This is from the Slideshare presentation Designing, developing, and running (massive) open online courses George Siemens, PhD September 4, 2012 Presented to: University of South Africa, which I learned about (a presentation given just three days ago) via my PLN on Scoop.it.
I’ve been MOOCing about this morning, running aMOOC more like it, on Scoop.it
I’m looking forward to the chat on Sunday because I think this approach, where a network forms without anyone’s even being aware of it, is more in line with my vision for teacher training and professional development.
There’s a TESOL Arabia SIG with that name. Photos of most teacher training events (worldwide, I mean) show presenters at the front of a room full of passive participants, and believe me there are several of me like that, standing at the front of a room with a projection screen behind me, maybe a PPT on the screen, participants arrayed throughout the room in desks in squared rows, experiencing what Wesley Fryer calls “sit and get” which he decries as a model we should really be getting away from …
I’m thinking these are images we should try and change. I’m sure that many share the vision but we should have pictures of people clustered over computers, people for whatever reason, and nothing wrong with it, who wanted to convene in one place on the weekend, while the presenters are back home in Abu Dhabi or London, or wherever, and the participants could be anywhere as well.
This vision highlights a DISTINCTION between teacher training and professional development. I have often mentioned in my work the distinction between training and learning. For example, I can train people in SCUBA diving by running them through a set program where I guide them through discrete steps designed to make them comfortable enough in the water that they can go on to develop their skills on their own without needing an instructor present. This is training, and what they do on their own is where we might call it learning.
We start SCUBA training in the pool and work up to the ocean. When we meet passive participants at desks in a room and don’t ask them to DO anything, this is training. At least in the pool, the students are DOING something (they are motivated at every step to stay alive by breathing under water while practicing more and more complicated skills; they are being trained in the skills but they are LEARNING to breathe without worrying about it).
Professional development begins when participants start to DO things. They can be trained in discrete skills online or face to face, but when they do this online, they are LEARNING to cope in an online environment. Just as in diving, they’ll be uncomfortable with it at first, but they’ll soon LEARN to breathe easily. Once they’ve learned that, their scope for professional development (as opposed to training) is greatly magnified.
It’s something we do weekly in Learning2gether. It’s a trivial process as compared to organizing, arranging, paying for a face-to-face event where everyone has to devote a huge chunk of a weekend for it.
People who learn online will travel to conference locations to see their friends, and especially to do something that people who don’t learn online can’t do: meet their recent acquaintances with whom they’ve bonded in the online world. Potential for interaction at F2F events is therefore magnified. People who engage in always-on professional development can’t understand what those who don’t are waiting for.
But this is not to say that we in any way wish to belittle such colleagues. We were all in that position at one time, though only some of us have made the leap from teacher TRAINING into the world of online professional development; i.e. taking control of your own LEARNING. But it means that those who have made that leap are empathetic and willing to extend a hand to help others bridge the chasm. Being a proponent of learning online means you are constantly seeking opportunities to practice and model what you have learned. This means that those who have developed their skills online find it helps them improve these skills, and learn more about them, if they can practice them by helping others to learn them too.
So join us. If you’re looking for places to start, come to http://learning2gether.pbworks.com
this Sunday, or any Sunday. Or get involved with the PLNs and communities of practice at http://evosessions.pbworks.com
, or http://edtechtalk.com
, or http://webheads.info
. You’ll be surprised and pleased at how quickly your affective filter lowers, and you become motivated to meet and learn from your new friends (that is, the professional colleague you’ll meet online). Come on in, the water’s fine, you’ll soon be breathing comfortably in the new environment.
Today on Facebook, Nik Peachey posted about what he’d written two days ago:
15 reasons why online teacher development works best