In her blog, A Chat With Mary, Mary Frazier, talks about how our teaching can stagnate. She’s right and the reason for this, as she notes is also accurate as well. That reason is we’ve been teaching the same thing year in and year out and it’s easy to do, you know the content, you know the effective activities, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But then again is really not broken? Are your students really getting out of the lesson what they need to get out of the lesson or are they going through the motions, getting done what needs to be done for the sake of getting the grade?
Please keep in mind, I’m not saying throw out those really great activities that you do and that are aligned to your curriculum and that really do promote the independent thinking that we want our students to have. But what I am saying is that as you look over your curriculum and look at your activities, look and see if those activities really are achieving the objectives and goals you have set for yourself. Look and see if what you are having the students do in your class is really meaningful and beneficial…if it’s not then what do you do?
Later in her post, Mary gives a source for some online PD, I haven’t checked it out, but here it is, Instructional Strategies Online. The idea here is not to push one website or another, but the idea is that when you feel your teaching getting stagnate (and I’m not talking about the kind where your first year’s lecture notes are yellowed in contact paper), take a look online at something Instructional Strategies Online or find some blogs to subscribe to with an RSS or Google Reader.
The beauty of the web is that you can develop what Seymour Sarason calls, “Productive Learning”. I haven’t read his (Sarason’s) book, but Will Richardson refers to in his blog posting, “What do you mean by learning?” You can find new strategies for teaching on the web that will prompt you to apply what you have learned and make you want to learn more. How you do this is up to you, but the resources are out there.
One I have mentioned before is Facebook in Education, go to Facebook and search for Facebook in Education, they have a lot of resources posted there from other teachers. It’s not just about social media, but all kinds of resources. Another is Edutopia; there are some great connections to be made there and some great resources. Here’s the thing, this is something else that Will Richardson talks about, learning, it’s not just about the degree, although in our world today the degree still means something. But really, if you aren’t able to do something with the knowledge you have acquired, it doesn’t mean much. You have facts, figures, and theories in your head but it doesn’t do much.
Learning on the web means finding things that you can use, things that make you question and want to learn more. You can earn a degree, in many jobs you have to have a degree, but you can earn the degree and not learn a thing. What you can do with the degree is what matters and now is the time to rethink our idea of professional development so that it means something. In my current job that is one thing I hear a lot of, that PD isn’t always so meaningful, even though I try to make it meaningful as do my coworkers, but the great thing about PD online, is that YOU get to personalize it to YOUR needs.
Okay, yeah, I know, we all have our licensing requirements where we have to earn so many credits over time. It’s the state’s way of making sure that we are learning, because everyone needs to be accountable. But the reality is that the true learning doesn’t always happen in the class, it happens when your needs are being met and you find what you need to make your class more engaging. You can’t always put a credit number on that, which is hard for accountability, but you can see the results in action, that’s what really counts!