In their revised national standards, Learning Forward (formerly known as the National Staff Development Council) has undergone an important shift in focus and message: from one of development to one of learning. The new standards focus on teachers as learners. Teachers are not to be treated as vehicles through which schools deliver programs and policies. This has been the focus of traditional professional development frameworks for way too long. The goal for administrators should be how to foster the learning spirit in every one of our teachers through a system of learning opportunities that cater to their individual needs.
“Our kids are beginning to hate school and, to be quite honest, so are the teachers,” writes guest blogger Becky Bair, an upper elementary teacher in Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown School District. “It was time to change my teaching, no matter how scary the prospect might be.” After Bair shifted her teaching strategies, “it was terrifying each time I had to review our required assessments.” But in the end, the results caused her to “jump up and cheer.”
At some point this past school year, I began to truly understand how to change my teaching. The big revelation: It’s NOT about technology. It’s about learning. If we are “integrating technology” just to bring computers (or interactive whiteboards, or cell phones) into the classroom, we’ve got it all wrong. Just using the equipment — or the web tools it allows us to access – isn’t going to lead us or our students to truly connected learning.
“If we give teachers the responsibility, the time and most importantly the autonomy to design, implement, evaluate, tweak and improve their pedagogy and curriculum, that is when we will really see innovation happen,” says 30-year veteran and Web 2.0 leader Brian Crosby. “Teachers won’t long put up with colleagues who are not pulling their weight. And others will blossom when given quality, ongoing training and support in what they do.”
There is in my opinion one great difference between Norwegian/Swedish educators and those in North America: the willingness to commit time to personal development outside the normal business/school hours. I had many collaborators who were willing to sponsor teachers to come over to Philadelphia this summer, but we ended up with a group of only nine. In Scandinavia, the last day of school for teachers is the 22nd of June and by the 23rd, they’ve vanished!
I’m an Australian, and yet I function in online networks with educators from all parts of the world. I know my practice has benefited from these interactions. Some of the most exciting times I’ve experienced with students have come when we’ve made contact with a teacher or class in another country. As corny as it might seem to some, students are really enthused by a live video connection with someone in a far off place. If you’d like to build your own global classroom, I’ve included some tips that can help you think ahead and plan for hiccups.