As a teacher, I spend a lot of time thinking about what a 21st century classroom looks like for my students. I consider the importance of choice and collaboration. I contemplate the options of tools and the use of social media. These are all important considerations for student learning, but what about for teacher learning?
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend educational technology conferences, and this 21st century learning environment is definitely prevalent at these conferences. Not all teachers attend these conferences though, and if we believe in the value of choice, collaboration, technology, and social media, then how can we make this available in all professional development opportunities? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and here are some ideas that came to mind:
• Let teachers choose the topics that interest them, and the environment in which they learn. Some may prefer a lecture, and others may prefer a discussion group. The unconference format allows educators to pick topics and direct their own learning. A Staff Meeting or Professional Development workshop could become a mini-unconference.
• Have teachers work in groups and plan together. We often have a chance to plan with our grade team partners, but what about with teachers in different grades or divisions? Switching from a primary teaching position to a junior teaching position this year made me realize how much we do need to learn about other grades, and how we should be using this learning to inform our practices. Collaborating across divisions allows for deeper discussions that will hopefully bring about bigger and better changes.
• Use technology during staff professional development, and model the appropriate use of social media. Show how ideas can be shared and elaborated on in an online, collaborative forum. There are lots of private and public social networks, and with the use of technology, we can access both. Recruit experts within the school to support teacher learning and answer questions throughout the learning process. Social media can be a powerful tool if used well.
How would you create this 21st century learning environment for educators? What benefits and/or drawbacks do you see in doing so?
Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.
She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.