Saturday, November 15, 2014

Celebrate This Week: The Power of Adult Learning Networks

“We do not learn from experience…
we learn from reflecting on experience.” 
John Dewey

Gone are the days when teachers work in isolation and don't share what they do. 

Photo shared via http://ingvihrannar.com/14-things-that-are-obsolete-in-21st-century-schools/

Reflection has made educators aware of the power of the collaborative community in which sharing is common and welcomed. Today, via Twitter educational chats, teachers are from across the country are speaking about the effectiveness of educators coming together regularly to grow as learners. Regional, district, and building trainings and consistent staff meeting times are means to connect and build shared resources. Through various types of purposeful professional development, teachers learn new strategies, practices, and protocols to further their teaching and their students' learning.  As Meeno Rami says in her new book, Thrive, "When a school has dense and interconnected relationships among its teachers, it increases its social capital." (p.16)

This week, I celebrate:
  • the power of adult learning networks that allows educators to thrive and flourish in cultures of trust, leading to cultures of achievement
  • the reflective process that allows educators to step back, stop, and review the learning that takes place daily

Learning is messy 
so reflection is essential to affect change in practice.

Monday and Wednesday of this week, I was involved in professional development that allowed me to design and implement relevant and meaningful learning opportunities for teachers. In order to power up instruction, professional training must be relevant and meaningful, develop connecting relationships, and have opportunities for choice. I have tried to place these components in any professional development program that I run and honor the feedback that I receive to improve my craft.

The photos below are from a professional development program, Teaching Students to Ask Deeper Questions to Uncover Meaning in Text, that I facilitated at Western Suffolk BOCES on Long Island. The teachers came from many different districts and although they did not know each other they were able to form bonds to work on standards-based instructional materials related to their grade level that focused on strong questioning techniques to engage learners. 


The type of collaborative environment that is seen in the photos is an example of the power of connections. Lately, Twitter chats are full of questions exploring the reasons why professional learning networks are instrumental in today's educational world. Meeno Rami emphasizes this point in Thrive. "If we are striving to create a system where the role of the teacher is no longer the lone expert in the room but a co-learner, we need to model that for our students, as well." (p. 16) The example above shows the "connectedness" of twenty-five teachers from across Long Island that were part of my professional development program last Wednesday. Eight groups of teachers connected, collaborated, and created lessons to power up their instructional practices for their learners. Reflection and learning were celebrated on that day. Each teacher walked away with several new tools to add to their literacy toolbox and a short commitment statement to teaching and learning. I celebrated their learning.

In addition, I celebrate the follow-up work that these teachers will do to continue their learning. We know from research that one shot PD is not effective. Therefore, building and district meet-ups are essential. Conversations revolving around rich practices, protocols, and student work to create next steps will be effective means of immediate professional development. 

Lastly, I celebrate asynchronous learning that can be sought via Twitter where educational chats are in abundance. As an example, #NYEDChat will present a discussion, Digital Tools to Power Up Instruction, on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 8:30 pm EST. All are invited to engage in this conversation. 


Each week, Ruth Ayres asks us to celebrate our week at her site, Celebrate this week. Please stop by to read the posts from various writers on how they celebrated the experiences life had to offer them during the week.