By Dean Shareski
Having been involved in many emerging communities in the past 5 years I always smile when the conversations move from the WOW factor to the deep questions of teaching and learning. Education technology is full of “WOWs” and shiny objects. I like them both and no one should ever have to apologize over the excitement of a new tool. The great thing about technology is there’s always something new and exciting. The bad thing about technology is that there’s always something new and exciting. Many people get excited about using technology because of the WOW factor. From what I’ve witnessed over the past several years is that many of these teachers use technology but revert to teaching methods that they always used. Not that all traditional teaching is bad but technology offers us the opportunity to find new pedagogies that weren’t possible in the past.
What I’ve enjoyed most about the work of PLP is the observing and participating in great conversations about learning. Discussions like the folks from New Jersey are having around grading. In Philadelphia they are talking about cheating. While these are age old issues, we think about them differently and have to rethink our stances. There’s been some challenging questions, a few disagreements but lots of learning. I learn each time someone adds their own perspectives, resources and ideas to the topic.
Sharon from New Jersey writes,
If teachers knew about their students’ progress and learning abilities, they can adapt their own work to meet their students’ unpredictable and various needs. With progress scales, rubrics as a frame of reference, and electronic PORTFOLIOS I think the grading process can be transformed.
Ed in Philadephia on cheating,
We are in an era when it will become increasingly more important to redefine cheating. We will need to decide what is cheating, and what is resourcefulness using tools that exist. And indeed, we may need to ask different types of questions.
These types of discussion illustrate how technology is pushing our thinking. Not about the technology but about the teaching and and learning. While we might be seeing some of this happening in our schools as a result of some advancement in terms of Professional Learning Communities, I’ve seen many of them sputter and fail for three reasons.
- There is never enough time. The hard questions about teaching and learning requires time. The asynchronous aspect of PLP allows teachers to weigh in after some time and thought.
- There is never enough choice. Often teams are developed based on subject or grade levels. Most prefer that but most of the issues regarding shifts are not subject or grade specific. Being able to join the groups that interest you is a powerful feature.
- There is never enough diversity. When the issues of assessment or cheating arise, most discussions revolve around current practices, culture and policies. These discussions are greatly enhanced by voices who are removed from the specific school or district setting. PLP includes voices from all over and adds important diversity to issues.
The best part about PLP is watching and observing caring, dedicated teachers connecting with each other to ask the hard questions about education.
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