The main thing I like about the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers is that each one is an action. We we being expected to use or design or respond or implement or apply ideas (by Proficiency level) which are all active verbs. Something is meant to happen. We can’t just exist, or be in a paid teaching position, and expect to achieve things without doing something. And, let’s be honest, just understanding the dot points of a syllabus and being able to select the right worksheet for that content just won’t cut it. Happily, more and more teachers are becoming active in their own learning in order to be active in their students’ learning.
This week saw two specific examples of teachers doing in order to improve learning for themselves and their students. The first was the August workshops of the ICT Educators of NSW (ICTENSW) and the second was our regular #histedchat conversation, this time with a twist. I also had a great chat with a colleague from Queensland about the future of learning. More on that later!
For the last time at Epping Boys’ High School in the north of Sydney, the ICTENSW workshops had more attendees than I think I’ve ever seen. Over 80 people rocked up to learn from facilitators about Augmented Reality, practical application of cloud technologies, establishing and maintaining a personal learning network (PLN) and many other computer-science specialist or general ICT tips, tricks and strategies.
The mix of the audience suggested that we had a broad range of experience, interest and contexts such as early career teachers from Catholic schools near the city alongside student teachers alongside veterans of the public school classroom and more. The conversations were interesting and there was a definite buzz in the room as we began the evening. @leannecameron reminded us of the plethora of Twitter conversations and other learning opportunities available to teachers nowadays such as #satchatoc (an educational chat which happens on a Saturday morning [Australia time] hosted by @stringer_andrea), #aussieED a new Sunday night ed chat, #ozcschat hosted by @sailpip relating to the computer sciences, as well as good old TeachMeets and more.
The opportunities to learn really are becoming endless and what is positive is that those learning opportunities need not be devastating to your calendar or your wallet. Valuable learning can happen cheaply and at times that suit you.
One such twitter chat – though not related to ICTENSW as such – is #histedchat, a chat mainly about teaching and learning in History which attracts several dozen teachers of History and other interested parties each fortnight. This week it was my turn to moderate but for a long time I had been cultivating the idea that despite talking about students on a regular basis in our chats, we had never actually had one involved in one.
So, one of my brave senior students took it upon herself to work with me to develop several pertinent questions and to moderate the chat this week. She was amazed at the conversation flowing around her questions as teachers discussed and debated the merits of such things as focusing on “important battles” (and there was even debate about what “important” means), about favourite topics to teach, and about the pros and cons of teaching war, conflict and other traumatic events.
It was a special experience for me as on the one hand I got to see what one of my students was capable of in an environment outside the classroom (and let’s be honest, in these busy days we have less time to connect with our students beyond that) and also to see my colleagues-from-another-campus express insightful comments that shows just how deep the well of wisdom is in our profession.
A final great experience was to chat to Jon Andrews @jca_1975 regarding the future of learning. I think we forget just how fast time flies and so it was a fantastic chance to think about where we are going in the world, in education and with specific regards to technology. I’m quite positive about the future of education – and, more specifically, learning – as I think despite changes in our world and in our schools, there will always be a need for human connections which underpin effective learning within a society.
As “techie” as I am, I know deep in my bones that technology will never be good enough to fully replace the face-to-face social interaction in such situations as professional learning. However, with the growing population of people connecting via social media, I hope we can see it as a conduit, a connection and a catalyst for further amazing learning experiences. This is what the power of social media is: to open doors and to open minds. It is by harnessing these tools, strategies and opportunities that we will become a community of learners that surpasses all standards; regardless of age, experience or location.