As the Australian Community meets for their culminating session, community member Margo Edgar of Pascoe Vale Primary School shares with us her reflection on the PLP experience:
I can remember attending the first F2F (face-to-face) day and being somewhat daunted by the faces in the crowd. Educators I had admired from afar through my slowly developing Personal Learning Network (PLN). The fact that my reason for taking on the challenge of PLP was because I wanted to ‘go global’, only added to my fear. These were educators that had taken that step and seemed so comfortable online. I wanted to step over that edge and open up opportunities for online learning for myself and my students.
PLPConnectU was the catalyst that gave me the opportunity to clarify thoughts around teaching and learning and bring together concepts I had been struggling to make sense of over recent years. I have been teaching for a very long time but the last few years have seen the greatest changes for me as an educator.
These are my musings as I try to make sense of the powerful learning that took place for me as part of this experience.
Sometimes my first choice is not necessarily the best
In the beginning, I remember contributing many ideas for PLP projects, had a few possible directions in my head, and then …..
I was away with no Internet contact the week the project ideas hit the wiki. This meant none of my first choices were still available. I have to admit I was bothered by this.
But everything happens for a reason. And the group I joined, the environment team ended up being pretty close to perfect. Perfect for me, because it was exactly what I needed. Teachers who also wanted the challenge of collaborating on line, teachers who wanted to get things happening, teachers who challenged thinking, who were good at articulating ideas and a coach who just seemed to provide exactly what we needed.
Remember to look upon every challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn.
I can give up total control
I am a control freak, I used to spend hours planning lessons that ‘hit the mark’, achieved my purpose, delivered content in exciting, interesting ways, that engaged my students. Now I spend hours learning, exploring and working out how to give that control back to the students and still know where they are at with their learning, where they need to go next and what I can provide to support them.
This PLP journey has been the impetus to bring together many ideas that have been bubbling around in my head for a while. The elluminate sessions, the ning, the challenges to my thinking, the opportunity to question what I do all contributed to clarifying and changing my thinking around a number of education issues. Mainly that I should not, will not and do not control other people’s learning. However I can provide support, challenges, ideas, tools, knowledge, information, guidance and direction when needed and when asked.
We should each OWN our own learning and be responsible for the direction we take.
Learning is messy, challenging, uncomfortable and glorious
The uncertainty for me of no clear plans, structures or directions when we started PLP created very uncomfortable feelings. How would we know if we were getting it right? Who would decide what was going to happen? How would we know what to do? Being asked to work with a group of people I didn’t know or wouldn’t necessarily choose to work with was challenging. Yet I often ask this of my students.
It was messy, but as our team navigated our way through the mess, started to know each other, shared our goals and our skills, discussed, negotiated and challenged we could see the value of the process for us as learners. So much so we used the same process for our students. They too experienced much from that messy, uncomfortable not knowing what to do feeling and also got to know each other, shared goals and skills, discussed, negotiated and challenged each other, learnt the importance of clear and precise communication, found out you can never assume and walked away at the end with varying degrees of success.
How glorious to stand at Federation Square on Thursday as we prepared for our Flashmob and watch our student’s work on the big screen, the faces of our students as they saw themselves, each other and our schools up there for all the world to see. How glorious to listen to the buzz, hear the anticipation and feel the excitement as they waited for the signal that it was their time to shine. And then to reflect on the speed with which it was all over and the memories that would last for much longer.
For real learning to happen it has to be messy, challenging, uncomfortable and glorious.
Failure is an option
I want to shout this from the rooftops and write it in large, bold, capital letters. This has been my biggest shift and my greatest challenge. For students, teachers, anyone to learn we have to be allowed to fail, to make mistakes, to not get things right, to not get things done, to do nothing, to change our mind, to change our goal and to get it wrong. If we don’t fail, we don’t learn to problem solve, to ask why, fight to succeed and to value success.
Learning is the trips, stumbles and falls on the journey not the arrival at the destination.
Student voice is powerful
Another big mind shift has been opening up our planning to student voice. I realised if I was serious about students taking ownership of their learning, they had to have opportunities to be involved in planning for their learning.
I have had to do some deep thinking about what does it mean to plan with the ‘end in mind’. The end for me had usually been some predetermined task and/or creation that every student worked towards achieving. I hope for my future student’s sake I never fall in to that trap again. The end has become … what we (students and teachers) want to know and do and we should decide together how to get there.
We still haven’t got it right all the time but involving the students in term planning is a start. Working together to explore VELS, working out what that means, asking students how they want to learn, expecting them to be responsible for that, setting goals and success criteria together has led to many successes and some failures.
Our most powerful learning is coming from the failures and the endless questions we are asking ourselves. How do we support all students to be independent in their learning? Does it take longer for some students to take on responsibility for their learning, their failures and successes? Do we allow students enough time to succeed before we step in? How do we measure success? How do we maintain accountability? How do we cover the curriculum? What is essential learning?
We are educating for an uncertain future – but what is certain – is it is not the past.
So to the environment team, I thank you for being an inspired group of hard working, passionate educators. We did good!
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