Professional Development and Training” , I realised the problem of inadequate training and understanding is preventing amazing collaboration from occurring in my district. He sites that 60% of teachers surveyed feel inadequate about implementing technology in the classroom. Reading this statistic reinforces my realization that my district needs to model how to use technology and this can begin with how they deliver professional development. We need to move beyond the library and offer basic training in how to implement so many of the great strategies in Clifford’s post: Meetups, practice using online communities, tools already available through the district as well as tools popular with experts in our district.
This led to me questioning, how much input do teachers have in the delivery and content of professional development in my district? After posing this question to several other educators in my building, the general consensus is “not much”. So how can we change this? Desiree Alexander recommends surveying staff with a needs assessment, similar to how we evaluate the needs of our students. In her post, “From Blah to Aha! Your Guide for Personalizing Professional Development”, Alexander discusses how personalized PDs can showcase educators strengths and interests.
How can schools offer personalized PD? Through technology there are so many options now available for delivery. For example, MOOCs, webinars, Google HangOuts, creating online videos that teachers can interact with at various times, using folders like Google Drive to store PD resources. With free online tools, I’m hopeful that my district will begin to offer a range of PD formats in future. The slides below are examples of how personalized PD can begin with a simple survey.
Finding Learning Communities
Local Communities are perhaps the easiest to define. It’s the grade level team, content, extra-curricular, region, or even district. Local communities traditionally met in-person. So how do we move beyond local and expand our community network globally?
As I reflect on my global community partners, I’ve used Edmodo, Twitter, Facebook, Schoology, Google+, Podcasts, and joined memberships for online publications. As the only ELL teacher in my region teaching a specific curriculum, it can be daunting at times. However, with my expanded community of educators, I feel like part of a Tribe with common goals, one of which is support student learning with access to technology. Every week I feel I have something to contribute to my colleagues, whether it’s something I’ve witnessed first hand in the classroom, or I’ve accessed through social media or video. Learning online helps reduce my stress and previous notions that I don’t have time for professional development.
Personal Impact from Educational Technology
Now instead of only listening to music while walking my dog, I also listen to EdTech podcasts. When I couldn’t bring an expert to my classroom, we used Google HangOut to allow my students to meet with him virtually, motivated by my new found confidence gained from this year. I find myself scrolling through my Twitter feed in the evening looking for inspirational classroom ideas. I have a new found confidence in promoting alternatives to learning, even if they’re not acted upon at this time. I know there are great things happening out there and feel like I’m beginning to tap into a new way to both educate and learn. Perhaps the best part of this journey is that I no longer feel alone.
Alexander, D. (2017, May 19). From Blah to Aha! Your Guide for Personalizing Professional Development – EdSurge News. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-05-19-from-blah-to-aha-your-guide-for-personalizing-professional-development
Clifford, M. (2013). 20 tips for creating a professional learning network. Retrieved fromhttp://gettingsmart.com/2013/01/20-tips-for-creating-a-professional-learning-network/
Currie, B. (2015, September 24). What New Teachers Need to Know About PD. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/new-teachers-need-to-know-pd-brad-currie
EdTech K-12 Magazine. (2016, April 26). Tips for Transforming Educational Technology through Professional Development and Training. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/04/tips-transforming-educational-technology-through-professional-development-and
Zakhareuski, A. (2016, August 22). 10 Modern Ways to Use Technology in ESL Instruction. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from http://busyteacher.org/13732-using-technology-esl-instruction-10-modern-ways.html