I have long admired Karl Fisch and his approach to staff professional development and the way he has shared their social learning sessions with the rest of us. I am also very influenced by the work of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson’s Powerful Learning Practice initiative. A must-read article is Sheryl's PD 2.0: It's all about building community.
This year at Qatar Academy I want to provide an opportunity for teachers who are ready to take the next step into '21st century learning and teaching'. I know '21st century' has become a hackneyed phrase, but it suits our purposes here in Qatar, with the notion of moving forward, grasping and developing and embedding new ideas and learning from each other as the primary motivation. The impact of social learning, of community, is stronger than we at first realise. I want to foster this and sustain it in meaningful practice. I want to do this with teachers who are willing to put in the time and effort to explore, discuss, reflect, contribute and shift their learning forward in the process.
With these objectives, '21st Century Learners' met for the first time last Thursday. Yes, Thursday is the last day of our working week, and 2.30-5pm is not the ideal time to congregate, however I had about 14 people arrive, and stay! What is also exciting is that some of these participants are from outside of QA, from other secondary and tertiary (yes!) institutions around Doha. Already we are building an extended community, already we are interacting with other educators who we do not see on a daily basis.
Our first session revolved around the K12 Online Conference 2008. I have fully documented what we went through, our main discussion points, and format. The focus of the group has 3 strands: Research, Pedagogy and Tech tools and the aim is to spend some time on each of these.
We started reviewing some essential tools including Twitter, delicious and chatzy.com. The concept and practice of all of these was not that well known amongst most so the learning curve was steep from the start. I didn't push the back channel idea with chatzy this time as I wanted us to move into this gradually over the next few sessions. Consequently the back chat was almost non-existent for this first session.
We watched sections from a variety of presentations from the first 3 days of the conference, including Stephen Heppell's keynote. We tossed around some ideas as to what 21st century learning looked like and finished with a Web 2.0 smack down of favourite tools. I believe everyone left feeling they had something new to experiment with, some extra idea to work with and consider how it applies to the classroom, and of great importance a sense of community and the power of learning as a team.
My plan to hold these sessions every 2-3 weeks. The K12 Online conference is a wonderful catalyst for this type of gathering. Next meeting will be in 2 weeks to review more presentations from the conference. Then 2 weeks after that we will have our own session with Gary Stager, our consultant in residence for the week at QA. I am working up to uStreaming it, or at least doing some creative videoing like Jonathan Chambers and the Shanghai LAN parties. Even more ambitious I want to extend our community here in Qatar to include other interested groups around the world. We have a school Ning and now a 21C learners group on the Ning. How can we best use these tools, including wikispaces, to collaborate and interact with other like-minded 21st century learners globally? Let me know is you are interested? How would you do it?
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